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Sports Person of the Week
There’s No Hurdle High Enough for Figueroa
Radames Figueroa has enjoyed a quality career with the East Haven boys’ track program, qualifying for states in the 110 hurdles during each of his outdoor seasons. This season, Radames is leading the Yellowjackets as a senior captain. (Photo courtesy of Radames Figueroa)
Radames Figueroa didn’t make the baseball team at Joseph Melillo Middle School as a 6th-grader, but that setback wound up sending him on an exciting new path in the world of athletics. Radames soon took an interest in track and field and has been running ever since, leading him to a senior captain’s role with the East Haven boys’ outdoor track team this spring.
“Before I was introduced to track, I played baseball. I tried out for the middle school team, but I didn’t make the cut,” says Radames. “I was introduced to track in 6th grade, and I’m here today still running it.”
Radames wasn’t exactly sure what track and field consisted of when he was in middle school. However, Radames knew that running was a big part of the it, and so he felt confident that he could succeed. As he ran more and more, Radames began to see more success on the track and started to enjoy the thrill of competing. After meeting Rusty Dunne, the head coach of the girls’ outdoor track team, Radames started learning proper technique and knew that track was the right sport for him.
Radames joined the Yellowjackets’ track program in his freshman year and promptly became a consistent point scorer. Radames qualified for the Class MM State Championship in the 110 hurdles as a freshman and, once he reached that milestone, Radames realized that he could have quite a career on the track.
“Freshman year, when I first qualified for states in the hurdles, I knew that this was serious now,” Radames says. “I knew I got this for sure.”
While Radames was able to reach states as a freshman, the road to get there was anything but easy. Radames remembers how he felt following his first race with the indoor team in his freshman season. From that moment on, Radames vowed to get better and be the one finishing in first when his senior season arrived.
“I remember my first meet as a freshman for indoor track. They had me against seniors in the 55-meter hurdles. They destroyed me,” says Radames. “I knew by the time I was a senior, I would be in their spot. It was a lot of pressure.”
By making states as a freshman, Radames established a trend that continued throughout high school as he qualified for the Class MM meet in the 110 hurdles each year that he competed for the outdoor team. As a senior, he ran a time of 16.38 seconds to qualify for states in the event. Radames says that his goal of making states every year drove him to perform his best on the track.
“It’s pretty nerve-wracking. Seeing other competitors, I look at their times and I know I have to push myself. Even if I feel injured or not in the best shape, I know I have to push myself to reach those times,” Radames says. “It’s why I train hard with the coaches and at practice. I do everything I have to do to perform well at states.”
Radames also qualified for states in the long jump with a distance of 19 inches-6.5 inches this spring. Radames credits former Hillhouse coach Bob Davis for helping him improve his jumps.
Radames earned All-SCC honors for the 2021 indoor track season, but wasn’t sure if he wanted to compete during the outdoor season. However, after talking with Coach Dunne, Radames realized that he wanted to be out there one last time.
“During indoor, I didn’t really know if I actually wanted to do track with corona and all this stuff. I was losing interest at one point,” says Radames. “But I spoke with Coach Dunne, and he told me that not many people are given this opportunity. He told me God made me to run hurdles. I stuck with his word and kept going.”
Radames has been competing in the 110 hurdles, the 300 hurdles, and the long jump this spring, in addition to running in relays. Radames has been doing the hurdles since he started track in middle school. When he steps to the line for his first hurdle event of each season, Radames knows that he is going to be running the event at states by the end of the campaign.
“In middle school I did it, but I didn’t do the right form. In high school, I knew it was the best event for me. I was built for it,” Radames says of the hurdles. “I know at the beginning that I’m qualifying for states. I started winning against kids from other schools. I knew I got this and that I could be one of the higher seeds at states.”
Radames was named a senior captain for the boys’ outdoor track team this season. Radames says that it was a privilege to be named a captain and that he tried to recruit as many people as he could to the team and help them stay motivated.
Boys’ outdoor track Head Coach Jim Vicario felt that it was an easy choice to select Radames as a captain, because of how much the senior has grown as an athlete, along with the way that he sets an example for the underclassmen at practice.
“Radames has done a very good job. His hurdle technique has improved. We explain to the kids that the goal is to try and qualify for your class meet. It has been a great accomplishment for Radames for consecutively qualifying,” says Vicario. “When he goes out to practice, he sets a very good example. In the workouts, the kids look to him and he sets the tone. He has done a very nice job.”
While he doesn’t have a school picked out, Radames’s goal is to continue running after he graduates from high school. Radames wants to keep improving in the sport and compete at the highest level possible.
Radames says that he got everything he could have hoped for out of track and he doesn’t know where he would be without it. Whenever he’s competing for the Easties, Radames is always trying his best and striving to improve with every stride.
“I stay in shape constantly and always go out trying my best. Track is one of those sports where it’s a team sport, but you have to go off by yourself,” Radames says. “You matter. You can’t blame others. You just have to try your best and get it done.”