The Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance is pleased to announce that Middletown senior Dario Highsmith and Capital Prep senior Kiah Gillespie have been selected as the Hal Levy High School Athletes of the Year.
Highsmith and Gillespie will be honored at the 74th Gold Key Dinner on Sunday, April 26 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.
Highsmith is the all-time leading rusher in Middletown High School football history with 6,612 yards and Gillespie has scored over 1,500 points and led the Capital Prep girls basketball team to two straight state titles.
This is the fourth year of the award, which is named in memory of the late Shore Line Newspapers sports editor, former CSWA president and longtime member.
Former professional hockey player Craig Janney, former Killingly High and Providence basketball standout Tracy Lis, former Derby High and Yale running back John Pagliaro and longtime FCIAC official John Kuczo will receive Gold Keys at the dinner.
Tickets to the 2015 Gold Key Dinner, which begins at 4 p.m., are $75 and can be purchased by contacting either CSWA President Matthew Conyers of The Hartford Courant at 860-874-4166 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Vice President Tim Jensen of The Enfield Source at email@example.com.
Tickets can also be obtained by mailing a check to Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance, P.O. Box 70, Unionville, CT, 06085.
Dario Highsmith is the all-time leading rusher in Middletown High School football history. In his four years of play at the varsity level – three years as a starter – Highsmith rushed for 6,612 yards. This past season, despite an injury that kept him idle throughout the summer and preseason, and limited his play in the team's first two games, Highsmith rushed for 2,056 yards as Middletown’s quarterback.
He has 70 career rushing touchdowns, including 23 in 2014. He also threw for 663 yards and seven touchdowns this past season, completing 53-of-97 passes. In his career, he passed for 1,773 yards and 19 touchdowns and was 93-for-170.
Highsmith’s combined rushing and passing yardage for his career is 8,385 yards.
Highsmith was named to the New Haven Register All-State team and was The Hartford Courant Offensive Player of the Year.
He was Connecticut's Gatorade Football Player of the Year as a junior when he rushed for 2,776 yards and led his team to an 11-2 record and the semifinal round of the Class L playoffs. This season, he ended his career rushing for 280 yards in Middletown’s 13-10 loss to Notre Dame-West Haven in the Class L semifinals.
"He is without question the best player I have ever coached," Middletown High football coach Sal Morello said. "Other coaches tell me it is very difficult to get a direct hit on him. He is so slippery, I guess that's the right word, and Rob Fleeting of Windsor said he is always going forward."
Highsmith was called upon to do the bulk of this team's offensive work this past season and typically accounted for 75 to 80 percent of his team's offense, both running and passing, in every game. "No player meant as much to his team as Dario did to us," Morello said.
Highsmith is also a star for Middletown High's Ultimate Frisbee team, an 11-year varsity sport. In just two seasons, he has scored 135 goals. He ranks third all-time in program history and third in single-season goals with 68 in 2013. His goals per game average of 2.48 is first all-time at Middletown. Highsmith led the team, which has won three state championships, to a sixth place finish at the Northeastern Regional and a No. 18 ranking among high school ultimate teams in the country last year.
His dad, Dario Sr., was an All-State running back on Middletown High's 1987 state championship team, and his uncles Doug, Donald and DeMonte – the star running back on Middletown’s 1992 state championship team – were all football stars at the school.
Capital Prep senior Kiah Gillespie has led her team to two straight state championships in girls basketball, a No. 1 ranking in the state and three straight state tournament appearances.
Gillespie has scored over 1,500 career points and grabbed over 700 rebounds the past four seasons. She is currently averaging 29.2 points, 15.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.7 blocks and 2.5 steals a game this season for Capital Prep (12-1).
Gillespie, a Meriden native who signed with Maryland last year, was the 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year for Connecticut.
On Wednesday, Gillespie, a 6-foot-2 guard/forward, was selected to play in the McDonald’s High School All-American game. She will play for the East team.
Last summer, Gillespie was one of 46 finalists for the U.S. under-17 national team in Colorado Springs. She is a three-time first team All-State selection and is rated as the nation’s No. 14 and No. 27 recruit in the class of 2015 by Prospects Nation and ESPN, respectively.
Gillespie has a 3.72 GPA in the classroom and was a manager for the Capital Prep football team that won the state championship in 2014. Gillespie has volunteered locally in a number of initiatives, which include feeding and clothing the homeless, participating in youth basketball clinics, raising funds for cancer research and reading to elementary school students as part of a literacy-outreach program.