STONINGTON — Jeff Parkinson holds a track and field team’s 4x400 relay unit in high regard, somewhat like the way a baseball team views a dominant relief pitcher.
Both are closers. The 4x400 relay runs the final event in a meet to try to grab winner-take-all points for the margin of difference in ECC meets; the relief pitcher protects a lead to nail down a win.
Though the Stonington High girls’ track and field team endured a rebuilding season in Parkinson’s first year as Bears’ coach, he put his 4x400 relay of juniors Kaeli Novak, Kenna McWilliams, Molly Crowley and Meg Rolfe on a pedestal.
“Running the 400 hurts and in the 4x400 relay, most have run a few races already,” Parkinson said.
“But it’s probably the most important event in a track meet because often the meet comes down to that. In my years of running, plus coaching at Plainfield and now Stonington, people fight to get on the 4x400 relay. It’s a prestigious spot on the team.”
Novak, McWilliams, Crowley and Rolfe earned their spots on the prestigious team and came through, finishing fourth in the ECC meet to earn ECC-Medium first-team honors. The junior quartet ran the four laps in 4:14.68, earning all-ECC honors as the first divisional finisher. They shaved nearly six seconds off their regular-season best time.
“These girls run well together,” Parkinson said. “We had the same order all year. Kaeli and Kenna are more of the sprinter-type, and Molly usually specializes in the 800, but can run a quality 400. Meg is the anchor and runs on a lot of guts. These four together in the 4x400 were our best relay. We didn’t have a lot of depth this year, nor standouts competing for state titles, but when you put four quality kids together, you can accomplish something.”
Some relay members have earned All-ECC honors previously in their careers in the Small Division. Crowley ran a leg on the ECC-Small First team 4x800 relay in 2012 and 2013. McWilliams made ECC-Small first team in the 400 last season as a sophomore.
In indoor track during winter, Rolfe and McWilliams made ECC-Small first team in the 4x180 and 4x360 relays this past season.
Novak was an ECC-Small First team 4x180 selection this season. McWilliams and Rolfe made ECC-Small First team in the 4x360 relay as freshman during the 2012-13 season.