Top New Britain Sports Stories for 2015
Another year has come and gone and with the year now 2015, we can look back at the top five sports stories that our city experienced in 2014.
5. New Britain Rock Cats agree to terms with the city of Hartford
While everything on this list is positive, you can’t talk about 2014 without mentioning the New Britain Rock Cats and their intent to move the team to Hartford for the start of the 2016 season. Owner Josh Solomon worked behind the scenes to make a deal with Hartford city officials and never gave New Britain a true chance to work things out with them. While there has been many ups and downs, things are still not guaranteed for the Rock Cats to move out in time for 2016 and it’s possible the deal may still fall apart. What ends up happening remains to be seen but it will be something to keep an eye on throughout all of 2015.
4. Veterans Stadium gets a facelift and cements itself in the center of Connecticut sports
A brand new turf surface, a new track, a new press box and other renovations throughout the park firmly cemented Veterans Memorial Stadium as one of the top facilities in the state of Connecticut. In fact, it is well on its way to becoming the sports capital of Connecticut. The facility has already hosted the Nutmeg Games, four state CIAC football championship games, two CIAC soccer championship games, a marching band competition with schools from all over New England and of course, the New Britain High School football games throughout the fall season. Already, the CIAC has committed to bringing back the soccer and football state championships back later this year.
3. PAL Cheerleaders win the National Championship
It was a great season for the New Britain Police Athletic League. Not only did their football team play in the Pop Warner Super Bowl, but their cheerleading team also took part in the National Championship competition. After winning the district, state and regional tournament, they went down to Florida and placed first in the nation, bringing home the coveted trophy that they had been working towards for so long. While they had competed in several National Championship competitions in the past, they had never placed first but in 2014, things were different. With many of the girls expected to return in 2015, the league is looking for another successful cheerleading season.
2. New Britain High School sports makes an impact in the state of Connecticut
It was a great year for the majority of sports at New Britain High School. To kick things off, the baseball team made the state tournament for the first time since 2011. After upsetting Fairfield-Ludlowe in the first round, they fell short in the second round to Manchester. Under the direction of Roberto Mercado, they were led by seniors Kevin Dukes, Hugh Crundwell and Maclom McLeod. All three players were named All-Conference and participated in the Senior All – Star game.
On the softball side, under the direction of Joel Simmone, the team made the state tournament for the first time since 2009. Although they lost in the first round, the team drastically improved in less than a year. They were led by junior Destini Kennedy, who was named team MVP, First Team All-State and was a unanimous selection for All-Conference. This season, with the vast majority of players returning, Simmone expects an even better squad.
The basketball team was one of the best that we have seen in recent memory at NBHS and they finished their 2014 season with a 17-3 record. They were crowned CCC West Champions and participated in the CCC and State tournaments. While they fell short in both, they accomplished many great things on and off the court. They were led standout seniors Curtis Hyman, Annuel Saint Juste, Craven Johnson and Michael Robinson. This season, they have gotten off to a rough start but have been competitive in nearly every game. As the season progress, head coach Todd Stigliano is confident that the team will improve and the wins will start coming.
1. High School and Youth football sparks and energizes the city
It was a great year for the football teams across the board here in New Britain. The New Britain Junior Hurricanes seventh grade team advanced to the National Championship games in Florida while the New Britain Pal Raiders played in the Pop Warner Super Bowl, which was televised on ESPN. While both teams fell short of the ultimate goal of winning the championship, they accomplished many great things and the players learned many valuable lessons.
Besides the youth teams, New Britain High School football got itself back on track under the direction of Tebucky Jones and made the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They were the third seed in the Class LL-Large tournament but fell to Norwich Free Academy in the first round. Despite their early exit in the playoffs, the team sparked a city that had longed for football success. This season, with a lot of the players returning, Jones is expecting to improve and make another run at a state championship.