The Darien boys track team capped off a historic season and week at the New Balance Outdoor National Championships Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. with five new school records and four team members earning All-American honors. Six days earlier, the Blue Wave won its first Connecticut State Open championship since 1982.
"On Monday, we were looking for another chance win the State Open. All we wanted was the opportunity," Blue Wave coach Tyson Kaczmarek said. "We had to finish what the 2006 team started when it finished in second place. And winning the Open is sweet. It's not just for our team, but everyone who ever wore the Blue Wave uniform. But what these guys did at Nationals was truly amazing."
Within the Nationals competition, there are two divisions: Emerging Elite and Championship. The Emerging Elite division is reserved for athletes on the rise toward becoming some of the best in the country, but have not yet qualified to compete at that level. The Championship division pits the best high school track and field athletes in the country in their respective events.
Darien opened its weekend Friday with its 4 x 800 team of Brian Davey, Marshall Huffman, Arthur Cassidy and Peter Kreuch placing 26th in the Emerging Elite division at a time of 8:06.57. Hours later, sophomore Armstrong Noonan finished 11th in the Emerging Elite 1-mile run in 4:17.68. The time broke his school record of 4:17.93 set earlier in the season. His time also broke his own school record in the 1,500-meters while speeding towards the final 100 meters of the 1-mile after registering a time of 3:58:77. Carter Ashcraft also placed 24th in the Emerging Elite javelin with a throw of 141-6.
The team's first Championship event came Friday in the 5,000 meters. Just after 10 p.m., Alex Ostberg blew out his competition in the 5,000 meters with a blistering fast time of 14:16.61, which earned him first-place and All-American honors.
"I was completely speechless. It was incredible," Ostberg said. "It was surreal. It hasn't even come close to sinking in yet."
Ostberg's victory in the race shattered three recrods. His time broke the Connecticut (Donn Cabral, 14:32.60 in 2008), FCIAC (Andre Laboy, 14:37.83 in 2013) and Darien High record (Ostberg, 15:08.81 in 2013). It was the top time in the U.S. this year and second-best all-time in meet history.
"The workouts Alex has done over the past month have been sensational," Kaczmarek said. "I knew he was ready for this race mentally and physically. We had a specific plan for the race. Alex executed a version of it flawlessly as it unfolded differently than we expected.
"Before the race, we went through a few different scenarios for the race and what could happen in a few best case-worst case scenarios. The mental preparation Alex had was ideal. We have been mentally preparing for this race for a good month. After all his freak injuries freshmen and sophomore year, and missing Indoor Nationals due to illness, this was redemption."
On Saturday, senior Spencer McKeough placed 11th in the Emerging Elite shot put by throwing 50-10.25. McKeough finished his final season with the No. 1 throw in Connecticut, as the only thrower to reach over 54 feet.
The Blue Wave wrapped up its 2014 season on Sunday. Senior Nick Lombardo took third in the Emerging Elite long jump by leaping a distance of 22-4.5. In the high jump Championship event, Lombardo placed 12th with a mark of 6-7, breaking his own school record of 6-6 set in 2013.
"Nick has had an incredible career," Kaczmarek reflected. "I'm so glad he got to finish it off with Nationals."
The final event of the day saw Darien win second place in the Distance Medley Championship. A team of Noonan, Ashcraft, Cassidy and Ostberg took to the track and raced to a time of 10:03.49, which earned each of them All-American honors. Ostberg completed the win with a 4:06.52 split in the 1,600 anchor, a personal best by eight seconds. The time also broke the school record of 10:34.81 set by Noonan, Spencer McMullin, Davey and Ostberg in 2013.
"That race was absolutely crazy," Kaczmarek said. "The team ran out of its minds. I thought maybe we could run 10:10, or 10:09 if all went well. They obliterated any projections I had. And to be second? Never would have thought it was possible."