Hawks working into championship shape

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BEACON FALLS — Just as the Woodland indoor track team is settling into the season, the Hawks find themselves less than two weeks away from the Naugatuck Valley League championship meet.

The conference will crown its boys and girls champions Jan. 28 in New Haven. The Woodland girls are the two-time defending champions at the event, while the boys were relegated to a runner-up performance last winter.

With the meet on the horizon, Woodland girls coach Jeff Lownds says this whole month has been about preparing for the championship competition.

“We’re getting ready for NVLs at this point, so all the meets we’ve done are serving us to get to that point,” Lownds said. “Right now our main focus is preparing for NVLs and getting as many people as possible qualified for states.”

The girls squad has already placed a number of athletes in the Class S pool. In addition to three relay squads, six others have locked up their spots in state competition. They include Ashley Michie (55 and 300 meters), Audra Blewitt (55 hurdles and long jump), Clara Drozdowski (1,000 meters), Lauren Lombardo (high jump), Jazmyn Menzies (high jump) and Megan Lynch (pole vault).

They also figure to be key parts to a potential NVL three-peat. Woodland will be among the favorites, even though the Hawks will be without a number of athletes who helped win the previous two titles.

“We lost some very talented girls: Tayler Boncal, Syd Corneau, Nikki Tyrrell, Steph Dumond and Jiye Park,” Lownds said. “Those were big point-getters, so we’re relying on some younger kids to try to get us back to that level. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. Nobody’s going to hand it to us. Every point counts.”

The Woodland boys squad took a little longer to shape up as football season ran a week later than usual. Coach Tim Shea and plenty of his gridders have been hard at work in hopes of getting back to the top of the NVL indoor track scene. The Hawks placed second to Naugatuck last winter after a disqualification in the sprint medley relay event.

Woodland should be among the group of teams atop the competition despite an abundance of youth.

“We haven’t been this young in a long time, but that’s OK,” Shea said. “It was going to happen, and we’re not taking it easier on them because of their age. We have a lot of young, new faces, but they’re up to the task.”

The Hawks’ 4-by-200 relay team has already qualified for the Class S competition. Drew Chura (pole vault) and Levi Fancher (shot put) have also clinched their spots, along with All-New England jumper Mike Lang. He has qualified in three events: the 55 hurdles, the long jump and the high jump.

“Michael came out of football and was a little beat up, but he jumped right back into things,” Shea said. “He’s very motivated and he’s already back into the numbers he had last March. Body-wise and strength-wise, he’s there. He’s a very versatile athlete and we can pretty much put him anywhere.”

Shea expects more athletes to qualify soon. He pointed to Jason Rodrigues, Sean McAllen, Josh Collet, James Yacavone, Thomas Bethin, Caleb Williams, Jeff Giusto, Zack Noreika and Dean Conway as key contributors who will get their chances at a key meet Friday and at NVLs.

“We’ll find out a lot more Friday night at the developmental meet at Wesleyan,” Shea said. “It will be the first time all winter than most of the league is in the same building, so I’m approaching it as the fact that these kids need to run and make every race count. They’re running out of opportunities to prove it.”

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