NEW BRITAIN - Nine decorated student-athletes were honored at New Britain High School on Friday afternoon for committing to play at the collegiate level. The group that included athletes who helped write the history books at New Britain sat behind a table outside the gymnasium and announced their plans for their academic and athletic futures.
Danniel Rivera celebrated his commitment to Division-II Southern New Hampshire University after a record-setting career with the Hurricanes on the diamond. The shortstop and pitcher ended his notable high school career with a school-record 72 runs scored and finished second in program history with 102 hits, his final coming in the form of a go-ahead home run in the first round of the state tournament against Southington.
Rivera also ended his New Britain tenure with an All-State selection to go along with his three all-conference honors as a member of the Hurricanes.
“It’s unbelievable,” Rivera said. “It’s a dream come true coming out of high school and going on to play at the next level. You dream about the future and trying to play at the next level, and this is the next step in trying to make it to the pros.”
The New Britain softball team matched a school record with 13 regular season wins this season while clinching the program’s first conference championship, and seniors Amanda Jacobs and Makaila Masterson were a big part of that success. The pair of infielders are putting down the New Britain gold and red, but they will be picking up the same colors to play for the University of Saint Joseph in nearby West Hartford.
“I think it’s very exciting,” Jacobs said. “I always wanted to play in college, and now I get to live that dream for the next four years. Having someone I know there will be even better.”
Jacobs and Masterson were unaware of their crossing paths at USJ, but were relieved to know there would still be a familiar face in the infield next spring.
“We didn’t really know until we both put it on social media,” Masterson said. “It was comforting to know I’ll know someone going there. I was excited to know that.”
A pair of New Britain wrestlers will also be moving on to compete at the collegiate level, as Nickolas Richardson and Elijah Watson celebrated their commitments on Friday. Richardson, a four-time all-conference selection and a fourth-place finisher at this year’s Class LL state tournament, committed to University of Mount Olive, a Division-II school in North Carolina, where he will be part of the program’s first-ever team, though the new class will arrive at school with high expectations.
“It’s exciting to know we’ll be the first class,” Richardson said. “It’s going to be a good start to the program. We have a lot of good kids coming in, and our coach has high expectations for us. He wants us to finish third in our conference, so to have that goal means a lot.”
Watson earned a pair of all-conference honors during his varsity career, and will be moving on to wrestle at American International College.
“It feels like all the hard work has paid off,” Watson said. “I can just move on and keep loving my sport.”
The gridiron produced a trio of collegiate athletes this year, as Juliano Morales, Robert Zapor and Kaiyon Gunn all signed on to play at the next level. Gunn, an all-conference defensive back, will stay local and play for CCSU, while Morales, an all-conference offensive lineman, will head north to Division-III Husson College in Maine, where the Eagles have claimed three straight conference championships.
“Over the years I’ve always wanted to play college ball, and now I have the opportunity to at Husson,” Morales said. “They have a really good program. I’m hoping to start and keep their tradition going, and hopefully get a four-peat next year.”
Zapor, an all-conference linebacker who led the Hurricanes in sacks in 2018, will be heading to Western New England University.
“It’s something we all worked towards for our whole high school careers,” Zapor said. “It’s cool to do it with all of our friends that we grew up with. It’s awesome to take our passion to the next level and keep going for another four or five years.”
Chaz Williams will be heading south to compete in track and field with Division-II Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte after a dominating senior season that included Class LL state championship wins in the 110 and 300 meter hurdles, leading up to an all-conference selection.
“Once you love a sport, you’re just connected to it on a different level,” Williams said. “I’m just looking forward to running in college and showing off a talent that I’m glad I have. I’ll be running against people that are among the best in the country.”
All nine athletes will be going up against the best in the nation next year. Given their resumes at New Britain, they’ll likely be up for the challenge.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org