John Salcius, coach of girls’ indoor track at South Windsor High School, has 38 girls on the team, the most he’s ever had. While the team has strength in numbers, only about 12 of them have past running experience. So while he is focusing on improving individual performances, the depth of the team as a whole could be improved on. Carrying the team are two athletes in particular, who bring a lot of talent.
One of those athletes is Michelle “Mimi” Otaluka, a sophomore. “She’s a good long jumper and a good sprinter,” said Salcius. She runs in 300-meters and relays, and she won the CCC long jump last year with a jump of 16 feet, 9 inches. “She is one of the better sprinters, she’s top 10 for sure in the LL,” Salcius said. For the long jump, he believes she is in the top five in the state.
She is qualified to go to states for the 55-meters, the 300-meters and the long jump. Like many on the team, she competes in outdoor track as well, and the winter season helps her stay in top form. “A lot of us do it to stay in shape,” said Otaluka. “It’s a good group.”
Another major contributor to the team is senior Madison “Maddie” O’Brien, the team’s pole-vaulter. “Last year she tied the school record in the pole vault at 8 feet, and she was hurt towards the end of the season,” said Salcius. “This year, she’s jumped 9 feet, 6 inches, so she broke the record by a foot and a half.”
“I was a gymnast for eight years, and I was introduced to track by a friend,” said O’Brien. When she realized how much she enjoyed the sport, she decided to stick with it. She practices twice a week at Norwich, because SWHS does not have the equipment to practice pole-vaulting indoors. Her personal record is 10 feet outdoors, and she is trying to match that indoors to beat her 9-feet, 6-inches record.
“The goal as a team is for each individual runner to improve as the season goes along,” said Salcius. He recognizes strong up and coming talent from underclassmen, starting with freshman distance runner Kate Kruzick. She runs the 1,600, and can run a half-mile in 2:43.
“We have another senior who is a good 800-meter [runner] – might drop to 400-meter,” said Salcius. That senior is captain Marlene Grajewski. He also recognizes three girls in particular who are excellent distance runners: sophomore Jen Futner, freshman Beth Stearns and junior Jess Graff.