Shelton boys win SCC track title

The Shelton HS Boys track and field team won the SCC championship at Amity High School Wednesday, May 23.

The Gaels were 20-point underdogs to the Hand Tigers going into the meet, but Shelton outperformed projected totals by 36 points to run, jump and throw their way to the win.

Michael Gambardella entered this season in his 36th year as the Gaels head coach. Although he's one of the winningest coaches in the state after an illustrious career, the Amity dynasty and some great Lyman Hall teams have boxed Gamby's Gaels out of one championship after another.

The Gaels muscle proved stronger than ever as they took full advantage of the warm weather.  Shelton achieved season bests, personal and school records to take huge chunks of points away from the rest of the field by force on Wednesday.

Senior Captain David Samedi won the East Sectional long jump event, but fouled all three of his triple jumps in what was perhaps his best event last week. That disappointment could have doomed the Gaels in their uphill battle against the point spread at the conference meet. But Samedi was determined to make up for it in his other two events, and the captain came through with a clutch performance.

Things got worse before they got better though. Samedi must have felt that familiar pressure after fouling his first two long jumps on the day. This would have been enough to rattle less experienced athletes, especially after the nightmare of the week previous. But in his final jump of the prelims, Samedi hit the board perfectly and leaped 21-00.5. It was his personal best when his team needed it most, and the leap would hold up for the best of the event.  Samedi was seeded eighth and finished first, a gain of nine points.

Shelton sprinters also outperformed their seeds, achieving not one, but three school records.  The 4x100 relay of Camerin Gumbs, Michael Rodia, Sean Sirisouk and Nicholas Andrade perfected their handoffs to post a 43.73 to win the event.

Super sophomore Michael Rodia beat the school's all-time record in the prelims with a day's best 10.87, and 200m sprinter Erik Lorent crushed the school's high mark with a 22.11 to finish second overall. Lorent and Rodia also finished second and third in the 100m finals, and the sprinting results ran the Gaels an overall net gain of 10 points.

Shelton's senior throwers also muscled their way to extra points in the field. Michael Casinelli was a low seed in the javelin, but Casinelli heaved a 162-5 to post a personal best for a second place overall. Classmate Robert Wood also finished seventh with a 138-2. Then Captain Edward Radzion proved himself reliable once again as he finished second in the shot put with 48-8.5 and sixth in the discus with a 116-5.

The jumpers weren't finished. Samedi and sophomore Zachary Prindle were also low seeds in the high jump. Five feet, 10 inches was their best mark on the year, and they knew they needed more to score. Samedi overcame some early fouls yet again to put up a season best of 6 feet, enough for a fourth place. Then with his captain cheering him on, sophomore Zach Prindle soared above 6-2 to secure a second-place finish and a PR. Only expecting three points in the event, the Gaels netted another 10 more points to all but seal the victory.

Junior Robert Dillon also overcame his seeds to finish fourth in both the mile and 3200.

The Gaels 4x400 team of juniors Camerin Gumbs, Zach Muller, Josh Sacoto, and senior captain Matt Bean ran a season best 3:28.83 to finish fifth.

The Shelton 4x800 team of Muller, Sacoto, Samuel Kocurek, and Matthew Richard also ran a 8:18.22 to finish sixth.

With more second place finishes than he can count, Gambardella felt snake-bit, and the Amity High School venue was nothing less than a house of pain for his teams. So it was fitting that the Gaels completed their SCC sweep at Amity, of all places.

The seniors showered Gambardella in whatever water bottles hadn't been drunk, the kids blasted music during their victory lap, a host of pictures were taken with the championship banner on full display, and best of all, an assembly of opposing coaches lined up to congratulate Gambardella on the victory.

In one of the day's better moments, longtime Amity Head Coach-turned Payne's Corner Timing Chairman Thom Jacobs came down from the press box and walked up to Coach G after the final event. Gambardella reached a hand out, but Jacobs refused it and went in for the hug.

"I am so happy for you," Coach Jacobs said. A classy move between former rivals, and that sentiment seemed to be shared among all the coaches on Wednesday as Gambardella's Shelton Gaels can finally call themselves SCC champions.