NEW HAVEN — The neighboring rivalry between Woodland and Naugatuck just got a little tighter. On Tuesday night at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven, the Naugatuck Valley League indoor track championships were up for grabs and the Naugatuck boys wrestled away the crown from defending champ Woodland.
Reminiscent of last year’s confrontation, it was a back-and-forth battle between the Hawks and ‘Hounds. As much as Greyhounds head coach Ralph Roper didn’t want to see a repeat of last year’s down-to-the-wire drama when the Woodland boys and girls teams swept Naugatuck, it was a two-team battle from start to finish.
The Naugatuck boys claimed the NVL title with 98 points, better than Woodland’s 88 points. Watertown placed third with 72 points and the rest of the field didn’t come within 30 points of the top three teams.
“Every day won’t be your best day,” Roper said. “We had some kids who didn’t perform up to par but this is a team and we had guys step up and pick up the slack.”
The Naugatuck girls brought a young team to the fray and the Greyhounds turned in a solid, third-place finish with 86 points. Seymour finished second with 102 points and Woodland laid claim to its second-straight league title with a 113-point effort.
The boys team brought home three gold medals with Collin Reilly winning the 1,000 meters in 2 minutes, 42.33 seconds and Patrick Alves taking the 600 in 1:29.67.
What raised the bar was the way Woodland and Naugatuck went at one another in the relays. The Hawks edged the ‘Hounds in the 4-by-200 with the Naugatuck foursome of Jason Goja, Justin Jimenez, Brian Reilly and Nate Buie finishing just .61 seconds behind Woodland.
“Our best time so far this season in the 4-by-200 was a 1:40,” Roper said. “So to put up a 1:37.32 was huge for us and showed a real great effort.”
The ‘Hounds got their revenge in the 4-by-800 with Dan Schumacher, Mike Uva, Alves and Collin Reilly gliding to a first-place finish in 8:30.77.
“It was one of the first events and we wanted to kick it off the right way,” Reilly said of the 4-by-800. “We blew away our seed by 15 seconds.”
The sprint medley team of Goja, Marcus Ruff, Brian Reilly and Uva put up a time of 4:05.28, good enough for a second-place finish after Woodland’s top-seeded team false started and was disqualified. The point swing in that event likely made the difference in the meet.
Uva later clinched the championship with a third-place finish in the 3,200.
“It took a minute to set in but it’s pretty exciting now,” Uva said. “When you see the upperclassmen doing this stuff all the time, it’s pretty overwhelming.”
Naugatuck finished the meet with a second-place finish in the 4-by-400 with Mike D’Agnone, Jimenez, Isaque Monteiro and Brian Reilly taking the victory laps.
Monteiro and Corey Andrews were crucial in the field, taking second and third in the long jump to keep Woodland at bay.
“Our field came up big-time,” Roper said. “Up until a couple weeks ago, most of our guys had only jumped [in two meets] this season. For them to come out here and do what they did, that was huge.”
Buie was second in the 55, his 6.85-second finish just .2 seconds behind Holy Cross’ Juwan Hall.
“The Holy Cross kid got a great jump and that’s where these races are won or lost at the start,” Roper said. “At the end of the day the boys did a great job hanging together as a team and went out and did the hard work that needed to get done.”
The Naugatuck girls were supposed to be in a rebuilding mode but they looked way ahead of schedule, getting past Watertown to earn third place.
Ariana Alvarado won the 55 (7.80 seconds) and Brianna Ritter easily won the shot put (30-6) while plenty of others finished in the medals.
Naugy earned three second-place finishes. Jordyn Allen took second in the 1,600 in 5:43.37 and third in the 1,000 in 3:16.36.
Harmony Sturdivant placed second in the 600 in 1:47.80 and third in the long jump with a leap of 15 feet. Quiana Stanley took second in the shot put (28-8) and Liz Trumbley took third in the pole vault (6 feet).
“Harmony had a banner day,” Roper said. “We got strong performances from Ritter and Stanley as the one-two finish gave us 18 team points. Trumbley picked up valuable points in the pole vault and it was a total team effort.”
What pushed Naugatuck past Watertown for third place was the effectiveness of the relay squads. The 4-by-200 team of Alvarado, Jendaya Bell, Elena Gordon and Jill Orts placed third in 1:58.31 while the sprint medley team of Orts, Regina Roper, Bell and Courtney Morin was also third in 4:58.95.
“We had some real big performances,” Roper said. “The bottom line is you need to put in the hard work. In a tight race when you call on that little extra it won’t be there if you don’t put in the hard work.”