2 Track Stars Ink College Scholarships
by Allan Appel | Apr 4, 2012 4:38 pm
Lillian Bridges took care of Brianna Sims before she could walk or even crawl. Now the Hillhouse senior is running away with a Division One college scholarship.
Bridges (at left in photo), Sims’ childhood babysitter, was part of an admiring crowd of 75 friends, family, and coaches as the Hillhouse High School track star signed a letter of intent to run track for Delaware State at a formal signing ceremony at the Floyd Little Athletic Center at Hillhouse Wednesday afternoon.
Sims (at right in photo) was joined by another gifted speedster, Paris Taft, a senior at Hill Regional Career High School, who signed a scholarship contract to run track at UConn.
Their success took more than devoted babysitters and supportive families. Both young athletes are the product of the New Haven Age Group Track Club. Led by coaches Major Ruth and William Thompson, Taft’s grandfather, the club has been incubating local running talent for 35 years.
Taft held back tears as she and Sims both credited the club with fostering their talent, as well as values. “I had no idea I had this talent. They see stuff in you and make you believe in yourself,” she said.
Other schools courted her; Taft chose UConn because of its relationship with ESPN. She wants to intern there next summer and then pursue a career in broadcasting.
That’s another lesson from the club, said Taft: “Education always comes first.”
Taft joined the club, which trains kids until high school, in 2008. She said she’s looking forward to running track and pursuing a communications degree at UConn.
Sims has been running since she was 9. First she was a sprinter. Then coaches like Ruth, Thompson, and Sasha Benjamin saw other potential. She converted to hurdles, long jump, and then multiple-event competitions like the pentathlon and heptathlon.
Both young women agreed with their coaches that, as Taft put it, “Track is more mental—80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. They get us in shape, but we have to believe.”
Each runner is different. Coach Benjamin said Brianna is at her best when she doesn’t think about what she has to do. Taft does better after a full explanation.
School system Supervisor of Physical Education and Athletics Joe Canzanella praised the girls for being academic exemplars as well as athletes. “That’s why we call them student-athletes, not athlete-students.”
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posted by: OccupyTheClassroom on April 4, 2012 4:45pm
I love seeing my students win!
Wow! Great job, everyone. I love all the beautiful smiles and seeing all your hard work pay off. Congratulations!
Are these young ladies winning track meets or beauty contests? Right on!
These are the stories that should always be printed congratulations to you and good luck in your college years
New Haven Age Group Track Club and its dedicated coaches are among New Haven’s gems. Congratulations to Paris and Brianna from the friends, family, and fans who’ve had the pleasure of watching you run all these years!
Beauty, talent, and smarts! Now that’s a winning combination. Good luck girls in whatever you choose. You make New Haven proud!