NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys and girls track teams will have their work cut out for them as they try to stay competitive in a much-improved Naugatuck Valley League.
The Greyhounds suffered some key losses in personnel through graduation and finished in the middle of the pack during the indoor track season over the winter.
Head coach Ralph Roper, entering his 12th season as head coach of Naugatuck, has been hard at work along with assistant coach Bill Hanley and they remain optimistic about the Greyhounds’ chances.
“On the boys side this is going to be a very competitive season with many strong teams vying for a championship,” Roper said. “The girls have a lot of potential and have come a long way since last season, but we still have a ways to go.”
The boys lost a lot of depth at just about every position through graduation. They do return some leadership, led by senior thrower James SanAngelo (shot put, discus) and senior James Dorosh (pole vault). A stable corps of distance runners in juniors Dan Schumacher and Brody Hale will have the ‘Hounds in it for the long haul.
Junior mid-distance and sprinters Brian Reilly and Enrique Dejesus bring experience to the sprinting corps and sophomore Kevin Okifo returns at the pole vault.
The Greyhounds have some newcomers that the coaching staff will rely on to add their athleticism. Seniors Adam Branco, Kevin Johnson, Osmund Tingstad and Tyler Hayward will add to the sprinters and mid-distance runners. Senior Ben Reinhard will help the throwers in the javelin event and also run mid-distance.
Junior newcomers CJ Wall and Kevin Robinson will take up the long jump, high jump and add depth to the sprinting corps. Freshman Graden Beasley, who made his mark during the cross country season, will add to the strength of the mid- and long-distance running crew.
“We have a strong sprint core group that will help the team create some options as we attempt to compete against some very tough teams,” Roper said. “We graduated some key state-caliber athletes, but have been fortunate to acquire some talented new athletes.”
The girls team didn’t lose as much depth but still graduated key athletes at significant positions. A majority of the throwing team needs to be rebuilt and the sprinting crew lost quite a few key members.
The Greyhounds return senior throwers Christina Batista (javelin, discus, shot put) and Katarina Gullotta (javelin, pole vault). Senior Madison Beasley really came on last year and looks to lead Naugatuck in the long-distance runs.
Junior Carla Soares is the Greyhounds’ weapon in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles with Harmony Sturdivant returning as the threat in the long jump and triple jump to go along with mid-distance runs. Sophomore Jasmine Grey is being looked on to continue her progress in the high jump and be a key in the sprints.
“The spirits are high and our new athletes are adapting well to the girls program, while acquiring the skills and techniques to be successful,” Roper said. “They are very excited about the season prospects as we attempt to put athletes in the best position for the team to be successful.”
Naugatuck will rely on some newcomers to fill in the roles they lost through graduation. Senior Alex Hernandez will compete in both the hurdles and the mid-distance runs. After that the Greyhounds will need to rely on some of the younger athletes to step forward.
Three sophomores will add their skills in three different areas. Abreanna McKoy (javelin, shot put) will bolster the throwing crew. Britanny Burkman will help the mid-distance runners and Venoude Valmyr will join the hurdles team. Two freshmen will be looked on to help out, with Michaela Rossamando doing the sprints and Lauren Stankiewicz joining the distance runners.
“The attitude of the team will shape how well we compete this season,” Roper said. “We must approach every meet as if it was a championship competition. That will enable the team to be poised for success at the NVL and state competitions.”
The Greyhounds will get the season started April 15 at Watertown when they take on the Indians, Derby and Torrington.