Pictured: Kedarjah Lewis, left, and Eamon Sweeney display the All-America medals they won at the high school outdoor track and field championships on the campus of the University of Oregon. (Submitted Photo)
By Paul Augeri
Haddam-Killingworth brought home two track and field athletes – and nearly a third — with All-America distinction after they competed against the nation’s best at the Outdoor Nationals Presented By Nike at the University of Oregon.
Kedarjah Lewis finished fifth in the long jump and Eamon Sweeney, despite a serious injury to his right shoulder, persevered in the final two events of the decathlon to finish sixth.
Meanwhile, Matthew Jennings was among seven 800-meter runners to cross the finish line in 1:52, but he missed out on the required sixth-place finish to attain All-America status. His time of 1:52.83 was 10-th. The fourth- through 12th-place finishers all crossed in 1:52 and were separated by .53 of a second.
Lewis, Sweeney and Jennings graduated from H-K in June. All will be Division I athletes – Lewis at Iona (in soccer as well as in track), Sweeney at Maine and Jennings at Yale.
“Just to come on this stage, in this environment, for the first time ever and at this venue and compete against the best in the nation, they were not fazed at all,” H-K coach Matt Diglio said. “They not only competed against the best, but they raised their level of performance. It was very, very impressive.”
The Cougars’ sprint medley relay team of John Kowal, Kevin Cavrell, Sweeney and Max Cozean also competed during the four-day championship meet at Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene – known as TrackTown USA – but did not place.
Record triple-digit heat in the Pacific Northwest a week ago broke just before the competition began. Diglio said conditions for the Wednesday-through-Saturday championships were perfect. He said a group of 27 that included parents, siblings, grandparents, coaches and people in the three-town H-K community traveled for the meet “speaks to the impact” the Cougars had on it.
Sweeney had the fortitude to overcome his injury and pull off a top-six finish. He hurt his shoulder in the pole vault, the third-to-last event on Day 2 of the decathlon, and tied for last in that event.
“The trainers had to pop his shoulder back into place,” Diglio said. “They taped it up, rubbed him down. The decathlon is tough enough to compete in over two days. He was not going to drop out.”
With his shoulder stable, Sweeney went out and threw the javelin 156 feet, 5 inches for a third-place finish. Diglio said it’s believed Sweeney’s labrum is partially torn.
“After that, he not only threw the javelin but threw it well,” the coach said. “He threw in extreme pain.”
In the 1,500, Sweeney accrued enough points with his 13th-place time of 4:53.89 to finish sixth overall with 6,445 points.
“I knew that I had to have a good throw in javelin in order to set myself up to be able to place top six,” Sweeney said Sunday. “In the 1,500, I knew I had to just hold off the seventh kid, so I just went in with that mindset.”
Sweeney beat Castro by a little more than 11 seconds.
“The kid (Cole Castro, seventh overall) just sat on Eamon for the first three laps in the race,” Diglio said. “With 300 (meters) to go Eamon just picked it up and pulled away. He was in agony running and swinging his arms, but he showed tremendous heart and tremendous guts. It was very emotional, just a long two days and lots of ups and downs as it always is with the decathlon. Just a fantastic finish.”
Sweeney’s throw in the jav was his best individual result. His other top finishes: fourth in the discus and 110-meter hurdles, sixth in the 100 meters and in the top 10 in the shot put and 400 meters. Two weeks earlier, he won the Connecticut title with 6,365 points, crushing his closest competitor by almost 900 points.
In the long jump, Lewis produced a personal-best 19 feet, 2¾ inches to give herself a great chance of finishing among the first six. She went 18-11 in her first attempt in the finals, a positive sign of what was to come.
“I knew she was on her mark then,” Diglio said. “Kedarjah was third in the standings going into the finals and got passed by two girls, but she was consistent with every jump.”
The decathlon and girls long jump finished within an hour or so of each other.
“It was very emotional, very draining,” Diglio said of the competitions being so close on the schedule. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. For Eamon and Kedarjah to be able to celebrate together, it’s one of those days I’ll never forget as a coach.”
Lewis, the Class M and State Open champion in the long jump, bettered her school record of 19-1 set in the Open.
“As a competitor it’s (the national meet) one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “During the season I didn’t expect to get this far, so when I qualified I was super excited. Going in to nationals I was more focused on having fun. I didn’t think that I could win and I for sure didn’t think I would have been an All-American.
“Even during warm-ups I was laughing so hard, just having a good time. At one point I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, there’s no chance. All the girls look so serious.’ And here I am laughing and I wonder if they questioned how I got here.”