Rebuilding a champion

Greyhounds look to contend for indoor track titles

Naugatuck High School’s Heyi Cheng leads the way in the 4-by-800 at the Naugatuck Valley League indoor track championships in New Haven in January. The Naugatuck girls team came in third at the meet last season and are looking to win it all this year. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School’s Heyi Cheng leads the way in the 4-by-800 at the Naugatuck Valley League indoor track championships in New Haven in January. The Naugatuck girls team came in third at the meet last season and are looking to win it all this year. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck indoor track team comes into the season looking to pick up the pieces and rebuild a championship team. The boys team won the Naugatuck Valley League championship last season, while the girls team placed third in the league.

“The boys program is undergoing a major overhaul and rebuilding,” Naugatuck head coach Ralph Roper said. “We graduated some key players from last season that contributed significant points during the championship competition. The team has many new faces with little to no experience, so talent identification will be significantly important to the success of the program.”

Roper has six NVL championships under his belt in 11 seasons, so whatever needs to get fixed will surely be taken care of along with the coaching staff of Bill Hanley, Peter Conti, Steve Frank and Andrew San Angelo.

The ‘Hounds return two solid throwers in senior James San Angelo and junior Jack Reardon. In the distance runs, Naugy returns All-NVL junior Dan Schumacher and junior Brody Hale to man the 1,600- and 3,200-meter events.

The Garnet and Grey also has an able core of mid-distance runners to hold down the 300- and 600-meter chores led by juniors Brian Reilly, Marcus Ruff and Enrique DeJesus.

Roper is looking at three senior newcomers to add to the team’s depth in sprints and jumps. Nate Franklin will be the go-to guy in the high jump and long jump along with the 55- and 300-meter dashes. Francois Kazadi and Thales Silva will also show their speed in those two sprints.

“The NVL continues to evolve as a highly competitive league,” Roper said. “Our goal is to bring out the best in our athletes and put them on the path to success. We are looking forward to a great and successful season.”

The girls team could be the sleeper in the pack among the NVL favorites. The Greyhounds return a solid core of successful and talented athletes, although they graduated an All-NVL thrower in Brianna Ritter and a successful distance runner in Samantha Hilse.

“The girls are working hard and are focused on being a very competitive team this season,” Roper said. “I’m excited about the possibilities that this season brings. The team is young, eager capable and willing to do what is necessary to perform well. The competition will be as strong as ever in the NVL and we are going to have to be ready to compete at our best every meet.”

Leading the way will be a trio of seniors who have been through the rigors of a season before. Jordyn Allen will be a key contributor in the three long-distance events. Regina Roper and Jendaya Bell will give Naugatuck a double threat in the 300 meters.

Juniors Harmony Sturdivant (long jump, 600 meters) and Carla Soares (long jump, 600 meters, 55 hurdles) present another twosome that can rack up valuable points. Sophomores Heyi Cheng (mid-distance) and Courtney Morin (long-distance) show the depth that the Greyhounds  bring to the track on race day.

Roper will look to some newcomers to fill some of the voids left by graduation. Senior Paxrashea Gilchrist will take over the shot put and junior Suzana Amaral will add both jumping ability and speed in the 55 hurdles and the 300 meters.

Sophomore Jasmine Grey shows a lot of diversity in the high jump, long jump, 55 hurdles and 300 meters. Fellow sophomores Lexie Paul will add speed to the 300 meters and Emily Pohorilak will show her endurance in the 1,600 and 3,200. Freshman Leigha Molligi will contribute in the 55 sprints, 55 hurdles and 300 meters.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” Roper cautioned. “But by championship time I am certain the team will be prepared to compete successfully. I anticipate the girls having a banner year.”

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