Chiaravalle Leads Danbury to Another Title as Easy as 1-2-3

BY RYAN LACEY

Long after all the teams departed from Danbury High School as the sun set in the background, the Danbury girls outdoor track team was finally handed the trophy they waited all season for.

It was an eerily subdued atmosphere as the championship was secured what felt like hours earlier, but the Hatters were crowned back-to-back outdoor champions by besting 14 other FCIAC squads on Wednesday on their own turf.

The Hatters scored 160 points, 17 more than they in winning a year ago. Ridgefield placed second with 125.5 points while Fairfield Ludlowe finished third with 76.5.

The meet was originally scheduled to take place on Monday at Greenwich, but the rain postponed the meet 48 hours. With the Cardinals unable to host the event that day, Danbury was granted an extra home meet.

Danbury senior Bridget Chiaravalle won three events on the day -- the 100 and 300 hurdles along with the 200 dash. The Hatters claimed six first-place finishes, including a win in the 100 from junior Zyniah Bunn. Chiaravalle edged Bunn in the 200 as Bunn set PRs in both events she ran in.

"It's been good," said Danbury junior Zyniah Bunn. "It's challenging but it's been paying off; the workouts and everything is coming together and paying off."

Both standouts made immediate impacts for the program as freshman and have blossomed into key point-getters for the hatters. Chiaravalle -- who will attend Boston University -- also won three events at the FCIAC indoor championships in February.

Chiaravalle, like Bunn, has deep roots in the sport and have experienced the positives and negatives of that. Chiaravalle's two older brothers recently starred for the Hatters in the same hurdles events. Both of Bunn's parents are both former sprinters.

"I definitely had the pressure of my two brothers being such great hurdlers having school records," Chiaravalle said. "Those expectations could have put pressure me at times but I exceeded them and even surprised them; which was great to be able to make them proud."

"It was very difficult because you and your dad are alike," Bunn said. "It's good that's in my blood, running track with my mom and everything; they both helped me a lot."

Greenwich junior Lia Zavattaro won the pole vault with a leap of 11-00, but the bar was set much higher. Zavattaro walked off disappointed as she failed to clear 11-06 after hoping to set a new FCIAC record of 12-03 heading into the meet. Zavattaro owns a personal best of 12-1 (video here) that took place during a meet this spring.

"The energy was something unreal," Zavattaro said of her jump earlier this month. "Going over the bar and seeing it still there at a height that's tremendously high for me was insane."

Zavattaro -- who had knee surgery in eighth grade that ruled out any future track events -- spent a weekend in Rochester, New York training at the home of Jenn Suhr, who won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics after taking silver in Beijing in 2008. The experience included little jumping, but a focus on all of the technical aspects -- including the run-up -- that go into a perfect jump.

Zavattaro -- the defending Class LL champion -- also learned an important lesson that could have been applied Wednesday.

"It was one of the most life-changing experiences for me because of how you can't have your best performance every day; it's something all athletes have done. You understand you have to take a little time to focus on the basics and the technicalities."

The 1,600 wasn't decided until the final moments as winner Zoe Harris (Greenwich), Lauren Moore of Danbury and Gabriella Viggiano of Ridgefield -- separated by less than three-tenths of a second.

Ludlowe's Sarah Leatherman won the 3,200 without being challenged.

"My coach has taught me a lot of mental strategies for when I'm by myself to hold my speed," Leatherman said. "That second mile can be really tough."

The rivalry between the Tigers and Hatters continued as the squads have one 1-2 in each of the last four indoor and outdoor meets dating back to last winter. Though Ridgefield has finished second all four times, the example set by Danbury has brought the best out in both squads.

"It's great honestly," said Tigers senior Alex Damron. "It drives all of us to do better; even in our duel-meet against Danbury we push everything we have just to try to get past them because they're our best competition."

Ridgefield earned a consolation by wrapping up the track portion of the meet with a win in the 4x400 relay. Freshman Emma Langis got the quartet off to a blistering start before Damron -- who set a school record in finishing second in the 400 -- closed the race with a narrow win.

"We were very happy," Damron said. "Emma put us in a great lead and we kept that lead. I think just to end the meet, it's Katie Jasminski and myself's last FCIAC meet; to end it on such a high note is great."

A site change now means the Class LL championships will now take place in far-away Manchester at 3 p.m. next Wednesday

The following performances have made the Milesplit US Second Team standards

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