E.O. Smith High School senior swimmer and basketball player McKenna Dale and Newtown High School senior wrestler Anthony Falbo have been selected as the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance Hal Levy High School Athletes of the Year.
They will be honored at the 76th Gold Key Dinner on April 30 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.
Dale helped lead E.O. Smith to the Class LL girls basketball semifinals last winter and broke state records in the 50 and 100 freestyle on her way to State Open swimming titles this past fall. Falbo won his second straight national championship and a New England championship last year in the 182-pound weight class.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney of the Atlanta Falcons, five-time Olympic archer Butch Johnson, Farmington boys soccer coach Steve Waters and former Cheshire swim coach Ed Aston will receive Gold Keys at the dinner.
Tickets to the Gold Key Dinner, which begins at 4 p.m., are $75 and can be purchased by contacting dinner chairman Tim Jensen of Patch Media Corp.
at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-394-5091; or CSWA President Matthew Conyers of The Hartford Courant at 860-874-4166, or email@example.com. Tickets can also be obtained by mailing a check to the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance, P.O. Box 70, Unionville, CT, 06085. Proceeds benefit the Alliance's Bohdan Kolinsky Memorial Sports Journalism Scholarship.
Many high school athletes excel in more than one sport, but few can match the 2016 accomplishments of McKenna Dale in swimming and basketball.
The lanky 6-footer began the year by leading E.O. Smith to its first Central Connecticut Conference girls basketball tournament title, averaging 24.3 points per game, including 30 points in an 81-68 win over South Windsor in the final.
In the Class LL tournament, Dale averaged 21.3 points to help the Panthers reach the semifinals, where they lost to Greenwich, 69-60. Dale had 26 points in the loss. E.O. Smith finished 25-3 in 2015-16 and Dale averaged 20 points and nine rebounds.
In September, it was back into the pool for Dale, who had won the 2015 Class L championships as a junior in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle. Her 50 freestyle time of 23.44 had broken the former class record of 23.51, set four years earlier by Elizabeth McDonald of Pomperaug.
On Nov. 15 at Southern Connecticut State University, Dale won both titles again at the Class L meet, posting a 23.17 time in the 50 freestyle that eclipsed not only her own class record, but also the state mark of 23.20, which was set by Lauren Moore of Wilton in 1997.
Four days later at Yale University for the State Open, Dale broke her own state record in the 50 freestyle (23.03) and added a championship in the 100 freestyle with a personal-best 50.96.
After the swimming season ended, Dale, a dual citizen of New Zealand and the United States, played for the New Zealand national team at the FIBA Oceania U-18 Championships in Fiji. She averaged 10.4 points in five tournament games and helped her team to a runner-up finish behind Australia.
This basketball season, Dale has picked up where she left off for E.O. Smith, averaging 23.3 points in her first 17 games. She had a season-high 39 points against Manchester on Jan. 13. She is a three-time All-CCC selection and was first-team All-State in 2016.
Dale, a high honors student, will play basketball at Brown University next season.
In his first three seasons on the Newtown wrestling team, Anthony Falbo became one of the most successful high school wrestlers in Connecticut history.
Falbo won three straight South-West Conference championships, three straight Class LL titles, three straight State Open crowns and entered his senior year having never lost to a Connecticut opponent. Falbo started his final year with a career record of 150-2.
As a junior, Falbo won the New England title and his second straight NHSCA national title, completing his season with a record of 50-0.
Falbo has been at the forefront of the wrestling resurgence at Newtown High, leading the Nighthawks to their first State Open team title in 2015.
A product of the Newtown Youth Wrestling Association, Falbo will wrestle for Purdue next year.
Photo credits: (Dale) courtesy of Darren Dale; (Falbo) H. John Voorhees, courtesy of the Danbury News-Times