A trip down indoor track memory lane

March 17, 2023

The 30th annual indoor track & field banquet was held Monday at Padua Academy in Wilmington, where the top athletes from the season were honored. The banquet was hosted by the New Castle County Track & Field Association. Several downstate athletes were represented and made the two-hour trip with their families and coaches. In 1993, I was named state Coach of the Year, and I proposed to the packed room that we entertain the idea of having the banquet in Dover to make it an equal drive for both upstate and downstate parties. I think I only heard clapping from my friends Jim Solomon and Steve Pickering at the Dover table, and the proposal went nowhere; the banquet is still in the same county. I get it, though, the host is N5CTA. If it were hosted by the Slower Delaware Track & Field Association, then I would want it at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center or the Delmar Fire Department.

Taking a look at the program, I am always impressed with the pieces of information I love to consume in the world of Delaware high school track & field. Special shout-out to Mark Baker for bringing me back a program. I thought my downstate readers would enjoy reading about the downstate and Henlopen Conference highlights from history.

State Indoor Track & Field Committee members with downstate or Henlopen Conference connections are Charlie Pollard, George Pepper, Tim Bamforth, Kai Maull, Freddie Johnson and Jen Cawthern.

All-State Committee members with downstate or Henlopen connections are Bamforth, Solomon and Maura Schafer.

Mike Monagle, an outstanding runner from Salesianum and Villanova, was the master of ceremonies. Four state records were set this season: Danni McGonigle of Saint Mark’s went 38-feet-9-inches in the triple jump, Juliana Balon went 19-feet-2 ¼-inches in the long jump, the Salesianum boys’ 4-by-200 relay team ran 1:29.78 at the Virginia Beach Showcase and the Padua girls’ 4-by-400 relay team ran 3:57.66 at the same facility on the same day.

Two girls’ teams from the Henlopen Conference landed on the final top 10 teams list, as Smyrna was tied for third and Polytech was ninth. On the final boys’ top 10 list, six teams were from the Henlopen, led by Cape Henlopen in third, Sussex Central in fourth, Caesar Rodney in fifth, Sussex Tech in seventh, Smyrna in ninth and Dover in 10th.

The state champion in each event is named first-team all-state. Looking at the girls’ 15 events, only Smyrna’s Brooke Duke is on the list from the Henlopen, as she won the high jump. The other notable item I observed on the girls’ state champions list was that Padua won seven events and Tatnall won only two events, but it was Tatnall that won the team title over the Pandas 131-107. A side note on the girls’ state championship list of 15 teams – I noticed 14 of the 15 were either a private school, a Catholic school or both, which leads me to a question I have always had: Does Delaware need two state championships – one for public schools and another for private schools? Maybe that’s a discussion for another day.

Looking at the list of boys’ state champions, it was just about equal when looking at the Henlopen Conference and the upstate conferences, with Henlopen athletes grabbing an impressive eight of 15 championships. Salesianum only won two, but it was depth that carried the Sals to the title.

Sussex Central’s Tim Wright won the 55 meters, while Sussex Tech’s Yougendy Mauricette won both the 55-meter hurdles and the 400-meter dash. CR’s Ian Cain won the 800 meters and was part of the 3,200-meter relay win with Maddox Downs, Evan Easton and Griffin Spana. Makhi Scott won the long jump, while Cape Henlopen’s Ryan Baker won the 3,200 meters and Bailey Fletcher won the pole vault.

Looking at the team state champions on the girls’ side, only Dover from the Henlopen Conference has won a girls’ title since 1982; it has won four: 1992, 1993, 1995 and 2000. The last time a public school won the team title was 2010 (Delcastle), and only two public school teams in the last 20 years have won a team title.

Looking at the team state champions on the boys’ side, the Henlopen Conference has won 10 team titles, with Dover taking five (1995, 1998, 2002, 2015, 2019), Cape Henlopen three (1984, 1985, 1993), Seaford one in 1991 and CR one in 2013. In the last 10 years, three public teams have won the title for the boys.

Looking at the Delaware Coach of the Year on the girls’ side, only three coaches from the Henlopen have won the honor since 1985 – Steve Pickering of Dover in 1993, 1994 and 1995; Maura Schafer of Smyrna in 2017, 2019 and 2020; and Jim Solomon of Dover in 1992 and 2000.

Looking at the Delaware Coach of the Year on the boys’ side, eight coaches from the Henlopen have won the honor since 1985. Jim Solomon of Dover in 1998, 2002, 2003, 2015 and 2019; Steve Pickering of Dover in 1995; Dave Frederick of Cape in 1985, Tim Bamforth of Cape in 1993; Ellis Gaulden of Cape in 2022; Rob Perciful of Seaford in 1991; Charlie Bell of CR in 1994; and Charles Poplos of CR in 2013.

Tisha Milligan of Seaford won the Athlete of the Year in 1989 and is the only female Sussex County athlete to do so. On the boys’ side, Arnold Mann of Seaford won in 1987 and 1988, while Terry Hughes of Seaford won the honor in 1991. Cape’s Kai Maull won the honor in 1998. This year, the Athlete of the Year went to a well-deserving Yougendy Mauricette of Sussex Tech.

That is a look at Henlopen Conference athletes that have etched their way into the top performances of Delaware indoor track & field, as well as this season’s athlete highlights. Hope you enjoyed the history as much as I did.


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