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Six HKHS Athletes Are Going to the Outdoor Nationals in Oregon

By Kathy Brown.

(June 16, 2021) — The National Scholastic Athletics Foundation (NSAF) will host the Outdoor Nationals, presented by Nike to be held June 30 to July 3, 2021 at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon this year. Five of our Haddam Killingworth High School athletes have qualified: Kedarjah Lewis (senior), Matthew Jennings (senior), Eamon Sweeney (senior), Kevin Cavrell (junior), and John Kowal (senior). Max Cozean (senior) will attend as an alternate for the relay team.

The last time HKHS sent athletes to the National Championships was in 2016 when it was held in Greensboro, NC. They sent a girls and boys distance medley relay team, and the boys 4×800 relay team.

According to the NSAF website, “Wednesday will be Throws Day, followed by Jumps Day (Thursday), Sprints/Hurdles Day (Friday) and Distance Day (Saturday). The relays and multis will be interspersed throughout the weekend.”

Kedarjah Lewis in the long jump with her school record winning leap of 18’2″ in April

Kedarjah Lewis will be competing in the long jump at the meet. Kedarjah qualified with her jump of 19’1″ which won the State Open Championship last week and also broke her own previous school record.  Kedarjah also won that event at the Class M State Championship meet and at the Shoreline Championship meet won the 100/200/long jump & triple jump.  Kedarjah will be attending Iona College next year where she will be playing soccer and running track.

Kedarjah started playing soccer when she was 9 years old on the HK travel soccer team. “From there I moved my way up to premier and regional soccer,” said Kedarjah. “I played three years of high school soccer where I went All State twice, [and] I was awarded the gold boot award twice.”

Jason Lonergan met Kedarjah when she was in about 4th grade, when Kedarjah became friends with Jason’s daughter at Haddam Elementary School, and they started playing sports together. Jason coached soccer. “Once she was on the field, it was clear she was special,” said Jason. “[She was] usually the fastest player on the field for starters. More impressive to me, she was a hard worker and always looked to help the team. She would look to make a pass to set up a teammate before shooting the ball herself.”
Jason continued, “All along I knew that there was more in her than just a great kid and a good soccer player. I would often mention to her that she should try running track once she got to high school, knowing that it was part of her life/culture back in Jamaica. [But] it wasn’t until she tore her MCL (knee) and was told that running track might actually be a good way to recover. She eventually got out there and started breaking records.”

“Originally Track was supposed to be a way for me to stay in shape for soccer,” said Kedarjah, “but as the season went on, I fell in love with the track atmosphere. Everyone was super nice and supportive of each other. I love being able to compete on my own because it meant that I had to take full responsibility for my bad performances just as much as my good performances.”

Kedarjah was voted MVP twice. She holds the school record for the 55m dash (7.24), 300m (42.0), 100m dash (12.43), and the long jump (19’1″). “Long jump is my favorite event so I was pretty pumped when I qualified for Nationals,” said Kedarjah. “I’m very excited to attend Nationals. I’m even more excited to see my teammates compete.”

“Watching [Kedarjah] fall in love with a sport she was trying out for the first time last Indoor season has been a tremendous experience to be a part of,” said Asst. Coach Evan Woicik. “Her very first meet, she jumped 14’11”, so to have won State Open with a jump of 19’1″ is pretty incredible, considering there was no spring season or much of a winter season this past year [due to COVID]. This accomplishment, along with her many others, is a testament to her drive and determination in pursuing something she became passionate about.”

“Coaching is the easiest job in the world when you have kids that have not only an incredible amount of talent but also put their heart into doing everything that is necessary to succeed,” continued Asst. Coach Woicik.

Eamon Sweeney will be competing in the decathlon at nationals, Outdoor Track Coach Matt Diglio told us.  “Decathlon is 10 different events held over 2 days: 100m, long jump, high jump, javelin, 110 hurdles, 400m, shot put, discus, pole vault and 1500m.  Eamon is the State Open champion in the 110 hurdles (14.42) where he set the school record and at the Class M State Championships he won the javelin and 300 hurdles to earn All State honors.”  Eamon also holds the school record for 300 hurdles (39.67). Eamon will be attending the University of Maine and will be competing on their track team.

Eamon has been on the Track and Cross Country teams for all of high school. “I am excited about Nationals because it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am glad that we have the chance to represent H-K out with the best of the best,” said Eamon.

On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, Eamon finished the CIAC (state) Boys Decathlon Championship in first place, with a score of 6365 (the nearest competitor had 5507 points). To see the scores/distances from the individual events, please click HERE.

Matthew Jennings will be competing in the 800 meter run where he is currently ranked 9th in the country with his time of 1:51.07, Coach Diglio explained. “That time placed 2nd in the State Open Championships last week.  Matthew also won the 800 at the Class M State Championship meet to earn All State honors and he also broke his own school record in that event.”  Matthew will be attending Yale University next year, studying Ethics, Politics, and Economics where he will also be a member of the Division 1 cross country and track teams.
“I started running alongside my mother when I was very young, just to stay in shape for other sports (soccer and basketball mostly),” said Matthew. “As I moved through middle school, I began to fall in love with competitive running, and I knew I wanted to continue on that path into high school. Freshman year, I was a member of the Varsity Cross Country team that had a lot of success — winning States, 5th at State Opens, New England Qualifiers — which cemented my love of racing.”
“As I moved through high school, I’ve been lucky enough to find success in the sport — mostly thanks to the expertise and unyielding support of Coach Matt Diglio,” continued Matthew. He holds school records in 5k, 800m (1:51.07), 1600m (4:14.79), 1000m (2:28.80), SMR (3:29.20). “After Indoor Track Nationals got cancelled my junior year due to COVID-19, I’ve been hungry to get another qualifying standard and compete against the best in the nation. In Eugene, I’ll have the opportunity to do that, and take a shot at some of the loftiest goals I’ve set for myself.”

(from left) Matthew Jennings, John Kowal, Kevin Cavrell, Eamon Sweeney

The boys sprint medley relay team of John Kowal, Kevin Cavrell, Eamon Sweeney and Matthew Jennings with an alternate of Max Cozean also qualified for the National Championship meet on June 13 at the Danbury Dream Invitational.  “Their time of 3:29.20 crushed the previous school record of 3:45 and missed the CT state record by 2 seconds,” said Coach Diglio.
John Kowal told us that he started his athletic career in third grade playing soccer, which continued until his senior year. He ran Cross Country in 5th and 6th grade, but was back to soccer for 7th and 8th grade. “I started Track my freshman year and competed every season except my junior year due to COVID,” said John. “Our soccer team won Shoreline finals this year. I was captain for Outdoor Track this season. I competed in various events such as the 100m, 200m, 4×100, 4×400 and long jump.”
“It’s hard to believe six kids from Higganum are going to Nationals,” continued John. “At the beginning of this school year we didn’t know if we were even going to have seasons for sports [due to COVID] and now I am walking away from my senior year with two Shoreline titles and a States title, along with the unforgettable memory of going to Nationals. For most of us going, this is a once in a lifetime experience.”
Kevin Cavrell has been playing football and running track since his freshman year of high school, he told us. “This year I started the season fresh off of shoulder surgery so I wasn’t really where I wanted to be until the last stretch of the season during the championship meets,” said Kevin. “I definitely feel like I am peaking at the right point in the season, with my times improving steadily every meet.”
About the season as a whole, Kevin said, “In hindsight I feel as though this year played itself out better than any of us could have imagined, with both the Boys and Girls winning Shorelines, the Boys team going on to win States for the first time in 33 years, and capping off the year by sending six athletes to Nationals. I am definitely excited to go to Nationals.”
Beth Gagliardi, a teacher at Haddam Killingworth Middle School has set up a GoFundMe page to help the athletes and coaches afford the travel and accommodation expenses while competing in Oregon.
Good luck HKHS athletes!

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