Southington track star Trinity Cardillo has a knack for finishing her seasons on a high note, even if one of those seasons had a drastically different look due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Cardillo, who will go down as one of the most accomplished track athletes in Blue Knights history, closed her indoor track season earlier this year by winning the shot put at the New England Championships, which came after a second-place finish at the State Open. The outdoor track season was canceled due to Covid-19, but when a pair of events were put together this summer to give high school seniors one last try to leave top marks, Cardillo made the most of it by logging a throw of 165 feet in the hammer throw, the top mark in state history.
It was another memorable ending for Cardillo, who wondered if she would ever have the chance to compete again as a high school athlete after spring sports were shut down.
“It was sort of a heartbreaking situation because we lost the spring season,” Cardillo said. “But it was great to go out with a bang in indoor with winning New Englands, and it was great because I guess with the two meets we had this summer, I went out with a bang as well.”
Those two meets were put together by Cardillo’s throwing coach, Damian Larkins. As coronavirus restrictions slowly lessened in Connecticut and the state began its reopening phases, Larkins sought out a way for high school athletes to have one last chance to compete before the new school year, and the Throwhawks Mini Meet was born. The first Throwhawks event took place in New Haven on June 21, where Cardillo finished with a throw of 149 feet, 5 inches. The second and final installment of the Throwhawks Mini Meet was on July 18, where Cardillo made Connecticut history with her 165-foot throw to continue her rapid ascent in the hammer throw event.
“I started off with shot put, and my sophomore season my coach told me to try hammer,” Cardillo said. “Hammer is so much about technique, and last year I think had one throw around 150 feet, and the rest were in the low 140s and high 130s. For me to even think the state record was possible, I was always hoping for it during practices because they were going so well during quarantine, but to throw it, it felt so easy. I thought maybe it would be a 150 or something. Then I saw it was 165, and I was like 'no way, that's crazy.' I was definitely shocked, but I also felt like it was about time.”
After setting the state record, Cardillo had to wait and see if the number would count in the eyes of the CIAC, which had shut down high school competition since early March. The verdict wasn’t the one Cardillo had hoped for, but the ruling that it wouldn’t count toward the CIAC record books didn’t change her knowledge of what she had accomplished.
“I was just hoping it would count,” Cardillo said. “People were being really optimistic, and I was being optimistic that with everything going on with COVID, they might push back allowing state records until August, but because it wasn't a CIAC sanctioned event, and because I didn't get my implement weighed in beforehand instead of after, it didn’t count. It was a long time waiting. It was about a week, and they sent me an email apologizing that it didn't count. But honestly, I wasn't upset as I thought I would be, because I know I did it and it's going to get broken eventually. We have so many good kids coming up. I'm just glad I did it.”
Cardillo’s record-setting performance came in just her second hammer throw event since last year, when she competed in the event at the CIAC heptathlon, which she won, and the New Balance National Championships last June. Cardillo’s personal best at that time was 150 feet, but thanks to a rigorous training schedule during quarantine, Cardillo finished her high school career by besting that mark by a full 15 feet.
“We've been pretty much training since quarantine started, give or take about a month in the beginning, but we've been training three or four five times a week since restrictions came down,” Cardillo said. Some of us were training for nothing in a sense, unless we were going off to compete in college, and we wanted to put together something to give us a chance to break a state or school record and get some actual marks that we were able to be put online. I just put a lot of hard work and time into it, and it really sucked that we didn't have our spring season, but I was happy I got to compete in some way.”
Cardillo will be one of those athletes going off to compete in college, as she will be throwing for Northeastern. Hammer throw will be one of her events when she begins her career as a college athlete, and breaking a state record, regardless if it was official or not, has Cardillo entering the next chapter of her track career with a major boost in confidence.
“I always planned on [competing in hammer throw] because with throwing they want you to do as many events as possible...but I fell in love with hammer and I'm totally OK with doing it,” Cardillo said. “I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can push myself with it in college since it went really well with training. I'm glad I had all of this time to train. With everything going on, training was my output, and it really worked out.”
Cardillo’s 165-foot throw may not appear in the CIAC record books, but in her own eyes and the eyes of Southington, nobody in Connecticut has thrown farther than Cardillo, and that realization is enough to make up for the loss of a spring season, which was supposed to be Cardillo’s farewell tour with the Blue Knights.
“Other team sports like lacrosse, I feel horrible because they got nothing out of it,” Cardillo said. “I at least had a winter season, but to have these two meets in the summer gave a little satisfaction, and of course the state record totally alleviated that feeling. It would be nice if it was legit during the season, but I'll take anything right now.”