KHS Track - Bernie Livingston with Piper Lopashanski and Aida Wheat 3

Coach Bernie Livingston (center) is proud of how freshman Piper Lopashanski (left) and sophomore Aida Wheat competed at the prestigious New England Track and Field Championships in New Britain, Conn. last Saturday. (SHANNON PALENTCHAR PHOTO)

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — Sophomore Aida Wheat and freshman Piper Lopashanski are among the top high school track and field athletes in New England. Appearing on the biggest stage of the season, the New England Track and Field Championships in New Britain, Conn. on Saturday, the Kennett High track team members more than held their own and certainly proved they belonged.

Wheat finished 15th in the 100-meter dash and eighth in the 200 meters, while Lopashanski was 13th in the 400 meters.

“To have two athletes finish in the top 15 in New England is just incredible,” said Bernie Livingston, Eagles’ head coach. “They’re great competitors and showed great sportsmanship — I’m really proud of them.”

“He added: “The competition was fierce. It was just spectacular. This meet brought together the top 6 athletes from each state in each event. We were among the top 36 runners, jumpers and throwers in New England and Piper and Aida were outstanding.”

Wheat was seeded 21st in the 100 meters. She finished 15th overall in 12.75 seconds. The event was won by Danbury, Conn. senior Alanna Smith (daughter of the baseball hall of fame pitcher Lee Smith, who has committed to LSU) in 11.96 seconds.

Wheat, who holds the school record at Kennett at 12.5 seconds, was the fourth-fastest runner from New Hampshire in the 100, trailing only Nashua South sophomore Soraya Ross, fourth in 12.34; Merrimack sophomore Alexis Best, 11th in 12.59; and Nashua South junior Lyana Braswell, 13th in 12.73.

In the 200 meters, Wheat was seeded 16th and finished eighth overall in 25.74. Danbury’s Smith won the event in 24.09.

Wheat, who also holds the KHS record in the 200 at 25.37 seconds, was the second-fastest Granite Stater, trailing only Nashua South’s Ross, who was seventh in 25.59.

“Aida was really impressive,” said Livingston. “You’ve got to be able to do it on the day and Aida came pretty-darn close to her season-best in the 200.”

In the 400 meters, Lopashanski was seeded 20th entering the meet but finished 13th overall in 1:00.01, which was a new personal-best time. Senior Sydney Segalla of Housatonic High School in Canaan, Conn. (who will attend Boston College on a soccer scholarship) won the race in an eye-popping 53.27.

Lopashanski was the second-fastest freshman in the event, trailing only West Warwick, Rhode Island’s Xenia Raye, who was 11th in 59.14.

She was also the second Granite Stater to finish, coming in just beyond Central sophomore Harriet Barber, who was ninth in 58.48.

“Piper ran great,” Livingston said. “She was 1/100th of a second off breaking a minute, which is phenomenal for a freshman.”

He added: “New Britain had a nine-lane track and Piper drew lane one. Usually, that’s a taught draw, but with nine lanes, which was the largest track we’re been on this season, the inside lane is a little bit wider than normal. I thought that position was perfect for her. She likes to stalk people, and just ran a great race. She lived up to every expectation.”

Livingston credits Wheat and Lopashanski for bringing out the best in each other.

“This past week, Aida and Piper got to train together,” he said. “We ran 150s and 40s, and I think they ran so much better because they pushed each other.”

It was a long day for the Eagles who were on the road at 4:30 a.m. with bus driver Larry Day and returned to KHS at 8:30 p.m.

“It was such a good experience,” said Livingston. “I came away very prideful in what Piper and Aida did. I think they were both a little disappointed that they didn’t run a little bit faster but that will serve as great motivation next year. All in all, it was a great way to end the season.”

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