Two Bristol Central students, girls tennis player Abby Gorneault and Galen Hickey, a jumper and sprinter who competes in outdoor track, are the Athlete of the Week picks for area scholastic sports.
Gorneault, the daughter of Janice and Jason Gorneault, is undefeated after six matches this spring playing No. 1 singles for the Rams. She and her teammates are playing below .500 to date, but hope to gain more wins as the season progresses.
There are five returning players from last year with a number of younger players helping prepare for the future. Gorneault is a co-captain this year along with senior classmate Emilie Dube under head coach Sara Woodatch.
In becoming the team leader she is today and competitor she has been her four years of high school, Gorneault started playing the game about eight years ago. She has fared well in high school, having been selected for all-conference honors as both a sophomore and junior and has also been an All-Press selectee.
“I started at age 10 at Chippanee [Golf Club],” Gorneault said. “I wanted to try a new sport, because I quit dance. I played for Chippanee, where we played against [teams from] different golf clubs. Then, I started here [at Central].”
It’s a sport she thoroughly enjoys.
“It’s fun,” Gorneault said. “It’s challenging. My favorite stroke is my forehand, because I’m able to put all of my power into it. The more I practice, the stronger it gets and it becomes easier for me in a match.”
As a team leader and its No. 1 player, it’s obvious that the younger players look up to her as an example of what to be and do.
“Never give up and practice a lot,” Gorneault says to them. “Don’t get discouraged. People think [tennis] is easy, but it is not. It’s harder [then people would think] when you are on the court.”
Gorneault is from a sport-minded Bristol Central family. Her sister, Ava, who graduated last year, played tennis at the school - as a two-time captain - and also soccer, while her father played both football and baseball for the Rams.
Her plan for next year is to attend the International Institute of Cosmetology school in Plainville, thus ending her competitive tennis career. However, she knows it’s a game she can play for many years and will continue doing so as an activity with friends.
For now, though, she’s focused on finishing the scholastic season.
“I want to make it to the states,” Gorneault said. “And when there, hopefully to go all the way.”
Hickey, the son of Pam and Rod Hickey, was a standout for the Rams on Saturday as Bristol Central hosted the Greater Bristol Invitational track and field meet. Hickey, a junior, captured first place in the triple jump with a leap of 42-5.5 and helped capture the 4x400 relay with teammates Jose Ramirez, David Bowes and Ramone Ambert in a time of 3:35.58. He also went 19-10 in the long jump for 12th place.
“Galen has had to battle back from ACL surgeries both his freshman and now junior years,” Rams coach Tamara Stafford-Kirk said. “I’ve seen that drag a lot of kids down, but Galen is positive and shortly after surgery talked to me about his goal to be back for track this season. We were hopeful that he would at least be able to run and get back in shape.
“The fact that he is jumping and at a highly competitive level already is remarkable and speaks to what a phenomenal athlete he is. I’ve known Galen all his life and having the opportunity to coach him is very special to me.”
Hickey, who also plays basketball and football, started track in recent years after “not feeling baseball anymore.”
“It’s fun, you get to interact with people outside of your team,” Hickey said. “My brother, Dathan, gave me more competition [before he graduated] and that made me want to improve.”
That’s Datham Hickey, multi-sport standout from Bristol Central who is now a football player at Yale. His younger brother believes track and field will be his forte.
“Track is my favorite,” Galen Hickey said. “You are always moving around and doing some kind of work. I like the events I’m in. I also liked being on the track with my brother.”
And as far as coach Stafford-Kirk goes, she’s great, too, he said.
“She’s one of the best coaches I’ve had,” Hickey said. “She pushes you to get better and the coaches she has around her push you to be your best. They all want you to succeed.”
Hickey would like to break the school record of 44-9 in the triple jump, set by Drew Lee in 2015. Hickey’s best is 42-5.5. Two other goals are to compete in both the 4x400 and triple jump at New Englands before he graduates.
After that, it’s probably competing in track in college and studying for a sports-related career.