SACO, Maine — In three minutes, 23.24 seconds last Saturday, the number of Woodland’s All-New England honors doubled.
The Hawks’ 4-by-400 meter relay team of Nick LaPerriere, Jon Alarcon, Tim Madormo and Eric Dietz finished fifth at the New England championships at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine, to earn All-New England status for the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth times in school history.
The foursome’s regional honors are the latest in an historic string, which includes the Naugatuck Valley League title, school record, Class M state title, and Class M state record.
Not too bad for a group who didn’t even start the season in the same relay.
“This group of kids really didn’t start running together until the end of the season,” Woodland coach Tim Shea said. “We were blessed with a lot of depth in the 400. Tim and Jon were new to running the 400. With our depth this year, we were able to move kids around and some weeks limit their events. The kids bought into it and that added to our success because we were fresher.”
The team’s best time of the season came at the Class M meet, where the Hawks shattered the class record by almost 2 ½ seconds. They finished in 3:21.48, more than six seconds faster than their closest competitor.
“I mentioned to them that they could beat the Class M record the weekend before,” Shea said. “We had no idea that they were going to run a 3:21. Every week we posed new challenges to them and they answered them.”
Last Saturday, Woodland finished behind the same three teams (Windsor, Staples and Danbury) it placed behind at the State Open and was right behind Acton-Boxborough (Mass.), which finished fourth.
“We thought they’d be able to go faster but that wasn’t the case,” Shea said. “The boys were disappointed for a minute or two but quickly realized what they achieved as a whole was more important. In track, you have to do it that day. We said we’d like to be All-New England and we were.”
LaPerriere, Alarcon and Madormo will join Woodland’s All-New England banner for the first time while Dietz became the first athlete in school history to earn the distinction twice. Dietz was named an All-New England soccer player last fall after scoring a state-best 36 goals.
Also on the distinguished list are New England javelin champion Eric Alfiere (2007), soccer player Jesse Menzies (2008) and Class M 300-meter hurdles champion Brandon Fowler (2010).
“We continue to get good groups of kids,” Shea said. “Kids see our team now as more than just something to do. We’ve had at least one state champion for the last six years. I think the coaches do a pretty good job of putting the kids in the right place and get the most out of them. In the past, I think people thought New Englands were out of reach. Now we feel it’s a viable goal every year. I think Eric showed that we can compete on that stage and show that we belong.”
The other Woodland track star to earn all-state honors this spring, Mike Lang finished ninth at this week’s state decathlon competition at New Britain’s Willowbrook Park.
Lang, the highest-placing sophomore at the meet, won the long jump with a personal-best leap of 22 feet, 5.75 inches, nearly a foot and a half better than any other competitor.
Lang was also second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.64 seconds and seventh in the high jump with a mark of 5-8.
“Mike is a very good athlete and I’m glad we have him for another two years,” Shea said of Lang, who broke school records in long jump and high jump this year. “As the season went on he got stronger. He had been bugging me about letting him do the decathlon. Last week I said, ‘Why not?’ The next two years should be fun.”
Lang’s older brother, Scott, also competed in javelin at the New England championships. His heave of 167-11 was good for 12th and was the fourth-best throw of all Connecticut competitors. Lang was the NVL champion in javelin and also placed second in Class M and sixth at the State Open.