Manchester - Entering the Class LL championship track meet, the Norwich Free Academy girls felt good about their title chances.
And the Wildcats looked sharp, too, sporting tie-dye red and white T-shirts.
Coach Kara Kochanski-Vendola surprised her team on Tuesday with the T-shirts. All 27 state qualifiers were listed on the back.
The Wildcats rode their superior depth Wednesday at Manchester High School to their third Class LL title in five years, also winning back-to-back titles in 2008-09.
Wearing the T-shirts helped bring them together as a team, according to Kochanski-Vendola.
"We walked off the bus with a little bit of extra confidence," Kochanski-Vendola said, "that we're here and we know we're good and we just have to represent, and they did. ? They came in so focused. They were ready to go."
NFA gradually pulled away from the competitive field, scoring 110.5 points. Glastonbury (85.66) and Amity (71.50) rounded out the top three.
Leading by about four points through 13 events, the Wildcats extended their lead by scoring 14 points in the pole vault. Senior Allie Sullivan took second at 11 feet, 6 inches, while senior Nicole Lorinsky placed fifth and junior Katherine Gabriele was sixth.
Junior Dyshelle Pemberton had a record-setting day, establishing school marks in the 200- and 400-meter events. She finished second in the 200 in 25.49.
In the 400, Pemberton made a strong move down the backstretch to shake Cheshire's Alexandra Pelletier. She also fought off a cramp while winning her first state individual title in 57.24 seconds.
"It feels great," Pemberton said. "I wanted to go out hard but controlled and then go all-out the last 200 meters. ... I'm really glad about my time."
Junior Erin Schaeffer was the only other individual winner for the Wildcats, placing first in the high jump at 5-2. She felt the pressure of being the top seed.
"I was really nervous," Schaeffer said. "I had, like, butterflies in my stomach coming into it. Once it got started, it stopped."
Junior Brianna Lenehan also made a valuable contribution, placing second in the 1,600 (5:07.92) and 800 (2:15.97). She also joined Pemberton, MiaLynne Park and Camille McKenzie on the 4x400 team that placed second in 3:57.85.
NFA's 4x100 quartet of Brittany Grabill, Lauren Knerr, Brianna McClafferty and Park finished first in 49.79.
Overall, the Wildcats scored in 13 different events, including the javelin where Kaylyn Levine (fourth), Yana Babbitt (sixth) and Shania Homiski (eighth) also chipped in points.
Other top three finishers included: Grabill, third, long jump (16-11.75); and Park, third, 200 (26.06).
"It went the way I thought it would go," Kochanski-Vendola said. "It's very nice to accomplish. The girls really wanted it. They worked hard. We came in twice over Memorial Day weekend. ... All the girls are just great."
Kochanski-Vendola says it is too early to start talking about next week's State Open. But the Wildcats should be contenders.
In the boys' competition, NFA's 4x800 relay team turned in the program's most impressive performance of the day. The foursome of Dan Cardin, Derek French, Kyle Liang and Andrew Weiler placed third in 7:59.04.
"We came in thinking we could do well in the 4x800 and we did do that against a very competitive field," NFA coach Jemal Davis said.
Cardin also placed eighth, his seeded position, in the 1,600, finishing in 4:30.56.
Senior Zach Wesolek was third in the pole vault (12-6) and junior Christopher Byars took fourth in the shot put (45-11).
The Wildcats finished 12th overall with 21.83 points. Staples won the meet with 97.33 points.