BEACON FALLS — More than a hundred Hawks congregated around the pole vault landing pad at the Woodland track early Tuesday evening, waiting to hear whether or not they had beaten Holy Cross and defended their Naugatuck Valley League outdoor track titles.
Tim Shea, the boys head coach, strolled over to the group and broke the news in an unconventional way.
“Get your shoes on,” Shea told the squad. “When you win a league championship, you do a victory lap.”
As the Woodland boys and girls ran their last 400 meters of the day, the reality began to sink in: the Hawks are on top of the NVL track world again. Both squads beat Holy Cross, St. Paul and Derby to move to 14-0 overall and 12-0 in the league.
“This is actually the fastest some of these kids have run this year,” Shea joked.
Shea watched his boys rally from a seven-point deficit with three events remaining to surpass Holy Cross, 79-71, to win their third straight NVL outdoor track title.
“We knew the meet was going to be close,” Shea said. “We knew Cross was very good and we were going to be in for a battle. Some things went our way and some didn’t, but at the end of the day we got to 76 points first.”
Mike Lang, the All-State jumper, came up with the clinching victory in the triple jump. Lang leaped a season-best 43 feet, 11 1/8 inches in the final event of the day. He also won the long jump (21-4.5) and 110-meter hurdles (15.3 seconds) but settled for third in the high jump.
“I had to make up for high jump,” Lang said. “I got out at 5-8 when I skimmed the bar with the back of my heel, so I took a third-place finish in an event I was expected to win. I lost those points, so I had to rebound from that.”
Holy Cross seized its largest lead after placing two runners ahead of the Hawks in the 3,200. But Woodland won the final three events, starting with a dominant performance by the 4×400 relay squad.
James Giacomazzi, Thomas Bethin, Dean Conway and Jack Pinho stretched the Hawks’ lead on each leg to finish 4 seconds ahead of the Crusaders. Pinho’s anchor leg was his last effort in a day that produced victories in the 4×800 relay, the 800 and the 1,600.
Levi Fancher, who earlier won the javelin, gave back the lead to Woodland by winning the shot put before Lang ended the meet by winning the triple jump.
“They help us out in a lot of spots,” Shea said of the senior trio of Pinho, Fancher and Lang. “Hopefully they’ve got a few more meets left in them.”
Jimmy Jensen and Jeff Giusto helped the Hawks to a win in the 4×800 relay, and Shane Classey narrowly missed out on a win in the pole vault when he lost in a rare jump-off.
There was less drama involved in the Woodland girls’ victory. The Hawks pulled away from all three opponents, including a 94-56 win over Holy Cross, to win their second NVL outdoor title in a row.
“You’ve got all sorts of factors every week, and in this league you’ve gotta go undefeated,” Woodland girls coach Jeff Lownds said. “That’s hard to do week after week. We had great leadership from our captains, Ashley Michie, Audra Blewitt and Erika Tyrrell. Everybody did what they needed to do.”
Jazmyn Menzies played a role in four of Woodland’s event victories, including the 4×100 relay, the 4×400 relay, the high jump and the long jump. The Hawks swept all three relays.
“We won the three relays, and that’s 15 points that nobody else gets,” Lownds said. “It’s been our staple this year.”
Ashley Michie won the 100 and Abbey Rosato took the discus. Bianca Poehailos, Ava Capuano, Val Vinca, Clara Drozdowski, Haleigh Resnick, Marisa Macek, Lisa Thrasher, Menzies and Michie all contributed to the relay wins.
For the Hawks, the championship is their fifth straight NVL running title. They’ve won the last two outdoor crowns, the last two indoor titles and the last cross country championship.
“That’s five straight titles for these girls, and that’s a great thing,” Lownds said. “They work hard for it and they deserve it.”