Some fall sports are already in state championship competition, while others are gearing up for the same. This past week saw a pair of area athletes either shine against the state’s best or prepare their team for when the competition intensifies in the state tournament.
Southington’s Trinity Cardillo and Innovation’s C.J. Allen are this week’s Athletes of the Week for continuing what has already been memorable seasons for both seniors.
The Southington girls track team finished in ninth place overall during Thursday’s Class LL state championships, and a big reason for its top-10 finish was one of its best throwers in school history.
Cardillo won the shot put with a throw of 43 feet, 7½ inches, as the senior make it back-to-back seasons in which she finished in first place in the event during the indoor track season. Cardillo blew away the competition, beating the second-place finisher (Hall’s Katherine George) by more than five feet in the finals.
Cardillo’s state championship-clinching throw was also a vast improvement from the one that won her the same title as a junior, when her throw of 39 feet, 6½ inches won her the Class LL state championship. Following that first indoor state championship, Cardillo continued her dominance by finishing in fourth place at the State Open and fourth at the New England Championships, cementing herself as one of the best shot put throwers in the region. Her best throw at New Englands was 41 feet, 9½ inches, and she nearly matched that later in the season at the New Balance National Championships, when her throw of 40 feet, 10½ inches earned her sixth place in the emerging elite division.
Cardillo will look to improve upon all of those marks when she competes in those same events this season, now that she has another state title to add to her already stacked trophy case.
While Cardillo has been her usual dominant self in indoor track this year, she also shines in outdoor competition, winning state championships in the hammer throw, discus and shot put, and finished second in the shot put in the State Open. At the New England Championships this past spring, Cardillo finished eighth in the shot put and ninth in the discus, and could find herself closer to first place this coming spring.
Cardillo still has plenty of time left in her high school career to break more records and record more first-place finishes, but she also already knows where her next chapter will be, having committed to compete at Division-I Northeastern University in the fall.
The Innovation boys basketball team will soon be heading to the state tournament to defend its first-ever state title, and Allen showed last week that he’s more than ready for the intensity of postseason play.
In a lopsided win over Civic Leadership on Wednesday night, Allen dominated with a team-high 25 points and 26 rebounds in an 84-50 victory over the Ravens. Allen’s notable double-double was also paired with six steals and four assists, in what was one of the top individual performances for an Innovation player all season.
“The reason that C.J. has been playing so well lately is very simple: He’s usually the hardest working player on the floor,” head coach Matt Lance said. “He has been thriving on the offensive glass all season, but he has been exceptional with his back to the basket these couple of games.”
With All-State forward L.J. Hazelwood dealing with an injured ankle in recent weeks, Allen was asked to take on more responsibility in the paint and he certainly responded, currently leading the team with 10.9 rebounds per game.
“He has grown tremendously because he has been forced to step up over these last couple of weeks,” Lance said. “But his greatest growth has been his ability to shake off his early mistakes. In the past, when games haven’t started off the way he has wanted to, it would affect his entire game. This year, he is able to mentally refocus and improve as the game continues.”
Allen’s growth from his junior to senior year has already paid dividends for the Ravens, and Lance is hoping for even more signs of improvement as the state tournament draws closer, as Allen paired with a healthy Hazelwood in the frontcourt would be a tough duo to beat in a do-or-die game.
“If he continues to elevate his level of play in the postseason, we will be a much more dangerous team,” Lance said.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org