BEACON FALLS — The defending champs are back — and they might be better than ever.
Woodland’s boys and girls indoor track teams both won Naugatuck Valley League championships last winter thanks in large part to victories in the final relays at the championship meet.
Most of those athletes are back for more this winter, giving the Hawks plenty of confidence that they can repeat.
“That was a good group of seniors we had last year,” boys coach Tim Shea said. “But I don’t think people are aware of what we have coming back.”
The boys are loaded with sprinters, led by Anthony Scirpo (third place in 55-meter dash), Nick LaPerriere (second in 300) and Brett Fowler (fifth in 55 hurdles). Also returning is Mike Lang, the league’s top returning jumper, and Levi Fancher, the top returning thrower.
The Hawks’ relay teams have always been their strength and figure to be once again for the boys. Scirpo, LaPerriere, Lang, Fowler, and Nick Hebert are expected to lead the squads, which won last year’s 4-by-200 and 4-by-400 relay championships.
Last year’s 4-by-200 team of Lang, LaPerriere, Scirpo, and Tim Madormo qualified for national competition. Only Madormo graduated, so Shea will have to figure out who will fill the gap.
“We’ll have to plug in one more person because Madormo graduated,” Shea said. “I’ll know who when I see what we have.”
Tayler Boncal, Jiye Park, and Steph Dumond are three of the top returning girls sprinters in the league. The senior trio combined for five top-five performances in the sprints at last year’s league meet.
Also coming back is mid-distance runner Audra Blewitt, a junior who was fifth in the 600 last winter, long-distance runners Steph Kiley and Miranda Moffat and several other relay specialists, including Jazmyn Menzies and Amber Tolboe.
“On the girls side, we have a lot back,” Shea said. “We only lost like three seniors. They should be pretty good.”
Shea, who finished the football season on Sunday, said he’s not quite totally in tune with how the team looks at the moment since this week’s practices were his first. But, he said, he saw the team putting in work during his last few weeks of football practices.
“I don’t know much about practice because obviously I’ve been busy,” Shea said. “But they’ve been running around the track while we’ve been practicing and it looks like they’ve been working hard.”
With another set of championships, it would be tough to argue that the Hawks have established themselves as the NVL’s new track dynasty under Shea, girls coach Jeff Lownds and their staff.
“It comes with talent, hard work and a good share of numbers,” Shea said. “We’ve had depth over the last few years. Seymour had a great run a few years ago because they were so deep. Naugatuck and Watertown had runs, and now it’s us. We’re bringing some light to the sport. We’re carving out our niche here.”
The indoor track season is one of the shortest of any sport with the league championship meet set for the end of January. Shea usually expects to be involved until March, though, with regional and national contenders. He and the team enjoy the unique atmosphere.
“We like indoor track,” Shea said. “It’s a small track and it’s loud. It’s exciting and hopefully we hit our expectations.”