Avery Braccia and Nate DeAngelo, junior indoor track runners from Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central, respectively, are the “Athlete of the Week” picks for area scholastic sports. Both performed well at the recent Class L meet and State Open at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
Bracchia, the daughter of Melinda and Rich Braccia, placed third in the 1,000 meters at the Class L event and 14th at the State Open. Those were the first two times she had competed at that distance in state-level competition. She ran 3:10:46 at the L’s and 3:10.57 at the Open.
“She had a really good season this year,” her coach Kyle Fuller said. “She’s improved immensely after an injury-plagued sophomore year. She ran a PR at the Class L and matched that at the State Open in the 1,000. I’m very hopeful that this continues into the outdoor season.”
Going into the Class L meet, Braccia wasn’t sure what to expect.
“My coach thought I’d do well and make the State Open,” Braccia said. “He believed in me more than I believed in myself. I went in thinking, I’ve got to give it all I’ve got. I just had split times. I was happy with it because it was a new PR.”
Her time at the State Open was similar, but she was content again because of the few times she had run the distance with elite competition in the state.
Now one of the better female distance runners in the state, Braccia took up running in the seventh grade at Chippens Hill Middle School.
“I hope to run in college,” Braccia said.
She was happy with her season and thanks her “girls,” Victoria Kosciakiewicz and Fiona Gallagher, who also have toughed it out in the 1,000 meters with her.
“They are an inspiration for me; and the coaches, Kyle Fuller and Paul Hyland, I’m so grateful to have such great coaches,” Braccia said.
In addition to indoor track, Braccia does outdoor track and cross country, with the latter being her favorite of the three.
“I like the environment and I think we bond more in cross country, and that’s because we’re all doing the same race,” Braccia said. “But, I like them all pretty much.”
DeAngelo, the son of Scott DeAngelo and Nicole Churchill, had one of the most successful outings at both the Class L’s and State Open that a Bristol athlete has had. At the Class L meet, he captured the 3,200 in 9:38.44, finished third in the 1,600 at 4:29.55, and joined with Mark Petrosky, Austin Freve and Jose Ramirez in winning the 4x400 relay with a time of 8:11.02.
At the State Open, his time in the 3,200 of 9:28.00 is a new school mark, beating the coveted 9:37.49 run by Connor Kelly in 2011, the year the boys team won the Class L outdoor meet.
The first place winner, Gavin Sherry of Conard, ran 8:54.47, the fastest time in the country on the scholastic level, but that isn’t going to deter DeAngelo, who will go on to the New England championships to run the distance. He also joined his 8x800 relay teammates in finishing first and lowering their personal best to 8:04.19 in also qualifying for the New England meet.
“I felt good, but it felt funny to get lapped [by Sherry],” DeAngelo said. “He ran as the United States’ No. 1. I’m satisfied, because I got fifth place and I’m going to the New England meet.”
Paul Ryskowski, his running coach, realizes the talent his junior champion has.
“Nate is an exceptional athlete with an exceptional work ethic,” Ryskowski said. “He has great range, excelling at 800 meters to 5K. He’s very ambitious and has a lot of lofty goals set for the rest of his high school career. He’s so talented and so tough that he can accomplish them. He has a great personality and is the type of kid when he’s racing, you watch. He has a bright future.”
Bristol Central finished second at Class L to Hillhouse and at the State Open tied for second with Wilbur Cross behind the champions from Bloomfield High.
“I was kind of hoping the team would win at Class L, but obviously it was a great achievement for the team as a whole,” DeAngelo said. “We only lost by eight points, so …”
Asked about his favorite race, it was cross country.
“The more distance the better,” DeAngelo said. “Right now, cross country is my favorite. I just like cross country, because it’s a more open field runner-wise. I definitely have high hopes for cross country next year.”