Litchfield's Chelsea Hayward a State Track Champion. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Litchfield High School’s Chelsea Hayward wanted desperately to win the 300-meter dash at the recent CIAC Class S state indoor championships at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven. But she had concerns come finals time.
Because she was seeded fourth she was in lane five, which starts ahead of the other competitors. She was nervous about her lane position because it meant that there was only one person starting ahead of her that she could pace off of.
As she explained, “I wanted to take and hold my lead the whole way so I started out in a full sprint. I appeared a lot further ahead than I actually was until the last turn. On this last turn I felt another competitor coming up behind me and as I saw the finish, I gave it everything I had left. Fortunately I was able to hold everyone off to the finish.”
Indeed, the senior won the event in grand fashion, posting a time of 41:14 to beat runner-up Kelsey Fisher of East Catholic by 26/100ths of a second. Her time was over a second faster than her seeded time.
“I was really happy with the season I had this year, and no matter what happened that day my parents just told me to go for my best time and not worry about how I would place. I was hoping to win the 300-meters but knew it would be a close race.”
Hayward, who is a two-time defending Berkshire League champion in the 400-meter run, and a BL champ in the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays, helping to set a Berkshire league and school record in the 4x100 relay, also finished fourth in the 55-meter dash at the indoor meet.
Hayward began running when she was training for the Litchfield Hills Road Race in the sixth grade with friends and parents.
“We would run in town or I would run with my mom on my road. I started competitively running in middle school for the cross-country and outdoor track and field teams.” In middle school, she competed in the 200- and 400-meter runs and the long jump.
“I was not that great of a runner in middle school, but I loved it,” she said. “From my experiences in middle school, I learned that I had more of a passion for sprinting and I wanted to pursue more sprinting events in high school, such as the 100-meters.”
Hayward said that in all of her events she struggles with focusing at times and having a perfect start. “Also in 400-meters, holding a strong pace is painful and discouraging at times.”
Now in her senior year, she is determined to make the most of her final outdoor season.
“I started to make weight training a regular routine in my in- and off- season training. Along with building up my endurance leading up to a season and then focusing on quick speed workouts during the season.”
She talked about how she is a changed athlete since first arriving in high school.
“When I was a freshman, I would not push myself during practice or workout during the off-season like I do now. I enjoyed just having fun and trying different events. However, each year I wanted to improve and I knew the only way to do that was to work harder and to focus more than I did the previous year.”
Her simple goal is “To always keep improving my times.”
Hayward said the most influential people in her life has been her family.
“They motivate me to do my best in every aspect of my life. Each one of my family members goes above and beyond to support me. My older sister gives me countless advice on track, school, and life in general. I’ve always relied on her for help. My mom is probably my biggest fan and shows it by showing up to all my meets and screaming for me and my teammates at the top of her lungs. And, of course, my dad has his own unique ways of pushing me to succeed. We even made a bet that he would start going to the gym, if I won an event at states. (He’ll be getting a membership pretty soon). They all want the best for me and that’s what makes me want to be better.”
When Hayward isn’t competing or studying she likes to “sit by the woodstove, watch television and eat.” As for college, she is “stuck between three colleges really, but I will be able to run at all three of them. They are University of Central Missouri, Evangel University, and Mount Saint Mary College.”
With an indoor state title under her belt, Chelsea Hayward can’t wait to get outdoors and see what additional laurels she can place upon her head this spring before heading off to college.