DANBURY -- They say the champ is best unseated via knockout. That way there's no doubt about the new order of things, a new era signaled hard and fast for all to see.
It might seem like a misplaced analogy when applied to the mostly contact-free sport of track and field, but there wasn't a whole lot of fight in Danbury boys head coach Rob Murray's voice as he stood on the edge of the home track Tuesday night, conceding the following while the lights dimmed on a dynasty.
"They are definitely the premier team in the state right now," said Murray. "When you score 140, 150 points, that's a dominant performance... When you get beat like we got beat today, you realize maybe we can work a little harder and better ourselves. There's another team in our backyard that's better than us now. It's great for the sport."
"They" are Staples. And, by virtue of their landslide 147.5-82.5 team victory over second-place Danbury Tuesday, they are the new FCIAC champ everyone's chasing after an 11-year Hatters reign.
"We're always in the mix," said longtime Wreckers head coach Laddie Lawrence, referring to some tight battles he's been through with Danbury over the last decade-plus. "Based upon the way the season went, this was the finish today that we were supposed to have. I know the kids are excited. We always look at this meet as a stepping stone to the state meets, and I'm sure most of the other good teams look at it that way too."
That point of view will have to suffice for the Hatters, who were buoyed by their usual array of solid individual performances, particularly in the shorter track events.
Danbury junior Micaiah Hill established himself as what Murray called a "top dog" in sprint events for the remainder of this postseason and into next year, capturing the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.15 and the 200-meter sprint with a time of 42.18. Shane Chiaravalle won the 300-meter hurdles (38.89) and the Hatters' 4x800 relay team of C.J. Cunningham, Mickey Kozak, Frederic Marsalisi, Paul Murphy kicked off the day with a win (8:08.68). Danbury's 4x400 team of Elijah Amoah Chiaravalle, Patrick DeAngelo and Garin Mooney took first with a time of 3:24.12.
There was a little more suspense on the girls side, where another prohibitive favorite, Darien, held off a late charge from second-place Greenwich to attain team glory for the ninth time in coach Steve Norris' 39-year tenure.
"There's 18 schools in the league and virtually all of them have full programs," said Norris, whose Blue Wave dominated the regular season and finished with 115 points to steer clear of the Cardinals by 25. "To do well, you have to focus on everything. At this level, it really is a team effort. You can't get it done with five people. Maybe you can win a state meet with five people, but you can't (win a) league meet that way. You need a bunch."
The Hatters boys were stripped of what would have been their second victory out of the chute, in the 4x100 relay, when it was determined that the baton had been thrown in frustration after the race was over. The disqualification resulted in a victory for the Staples team of Jon Heil, Max Hoberman, David Hoffman, Zach Mitchell, and it allowed the Wreckers to establish an early lead that really started to expand once the field events got underway.
"We knew going in that they were loaded, especially in the field events," Murray said. "They just had more bullets in the chamber."
Individual wins for the Wreckers included Henry Wynne's victories in the 1600 (4:14.30) and the 800 (1:53.23), as well as in the triple jump (Max Hoberman, 44-00.50), and the pole vault (a 1-2 finish of Matt Mula and Dean Hefnawy).
Other individual conference champs on the boys side were: Fairfield Warde's Harry Warnick in the 3200 (9:25.06), Norwalk's Adam Robertino in the 110-meter hurdles (14.72), Greenwich's Ryan Kelly in the 400 (49.79), St. Joseph's Steven D'Ascanio in the high jump (6-00.00), Wilton's Alex Ward in the long jump (20-10.00), New Canaan's Rami Hamdan in the shot put (49-00.25), and Greenwich's Robert Gelcius in the discus (146-02) and the javelin (161-10).
The Norwalk boys finished tied for seventh with Ridgefield with 44 points. Brien McMahon came in 10th place with 31 points.
On the girls side, McMahon senior sprinter Shelly Lindo was the lone triple winner. During the rain-soaked early portion of the track events, Lindo took first in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 15.46 and immediately followed it up with the top time in the 100-meter dash (12.24). She capped her stellar day with a win in the 200-meter dash (24.83).
Lindo helped lead the McMahon girls to a fifth-place finish (59 points). Norwalk placed 10th with 19 points.
The Darien girls got individual wins from Catherine Lacy (high jump, 5-02.00; long jump, 16-08.00), Maddie Schneider (triple jump, 33-07.25),
Other girls winners included: Staples' Lexie Schachne in the pole vault (11-07.00), Bassick's Shanique Bunsie in the shot put (J29-07.50), Danbury's Christina Sperry in the discus (101-02), Ridgefield's Ellie Gravitte in the javelin (121-04), New Canaan's Stephanie Benko in the 3200 (11:19.96), Fairfield Warde's Lia Joham in the 400 (57.98), Staples' Emily Troelstra in the 300 hurdles (46.00) and Fairfield Warde's Cate Allen in the 1600 (5:12.88).