Ragazzini leads Hewlett to county title

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A prolific performance in field events propelled Hewlett winter track and field to its sixth straight conference title and its second County B title in three years. The effort was led by senior Kayley Ragazzini, a county champion in both the weight throw and shot put and whose accolades this season are a force unto itself.

In addition to her county titles at the Feb. 5 meet, Ragazzini thrived at the state qualifiers a week later on Feb. 11 to earn her third trip to the state championships this month in both events. She set the Nassau County record in weight throw this year with a toss of 52 feet and 7 and a half inches, and she’s ranked in the top five nationally in weight throw, giving her a realistic chance to earn All-State for the first time at the state championships on March 7. She’ll also compete in the national championships one week later in Manhattan.

“She’s very driven,” said coach Stephen Honerkamp, noting that Ragazzini will be competing at West Point in the fall. “When she wants something, she’s not afraid of the challenge and she goes after it. A lot of other throwers start doing really well just because they’re around her.”

Indeed, the “Ragazzini Effect” was evident in the county championships, when Hewlett swept the top three spots in the weight throw. Senior Kayla Azinge placed second and sophomore Khadijah Lawson came in third. The 24 points accumulated by the three athletes on the first of the two-day championships gave Hewlett a head start in points that they would never relinquish. They ultimately scored 127 points, topping second place Manhasset by more than 50.

A technique-driven team, Hewlett scored more points in field events in the county meet than any of their competitors scored in total. As dominant as they were, Honerkamp noted their drive towards first was aided greatly by contributions from the track side as well.

A second- and third-place finish by senior Emma Blumenstein and sophomore Jamira Llanos, respectively, in the 55-meter hurdles added 14 points for Hewlett. Sophomore Samantha Almonte and junior Breanna Mondezie earned second and fourth place, respectively, in the 1500-meter race walk, scoring 12 points.

Senior Jade Wilkes placed first in the triple jump and third in the long jump, freshman Clariss Duhaney earned second in the high jump, and sophomore Shira Gamson took second in the triple jump. In addition to her hurdles performance, Llanos also took third in the shot put, an impressive coupling that is not too common, noted Honerkamp. Freshman Charolette Moscovici and Blumenstein took the top two spots in the pole vault.

Honerkamp heaped praised on the performance on his seniors, but also expressed great pride in his younger athletes, particularly Duhaney’s high jump performance. “You don’t find too many ninth graders being All-County,” he said. “And I’ve never had a freshman qualify in the high jump.”