Harden, Sweeney receive New Canaan's Sikorski Award

The Joe Sikorski Memorial Award is named in honor of the legendary New Canaan football coach, and is given annually to those seniors who represent the best of the Rams’ athletic program.

Those who receive the honor “display the traits which ‘The Coach’ saw in the best of his athletes: Leadership, loyalty, enthusiasm, dedication and pride in New Canaan High School.”

McKenna Harden and Christian Sweeney have been multi-sport leaders for the Rams and are this year’s recipients of the Sikorski Award. They received their awards during New Canaan’s annual sports ceremony, held in the NCHS gym on Monday, June 14.

Harden was a captain in soccer, ice hockey and lacrosse, while Sweeney captained the football and basketball teams, and played lacrosse in the spring.

Looking back on their New Canaan careers, both Harden and Sweeney credited their teammates and coaches, as well as the athletic community, for their success.

For both Rams, their teams have had a true family feeling, and they’ve had the added befnfit of playing alongside their siblings for the past few years.

Harden has played all three of her sports alongside younger sister Kaleigh, a junior, who will join her at the University of North Carolina in two years,

“The first thing I’ll miss is playing with my sister, but luckily that’s only for one year,” McKenna Harden said. “She’ll follow in my footsteps and come to UNC with me. I’ve been blessed to play alongside of her and she definitely pushes me to be the best version of myself every day.

“I’m also going to miss my coaches and teammates the most because I’ve gotten such good friendships through the three sports I’ve played, and also my coaches have given me so much guidance. I’ll miss them and that environment.”

Sweeney has had twin brother Braden on his teams, and the two siblings will be going to the University of Miami in the fall.

“Playing with all my teammates, I’ve made strong bonds with all of these kids and it’s going to pain me to not play with them next year,” Sweeney said. “Especially my twin brother — ever since I can remember, he’s been with me on my teams, so not playing with him will be sad, but I’m grateful to have had the experience here.

Harden has had a tremendous senior year.

Her soccer team was 7-4-1 overall and defeated Darien 2-1 for the FCIAC West championship in the fall.

During the spring, the girls ice hockey team was 12-1, finishing the season with a 10-game win streak which included a 2-1 overtime win against Darien in the FCIAC championship game.

This spring, sports returned to full schedules and Harden’s girls lacrosse team went 20-1, beating Darien in three out of four meetings. That included a 7-4 win in the FCIAC final, as the Rams captured their first conference title since 1993.

Looking back, Harden said New Canaan offered the best competition in Connecticut.

“It means the world to come from such a well-rounded community where everyone is so competitive, so you’re always practicing against the best competition in the FCIAC and the state,” Harden said. “That has built my confidence in all the sports I’ve played, but also given me a structure to fall back on when I need to be reminded of why I play sports in the first place.”

Sweeney was a standout player for the New Canaan football program for three years, but the CIAC cancelled that sport in the fall due to the COVID pandemic. The Rams instead played in a private league, going 3-1 in four games.

In the winter, Sweeney was a captain during a fantastic basketball campaign, as New Canaan went 11-4 overall. The Rams were the only team to defeat eventual league champion Ridgefield, beating the Tigers in double overtime during the regular season, and reached the semifinals of the FCIAC playoffs.

In the spring, Sweeney and the boys lacrosse team went 11-8, losing a pair of double-overtime heartbreakers in the playoffs.

Sweeney said he’s been grateful to play for such strong athletic programs in New Canaan, both in the youth leagues and at the high school.

“It’s meant everything to me,” Sweeney said. “I grew up playing three sports since the fourth grade, and my entire high school experience has been based around sports. It’s been an honor playing for such a strong sports program like New Canaan and I can never say thank you enough to this program.”

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports