Newington’s Geisler anchors winning 4x800 relay with a heavy heart; Simsbury’s Birney wins twice; Cheshire’s Farrell sets record

·4 min read

Newington held its graduation Wednesday night. Sam Geisler just wished his mom could have been there to watch him walk across the stage.

“She was wishing she could come to graduation,” Geisler said as he began to choke up. “She didn’t make it.”

Geisler’s mom died of cancer before he entered the ninth grade. One day after graduation, he dedicated Newington’s 4x800-meter relay race at the State Open track and field championships at Veterans Stadium Thursday to her.

The Nor’easters won — in dramatic fashion — as Geisler chased down Staples-Westport’s George Lepska in the final lap, took the lead with 100 meters remaining, and edged him out at the finish line.

“I wanted to win this for her,” he said.

The quartet of Geisler, junior Michael Bohlke, senior Luke Brown and senior Reed Campbell posted a time of 7:57.79 — five seconds better than their seeded time, and over 30 seconds better than their time at the Central Connecticut Conference championship meet a just few weeks earlier. Staples finished second at 7:58.09.

“I’m so happy for him,” Newington coach Jen Deschenes said. “He’s just the nicest kid. You would have never known he’s gone through the stuff he has. He works so hard. He’s such an inspiration to me and his teammates. He deserves it — they all deserve it.”

Newington led the first two laps as Bohlke and Brown stayed ahead of the pack. But Staples, the top seed, pulled ahead with two laps to go. Lapska bolted, about 25 feet ahead of Geisler, as the final leg kicked off.

Then there were 25 feet of distance between the two.

Then 15.

Then five.

With 100 meters left, Geisler led Lepska by inches, and outsprinted him to the finish line, thrust his shoulders forward and finished first.

“I run best, personally, when I’m first,” Bohlke said. “[Brown and Campbell] are perfect in the middle, they do their job amazing. Sam’s last leg is something to behold.”

Simsbury’s Birney kicks late for 800, `1,600 titles

Olivia Birney was unsure whether she’d be able to hang with Greenwich’s Mari Noble for all four laps of the 1,600.

But when the two turned the corner on the last lap, the Simsbury senior knew she had to make a move.

“I was still a little bit off of her,” Birney said. “I thought, ‘You’ve come this far, you’ve come three laps, the hard part is over.’ I just thought, ‘You’ve got to catch up to her, hold on for the last 100 [meters], and go.’”

Birney pulled ahead of Noble on the final straightaway and outkicked her for the win, with a mark of 4:50.96 — three seconds faster than her seeded time.

Just over an hour later, Birney was on the track again, running the 800. She felt tired and thought she was running the middle-distance race to see what she could do.

But again, she saw an opening. With 300 meters left, she pulled in front of Weston’s Julia Rosenberg and out-sprinted her to the finish line for her second state title of the day, with a time of 2:11.82.

“I would have been happy with whatever” Birney said. “I am just over the moon right now. I was not expecting this today.”

With inspiration from Gavin Sherry, Cheshire’s Farrell breaks record in 800

Ryan Farrell watched as Conard junior Gavin Sherry tore around the track in the 1,600, breaking a state record in the process.

A teammate turned to Farrell.

“Dude, now you’ve got to go 1:50,” he said to Farrell, seeded first in the 800.

Farrell did, and set a meet record in the process with a time of 1:50.58. The previous record was 1:50.63, set by Staples’ Henry Wynne in 2013.

“I’m not saying I’m anywhere on Gavin’s level, he’s probably the best runner Connecticut has ever seen, but it really inspired me,” Farrell said. “It’s awesome. Coming in as a freshman in my first race running 2:30, and now I’m running 1:50, dropping 40 seconds off my time, it’s something you dream of.”

Notes

Hillhouse won the boys team championship with 50 points, followed by Hall (44) and New Milford (35). Danbury won the girls team title with 44 points. Glastonbury took second with 38. ... Conard senior Cloe Scrimgeour won the girls 3,200 in dominant fashion, beating second-place Claire Daniels of New Milford by over 20 seconds with a time of 10:21.61: “I wanted to try and break the state record, but I went in with a bad mindset. I’m really thankful that we got to have somewhat of a season this year.” Hall senior Israel Henriques-Setho won the boys long jump with a mark of 22 feet, 10.5 inches. ... Glastonbury senior Mallory Malz won the pole vault with a leap of 11-feet. ... Glastonbury’s 4x800 relay of Ava Gattinella, Kelley MacElhiney, Casey MacElhiney and Jacqueline Caron won in 9:18.45.

Shawn McFarland can be reached at smcfarland@courant.com.