A sixth straight Naugatuck Valley League girls outdoor track championship for Woodland rested solely, for all intents and purposes, on the back of senior pole vaulter Julia Swiatek.
She didn’t let the Hawks down.
Swiatek won the pole vault competition last Wednesday at Torrington High with a career-best jump of 8 feet to edge a pair of Watertown rivals and give the Hawks a 121.5-118.5 victory over the Indians. It was Woodland’s sixth straight league title and seventh consecutive NVL championship meet victory.
While the rest of the events were contested at Seymour High last Tuesday, rainy conditions forced the postponement of the pole vault to the following day at Torrington, which was the host of the league’s junior varsity competition.
Woodland held a 111-100 lead entering the pole vault, but Watertown boasted three jumpers with scoring potential, including the top two seeded jumpers.
Swiatek had only vaulted 8 feet once in her career, but she nailed it on her first jump to put the pressure on Watertown’s athletes. The Indians’ Kelsey DeJesus and Sophia Shea both matched it after missing earlier jumps, and when none of the athletes managed to clear the mark of 8-6, Swiatek won on a tiebreaker by virtue of missing no attempts at 8 feet.
“It was pretty crazy because I knew I had to clear at least 8 feet to get a decent amount of points,” Swiatek said. “I had only ever done that once before in my entire life. But I also had a lot of energy because of the pressure, and I think that helped me run faster and jump higher.”
Swiatek said she’d tempered her expectations entering the event and tried not to put too much pressure on herself in terms of the team championship.
“I did not think it was possible that I could get first, but I thought I would get in the top three,” Swiatek said. “I was trying to think positive thoughts and imagine myself clearing heights. I didn’t think about the team title at all. All I thought about was running toward the bar. It is all such a blur that I have no idea what goes on in the air.”
Woodland was in great position to take the team title thanks to some terrific efforts at the rest of the meet, including a pair of sprinting victories by Erika Michie, strong throwing performances by Jasmine Michie and Kristen Persico, and a versatile effort by Allie Cianciolo. They helped the Hawks get over the top in a league that Lownds said is becoming more competitive.
“It was a team effort to get us here, and Julie got us home,” Woodland coach Jeff Lownds said. “A few years ago, we were winning by 25-30 points. The margin is getting narrower each year, and I am just glad it came out on our side again.”
And while Swiatek may not have been thinking about the team championship during her part of the competition, she’s sure glad that she helped keep a longstanding streak alive.
“This is really meaningful because we have had a (championship) streak for a really long time,” Swiatek said. “We hadn’t lost a meet in the league in a really long time, and we lost that streak this season to Watertown. It was a regular meet, but we realized we had to win this tournament to get the title of NVL champions. It was really important to me to keep that legacy going my senior year. I definitely didn’t want to see it broken.”
Koslosky wins boys pole vault: Naugatuck’s Zack Koslosky pulled an upset victory in the NVL boys pole vault competition thanks to a performance that shattered his previous career-best.
Koslosky, who entered the competition with a personal-best pole vault mark of 12 feet, rocketed to the championship with a jump of 13-6 to edge defending champion and top seed Craig Starkey of Woodland. Starkey settled for second with a jump of 13 feet.
“It was nerve-racking,” Koslosky said. “Everyone was saying, ‘Don’t be nervous,’ but I was nervous the whole time. I just can’t get over it. I just had a good day, I guess. But major props to the other guys.”
Hawks compete at states: At the Class M state meet Tuesday at Willow Brook Park in New Britain, the NVL champion Woodland girls were led by their throwers.
Jasmine Michie placed third in the shot put (35 feet, ½ inch), while Kristen Persico was third in the javelin (105 feet) and seventh in the shot put (31-5).
Other top-10 finishers for the Hawks included Craig Starkey (third in the pole vault, 13-6); Tom Smith (fifth in the 100, 11.31); Julia Swiatek (seventh in the pole vault, 8 feet); the boys 4×400 relay team of Edit Krivca, Michael Falcone, Ryan Swanson, and Matt Luxeder (eighth, 3:36.39); Erika Michie (ninth in the 200, 26.57); Jaden Young (ninth in the 800, 2:25.79); Edit Krivca (ninth in the 400, 52.87); Emma Slavin (ninth in the 1,600, 5:46.40); Stephanie Poynton (10th in the long jump, 15-10); and Stephen Persico (10th in the javelin, 136-8).
The Woodland girls finished 19th overall with 14.75 points, while the boys placed 24th with 10.5 points.
The Republican-American contributed to this article.