The Calhoun High School girls track team entered St. Anthony’s for the Conference II championships as the defending champs, but big underdogs to perineal powerhouses East Meadow and Port Washington.
To keep with tradition, Calhoun walked into the meet in two lines matching head-to-toe stone faced and ready to perform.
“I really love watching them come into a meet like this, determined and laser focused on the goal. It’s really something to see” Coach Joseph Migliano said. “There has never been a better team win in my career, not a single one. Every girl, every place, every single point mattered tonight and it’s a true testament to the fortitude these girls have developed.”
The meet started out better than average for Calhoun coming in with a two-point lead over Port Washington from weight throw. The throwers Jamie Campanelli, Victoria Unz and Julia Oladipo stepped up big to upset the Port Washington and scored a big 16 points.
“Our throwers as always had a big meet. No one ever sees what they do, but they are some of the hardest workers around and always show up when it matters for the team, we couldn’t do anything without them” Coach Migliano said.
Faith Dwyer and Emma Bhansingh led the way in the 3,000 meter run taking third (Faith) and sixth collecting seven points for the team. After this event, East Meadow and Port Washington took the lead, doing very well in the 55 and 1,000m races. Julianna Razza had another personal best in the 1K to score two points, but more importantly knocking some other teams out of scoring.
The 600 is where Calhoun got back into the meet, junior and captain Elizabeth Tuzzolo stepped up and earned her first Conference Championship in this race. She was nervous and sick before the race, but like the true competitor and captain she is, she ran her heart out and took the win by less than a second.
“There’s not much more I can say about Elizabeth, she’s a competitor and warrior, plain and simple. She hates the idea of losing and would run through a wall if it meant a win for the team. I couldn’t be happier with her and the young women she’s turning into,” Coach Migliano said.
Heather Berberich and Maura Walters stepped up for the girls next in the 55 meter hurdles, taking third (Heather) and fifth picking up eight points and knocking East Meadow out of scoring.
“This was a great race for Heather especially after just missing out on all conference last year. She made that a goal of hers to finish top three and that’s what she did. Going to really miss this one, she’s been like the team mom for the past few years and no one will replace her,” Coach Migliano said.
Tali Gekhman and Rebecca Sirof evened the playing field in the race walk event that Port Washington had plans on sweeping, taking first (Tali) and fourth place. These were a really big 14 points for the team, and more importantly, kept points off the board for Port Washington.
If this was a straight up track event, the girls from Calhoun wouldn’t have done so well, as they were outscored by Port Washington and East Meadow two-fold, but the strength of Calhoun lied in the field events, where they took an overall 70 points.
Jamie and Victoria came back one more time to take third and fourth place in the shot, keeping ground with Port Washington, who went 1-2.
Kiki Losquadro earned All Conference honors taking third in the high jump and rookie jumper Ellena Kakalos would jump her personal best and tie for fourth. 8.3 points the team couldn’t continue without.
The long and triple jumps though is where Calhoun took over the meet. Sarah Tappeto the only senior of this group would lead the girls into the two most crucial events of the night, and it didn’t start to well. Lisa Jose the best jumper in the field fouled out and eighth grade sensation Sara Manson fouled her first two attempts. This should have been it for Calhoun, until Sara leaped 16’8.25” to take over the lead and eventually win gold for the girls.
Triple jump started off with a bang for Calhoun. Lisa Jose refocused and shocked the field opening with a 33’9” jump. While Sara Tappeto and Manson followed up with their own 32/33 foot jumps as well. When it was all said and done, Lisa went 34 feet for a massive PR and a gold medal , Sara Manson 33’9 another personal best and silver medal and Sarah Tappeto jumped 32’5 to take fourth, overall scoring 22 points for the team here.
“These girls are really something else. Lisa and Sarah Tappeto are two of the most athletic girls I have ever coached, and came up big when it mattered. I would be remiss if I didn’t speak on Sara Manson. She’s 13 years old, only in eighth grade and was a key factor in our win tonight. She is the last one out of the weight room everyday; loves this sport and wants to get better each day. Sara showed the heart and will of a seasoned veteran, getting her last jump in at 16’8.25 inches and took the event. She leaves me in a constant state of awe everyday. Nassau County and beyond better be on notice for when she actually enters high school,” Coach Migliano said.
Calhoun knew going into the meet with such few girls competing that the relays were going to be tough, many girls have already ran their three-event limit and it was going to be hard to come back and compete, but this didn’t stop or phase them as each and every girl stepped up and earn this victory.
The 4x8 saw the familiar distance faces for Calhoun and Alexandra Unz started it off and PR to leave the girls in fifth place at the exchange. Emma Bhansingh coming off the 3K and 1500 battled and kept the team in the race. Faith Dwyer ran third leg making up some big time on the top four teams and setting up Julianna Razza on the anchor. Julianna ran a smart, intelligent race and turn it on with 80 meters to go to pass Long Beach and grab fourth place points for the team.
“This group of young girls is really something. The work ethic they show day in and out is above and beyond. They are truly starting to come into their own as a distance team. While Tali and Rebecca didn’t run this Relay, they are a part of this amazing group to. I feel really blessed and lucky to work with them everyday,” Coach Migliano said.
Next up was the 4x400m relay which is traditionally Calhoun’s best event. However with an injury to freshmen Alyssa Crews know one knew what to expect. Sarah Tappeto got the girls out to a blazing start running a personal best, not bad after taking 12 attempts in jumps. Samantha LaTorre got out fast and hold on to second place for the team. With Alyssa being out, Kayla Locasto stepped up and run in her place, Kayla is surely not a 400m runner but was willing to do whatever it took for the team to win. Kayla ran her heart out and kept the girls in the race. Anchor leg Elizabeth Tuzzolo fended off two teams and kept the girls in second place, earning a big eight points and giving the girls a 7.5 point lead going into the 4x200.
“Kayla really stepped up here. She was scared of not only the race but really letting the team down; she competed and really showed up when needed. The meet may have swung in a different direction if not for her. I’m really proud of how she stepped up and ran tonight,” Coach Migliano said.
The 4x200 meter was highlighted with county champs Valley Stream Central, but the girls knew they didn’t need to beat them, just run a solid, safe race. Lisa Jose after coming off the jumps got the girls out extremely fast and hand off to her friend Kiki, who ran a consistent smart race. Junior Lauren Rifas stepped up big and competed in her first scoring event at conferences to hold off the bottom three teams from jumping Calhoun. Heather Berberich closed the race for the girls, running a personal best and finishing in fifth for the team, earning a big two points, especially when Calhoun only won by 1.5 over power house Port Washington.
This was the closest meet in all of Long Island and by far the most competitive. This young Calhoun team really stepped up and made a statement to everyone, showing that last years win wasn’t a fluke. These girls showed a tremendous amount of heart and determination, and they are now the first back to back girls winter conference champions in school history.
“This was the best team win I have ever been a part of. I can honestly pick through each event and say, this point one or that one second did it for us. This was a very talented group of young girls who just refused to lose, refused to accept that we graduated too many, and refused to except the rumors that they were being counted out. They battled and made a statement to everyone that they are no one year wonder,” Coach Migliano said.