ORRINGTON >> Torrington High School track and field coach Mike Tyler is back on top of one of the school’s most vibrant athletic programs.
One hundred thirty-eight kids, about evenly spaced between boys and girls, are outside working hard.
Tyler coached on the girls side for 10 years (1998-2008), then took four years off to coach his son in the fall and spring and ski with his family in the winter.
“(Ashton) is 10 now, so we can move on,” Tyler smiles.
Rick Dubois, the boys coach during part of Tyler’s previous tour and Jada Mattiello, then Tyler’s assistant, took over as co-coaches. Now they have similar family needs as Tyler’s. Dubois stepped out entirely; Mattiello is back as distance coach for the combined team, along with Erin Sullivan (sprints and jumps) and Mike Schieb (throws).
Tyler’s girls teams were rampantly successful in his previous coaching term (132-6 in dual meets; top-five team finishes in six of his 10 years at state tournaments).
“We always used a ‘whole-team approach,’” he says. “You’re really only as good as your weakest athlete. So we took the young ones and made them better. As they get older, they take ownership of training the young ones.
“We built a culture of respect,” Tyler said. “We didn’t tolerate dissension.
“Those kids did whatever it took to win while competing cleanly. They were well-behaved and courteous. We had a family atmosphere in our training, with open lines of communication.”
Four years later, following a great run by Dubois and Mattiello, Tyler got his feet back in the winter indoor season. “We started with 60 kids, when I expected 45,” he said. “That grew to 83 in the first week.”
Both teams were last in the NVL the previous year. This winter, they moved up to fifth.
“We created a team that wanted to win,” says Tyler.
“Jada (Mattiello) and I have similar attitudes about that. We want them to succeed, so we push them hard.”
Four years after Tyler saw his team’s last outdoor success, “some things have changed, but the kids still want to do well,” he said. “The hard work ethic is alive and well.”
Tyler expects that work ethic to bring the Raiders to the top third of the league for both boys and girls, with the potential to be higher.
Coach: Mike Tyler, 1st year back since his tour from 1998-2008. 132 wins, 6 losses; top 5 at states 6 times; 13 state champions; 2 state record holders; 5 athletes to Nationals in North Carolina, plus multiple invitational championships.
Key losses: Aly Otis, heptathlon 9th; Brenden Lytton, 100 meters Class MM 15th, long jump MM champion, State Open 2nd.
Key returners: Distance — John Pirla, jr, Class MM 8th, 1,600 meters; Matt Titus, jr; Erin Paretti, sr; Sarah Todd, jr. Sprints/Hurdles — Mika Howard, jr; Toni Wilson, sr, Class MM 100 meters 11th; 200 meters 14th; Lindsay Trobel, soph; Adonys Langual, jr; Andrew Thai, sr. Jumps/Pole Vault — Enrique Bello, sr, pole vault Class MM 12th; Emily Manchester, soph; Paulina Koloda, jr; Andrew Sananikone, jr; Devon Donovan, jr. Throwers: Alex Rintharamy, jr; Kendra Covington, soph.
Outlook: We are looking forward to a great season of growth as a team and increased performance. Our goals reflect our desire for success and we want to perform better in the NVL and take more athletes to the state meets this postseason. I think we will perform well this season. We have a strong group of returning athletes supported by a solid group of new competitors. Woodland, Naugatuck, Watertown, Seymour, Wolcott, Crosby, all look good.