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The Day's All-Area Girls' Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: Ledyard's Kate Littler

Apr. 24—Kate Littler's freshman year at Ledyard High School, when considering a spring sport, she bought a lacrosse stick and goggles. That's how close she came to not competing in outdoor track and field.

But a successful indoor track season as a freshman convinced her otherwise. Littler won the 600 meters and helped paced the 4x800 relay team to titles at the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II and Class M state championship meets.

Suddenly, that turned into a career in outdoor track, too, a trip to Northeast Kingdom Running Camp in Vermont over the summer and a switch from soccer (up until then her favorite) to cross country in the fall. Littler even went running with her younger sister Maggie on a recent family trip to the Florida Keys, trading some of her coveted beach time.

"I do love it," Littler, now a junior, said recently. "I love the whole sport. I love to keep up with all the other people who run in the state, pro running, Olympics. I love everything about the sport. I'm drawn into it now."

Littler was named The Day's 2024 All-Area Girls' Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year.

She went undefeated in Eastern Connecticut Conference developmental meets in the 600-, 1,000- and 1,600-meter events during the regular season, recording the top 1,600 time in the conference at the URI Invitational, a personal-best 5 minutes, 20.66 seconds.

Littler then won the 1,000 (3:19.48), the 1,600 (5:46.76) and ran a leg on the first-place 4x400 relay team at the ECC Division II meet. She was later named the ECC's Girls' Indoor Track Athlete of the Year in a vote of the league's coaches.

Since her freshman year of indoor track, Littler has won nine more ECC titles in indoor and outdoor track, even though she looks back at that first season and can't quite fathom how easy things seemed.

"Indoor season freshman year I went to states, State Opens, then New Englands. I didn't realize how big of a deal that was at the time," Littler said. "Now I know so much. At the time, I barely knew anything, that this is something I could be really good at.

"I didn't realize how special that was for me. I had no idea what I was doing; I just listened to (coach Dave Tetlow)."

This year, Littler's Ledyard cross country team won the ECC championship for the first time since 1989. That was a prelude to a dominant winter, although Littler was unable to recapture that state championship moment in the 600, edged by Waterford's Elle Dibuono at the Class M meet by less than a second (1:40.90-1:41.82).

"For some reason indoor, I always come back to the 600," Littler said. "It's a hard event. It's fast the whole time. Freshman year I ran the 600 at states and I have ever since.

"I was super happy with my times (this season). I ran a huge PR in the 1,600; that was like a 25-second indoor PR. I didn't know I could go that fast in that event. I had a lot of good times this season. ... There's a lot of competition in the ECC right now. I love the girls I race against from my team and other teams."

Littler said she first joined a running club in elementary school but her initial loves were soccer, which she played through her freshman year at Ledyard, and ballet. Littler's mom enrolled Kate and Maggie in dance class when they were younger and Kate stopped only when it came time to play high school soccer.

During a conditioning challenge for soccer, Littler ran — "I knew I could run," she said. "I played midfield for soccer. I ran like three miles 3-5 days a week. That's how I got my points for the challenge."

Now she's a runner for all seasons, although currently conducting a balancing act with track and schoolwork, which includes a course load filled with four AP classes: Physics II, language and compositions, statistics and psychology. Littler said she's more of a math or science person, perhaps interested in majoring in computer or data science.

She thanks the Ledyard coaching staff, including Tetlow, Liam McCarthy and Scott Williams. Williams, she said, coaches the throwers but finds that whenever she runs by him at the throwing area, he'll shout encouragement to her or tell her where she stands.

Her goals this spring include a state championship in the 2,000-meter steeplechase, in which she was second last year.

"I would love to be able to win the 800 at states this year. I would love to win steeplechase," Littler said.

"... I feel like I'm getting better controlling the pressure (to win). I want to perform for myself, for my coaches, my teammates, my family. My parents (Gwen and Pete) always come and watch. I know it's not the end of the world if it's not my best race. Sophomore year I psyched myself out a lot, feeling the pressure to perform.

"Now, I'm like, 'You do this as a sport. You train for this. You're ready for this.'"

v.fulkerson@theday.com

The Day's 2024 All-Area Girls' Track and Field Team

Player of the Year — Kate Littler (Ledyard)

55-meter dash, long jump — Darielys Arnold (New London)

300, 55 hurdles — Zoe Eastman-Grossel (Old Lyme)

600 — Elle Dibuono (Waterford)

1,000 — Avery Maiese (Waterford)

3,200 — Aranza Torres (East Lyme)

4x200 relay — Fitch (Alaina Campbell, Hannah Thomas, Grace Cosmopoulos, Hannah Warner)

4x400 relay — NFA (Karina Chan, Sofia Ayer, Leah Burchman, Riley Davis)

4x800 relay — NFA (Karina Chan, Sofia Ayer, Paige Brayman, Leah Burchman)

Sprint medley relay — NFA (Caroline Holmberg, Naema Charles, Hayleigh Young, Leah Burchman)

High jump — Isabel Northrop (Montville)

Pole vault — Lily Gilbert (NFA), Kamryn Plikus (Montville)

Shot put — Alyssa Blanchette (Bacon Academy)

Utility — Hannah Graham (NFA), Serena Mazzi (Old Lyme)