Two Bristol Central standouts, sophomore Mackenzie Pina and junior Darrell Payton, have been selected as the “Athlete of the Week” picks for area scholastic sports.
Pina, a swimmer, is the daughter of Adrienne Bentley and Doug Pina, and once again had a solid week of swimming for the Rams, who are 6-0 coming into this week. She took first in the 100 butterfly and 200 IM and shared victories with relay teammates in both the 200 medley and 400 freestyle in a 93-85 win over Meriden last Tuesday. On Friday, it was two individual victories, in the 50 and 500 freestyle, along with relay wins in the Rams’ 96-85 besting of Plainville.
“Mackenzie Pina, has played a significant part of the team since her freshmen year, where she was awarded MVP,” said Adrienne Bentley, the head coach of the Bristol Central girls swim team. “She really knows how to channel her energies and turn it up. It is really great working with her, not only because of her swim talent but also because she knows how to fuel herself to pull out some big wins.
“It is her ability to really turn it up and pull from her inner strength that adds to her assets. She is very team orientated and looks to the team for energy and cheering to get her pumped for races. She is always looking to help the team and this year she started diving. Our team is young, so her dive time has been limited. But it speaks volumes for her character that she decided to take up diving to help the team.”
Pina was satisfied with the overall results in the Meriden meet, but had hoped to time better in her events.
“Place-wise, I helped the team, but my times weren’t my best,” Pina said. “It was probably good, but I’m looking forward to doing better. As a team, we really came together. One swimmer wasn’t feeling so well, so we had to sub her in the 500. She later went in for the 100 backstroke and she pulled in points.”
As for her personal goals, Pina wants to qualify for states in as many events as possible.
“I’ve qualified in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 fly,” Pina said. “And even though we are undefeated as a team, I’m not positive we can keep the streak, especially with Windsor coming up. I’d be happy with more wins than losses.”
She added that she would like to see the medley relay team set a new school mark. It’s currently 1:59 and the best they’ve done to date is 2:01.
Payton is the son of Darrell Payton Sr. and Janet Diaz. He had a career game Sept. 22 when the Rams won their first-ever game on their new field, shutting out visiting Wethersfield 33-0.
Payton carried the ball 19 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns. This past Friday, Payton and his teammates fell to host and unbeaten Middletown 56-26. Payton scored a touchdown in the loss on a five-yard run.
But even with his recent success, Payton was quick to praise his coaches and teammates.
“Coaching-wise, we called the right plays offensively and defensively,” Payton said. “We threw the ball and ran the ball plenty of times to confuse the defense. We all worked together to get the win. It felt good, new stadium, breaking it in, it was great.”
While Friday’s defeat brought the Rams to 2-3, the junior tailback still has high hopes for this season.
“We’re trying to get the championship,” Payton said. “We have to work harder in practice. We work hard in games and make smart plays. As a team, we need to work on some things, like our passing defense and we need to help each other and avoid mistakes.”
His personal goal is going on to college in two years while an all-conference nod this season or next would also be nice.
Payton added that playing football has benefitted him.
“Friendship-wise, it’s helped me come closer with different players,” Payton said. “As a team we treat ourselves as a family. Football keeps us focused during the season and motivated throughout the school year.”