Naugy on track to hunt title

Naugatuck seniors, front row from left, Kevin Okifo, Michael Campos, Melissa Goja, Elizabeth Trumbley; back row from left, William Chockey, Mark Zamani, Mike Zamani, Ariana Alvarado, Lexie Paul, Brittany Burkman and Courtney Morin will lead the indoor track team. –KEN MORSE

Naugatuck seniors, front row from left, Kevin Okifo, Michael Campos, Melissa Goja, Elizabeth Trumbley; back row from left, William Chockey, Mark Zamani, Mike Zamani, Ariana Alvarado, Lexie Paul, Brittany Burkman and Courtney Morin will lead the indoor track team. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck High School indoor track team is preparing to make a run at an NVL title.

The boys are the defending NVL champions, while the girls finished third last year.

“We did lose some strong athletes to graduation,” said Naugatuck head coach Ralph Roper, who has won seven NVL titles in 14 years at the helm. “But we have also gained some quality athletes, as well. I think as a team our overall production will be able to maintain that championship status heading into this year.”

The boys graduated their top long distance tandem in Dan Schumacher and Brody Hale, and will need to make up for the losses of Brian Reilly and Mike Popescu, as well.

Seniors Mark Zamani (distance), Kevin Okifo (pole vault), Mike Campos (sprints) and Mike Zamani (relays) bring experience and leadership to the ‘Hounds along with seniors William Chockey and Logan Bond (throws).

Mark Zamani finished second in the 600 and third in the 3,200 at last year’s NVL championship. Okifo was second in the pole vault, Campos was part of the second-place 1,600 sprint medley relay and Mike Zamani ran in the 4-by-4 and 4-by-8 relays that finished third and fourth, respectively.

“Our distance runners have always done a great job under (assistant) coach (Bill) Hanley’s tutelage,” Roper said. “This year they are going to get a lot of help from our sprinters.”

The boys team will have the speed to set the pace with the additions of Aren Seeger, Camari Brown, Xavier Lewis, Dan Oladapo and Andrew Carroll. Speed may have been the one element lacking last season, but Roper addressed that need with these quality speedsters.

The Greyhounds also got stronger in the jumps with the addition of Matt Wahl, Bailey Mortensen and Jevonte Swierbowicz. David Kerns, Ross Via and Elliott Via will add to the running core as Naugy will look to defend its title.

The girls squad placed third last year for the second time in the last three seasons. The Greyhounds are looking to move up the ladder, but face strong competition from Woodland and Seymour for the top rung.

Naugy only lost three seniors from last season but one of them, Harmony Sturdivant, was an all-around valuable point scorer for the Greyhounds. The girls return a lot of experience led by seniors Ariana Alvarado (sprints), Jasmine Grey (jumps), Lexie Paul (throws) and Melissa Goja (relays).

“Even though we have lost some athletes to graduation these kids adapt well and always seem to rise to the occasion,” Roper said.

Alvarado finished first in the 55 meters at the NVL championships last season. Grey was third in the high jump with Jill Orts, Alvarado and Kyla Magalhaes part of the winning 4-by-200 relay squad.

Courtney Morin, Lauren Stankiewicz, Brianna Lennon and Goja ran to second place in the 4-by-8 relay. Grey and Orts were part of the second place 4-by-4 team.

“We will have our work cut out for us,” Roper said. “Woodland is always a top team in the league and Seymour has a strong team, as well. I think we have a little more experience and depth this year to compete. We always get a few athletes to step up at championship time so we are looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.”

The Greyhounds opened with a developmental meet last Saturday and have another this Saturday before competing in the Hillhouse Winter Relays Dec. 26 in New Haven.