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A Memorable Night As THS Athletes Honored At LCS Awards Banquet. By Rich Elliott.

POSTED June 12, 2016
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By Rich Elliott

TORRINGTON – Too many times the negatives can cast an ugly shadow on the positive accomplishments of the student-athletes competing at the high school level.

Torrington High School has endured its share of negativity in recent years. Arrests. Expulsions. Media coverage that left a stain on an athletic department that has helped so many of the good ones prosper and evolve into solid citizens over the years.

Thursday night at Chatterly’s Banquet Facility was one of those feel-good events that will be remembered for some time. There was nothing negative whatsoever. Players representing each sport that Torrington High has to offer paraded through the doors wearing button-down shirts and ties and dresses. Members of their families joined them, oozing with pride and adoration for just how much their children have blossomed into fine, respectful individuals.

There were 40 athletes honored at the second annual Litchfield County Sports All-Torrington High School Team banquet. Each of them deserved their moment during a program that spanned more than two hours.

``These are the best and the brightest kids at Torrington High School,’’ Torrington High athletic director Mike McKenna said. ``These are the kids that we should be talking about all the time. Whether it be here with sports or whether it be the band kids or the kids that won the HALO Awards for theater, these are the kids that tell us that we’re doing things right at Torrington High School. And these kids deserve everything … They get their awards and they deserve every minute of praise that they get.’’  

Each coach was asked to submit the names of two players to be recognized at the event. What truly stood out was the fact that their nominees were not solely the most talented members of their respective teams.

Sure, there were plenty of studs who received certificates and posed for pictures with Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone and Connecticut state representative Michelle Cook. But there were also athletes who might not have regularly filled up a stat sheet and earned numerous headlines yet were outstanding leaders and role models for their teammates.

``I look at these opportunities as not only an opportunity to celebrate all of the great things that are happening in our schools (but) to celebrate the athletes,’’ Carbone said. ``These are the kids that I look at as ambassadors. When they step out on to a basketball court, a baseball field, a football field or the track they’re representing the city of Torrington. They’ve done such a phenomenal job at that. So celebrating their good achievements celebrates Torrington. So it’s important for us to get these positive messages out there. And not everybody reads the sports pages, to be honest with you. So to get them on the front page for all of the other good things that they’re doing also. So truly the pride of Torrington.’’

Ashlynn Cook (cross country, outdoor track), Caitlyn Cornish (volleyball, girls basketball), Dylan Myrie (indoor track, outdoor track) and Gabrielle Vega (cross country, indoor track) were recognized for their accomplishments in two sports.

Connor Finn was awarded a $250 scholarship from KDF Tree & Landscape, LLC. Casey Saade received a $250 scholarship from Jasinski Fuel Service, LLC.

``This is great to see how everyone as a community and how Torrington ... People always said in their speeches how close-knit a community is and how all these kids that have been receiving these awards are really just great kids,’’ Finn said. ``And they’re not only athletes, but they’re community members. They get involved with volunteering and they’re good students. So it’s really an honor to be recognized with such a good group of people.’’

It was not only a night to honor the present. Long-time former Torrington High boys basketball coach Tony Turina spoke about the rich history of Torrington High athletics during his 20-minute speech. And Ali Bronson, who is currently an accomplished producer at ESPN, urged the student-athletes in attendance to make good decisions when it comes to furthering their athletic careers and enjoying their social life.

Turina, who guided the boys basketball team to the 2006 Class L state championship, touched upon the accomplishments of athletes such as Connie Donahue, Peter Dranginis, Don Murelli, Raymond (Ducky) Pond, Joan Rosazza and the 1925 boys basketball team.

``The institution of Torrington High School is second to no one,’’ Turina said. ``And, believe me, I’ve been in almost every high school in the state of Connecticut. People care. You’ve got great coaches that care. But the one thing the younger generation has to do is you’ve got to move on and talk about your eras. Talk about your accomplishments. Don’t let it be forgotten.’’

Bronson, an All-American gymnast while at Torrington High School and an All-American diver while at Southern Connecticut, is a perfect example of how one can be an elite athlete as well as hold down a productive social life in the process. It is about choices, she said. And by making good ones, one can have it all in life.

``The friends that you have now that understand what you’re going through will be the friends that you’ll have for life,’’ Bronson said during her eight-minute speech. ``And the choices don’t have to be 100 percent one way or 100 percent the other way. You can find a way to have a little bit of both. And I’m sure all you have a little bit of both at the moment and you can continue to have a little bit of both. You can do both. You can have a great life. You can be social. You can have great friends and you can still accomplish everything you want as an athlete. No matter if you are Division I, Division III or even if your career ends after high school.’’

Rod Dixon won the bronze medal in the 1500 meters at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and won the New York Marathon in 1983. Most recently, he launched the KiDSMARATHON, in which students run a total of 26.2 miles over an eight- to 10-week period during the school year.

Torrington students completed their marathon by participating in the final mile at Torrington High School June 7.

Dixon raved about the community and its involvement in the marathon.

The Torrington High School community came together Thursday. There were laughs. There was a sense of togetherness. And, most of all, a group of athletes was recognized for its positive impact on and off the field of play.

``Any time we have a chance to boost a kid’s self-esteem we should take it,’’ McKenna said. ``That doesn’t mean we should make it. We shouldn’t be putting things on to give them false praise because that’s not fair to them either. But when we have an opportunity to pull a kid aside and say, `Hey, this kid did something special.’ We had Carissa Carbone. She’s honored and everybody knows what a great athlete she is, but she won the essay contest for the Unified Sports for the CASCIAC. That’s pretty special. And her essay blew us away when we heard that. And that really tells you about the kid and what she is all about. Yeah, we need to put those kids out there and say, `These kids are great. We’re proud of these kids.’’’

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