Seniors set the pace

Naugatuck High School seniors, bottom row from left, Lauren Stankiewicz, Luis Garces, Joseph Dempsey, James Clark; back row from left, Matthew Wahl, Rami Ammar, David Kerns, Brandon Thomas, Grady Beasley, Caleb Brito, and (missing from photo) Steffanie Dube will lead the cross country team this season. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School seniors, bottom row from left, Lauren Stankiewicz, Luis Garces, Joseph Dempsey, James Clark; back row from left, Matthew Wahl, Rami Ammar, David Kerns, Brandon Thomas, Grady Beasley, Caleb Brito, and (missing from photo) Steffanie Dube will lead the cross country team this season. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck cross country program has stolen the spotlight in the NVL over the last few seasons.

The Greyhounds’ success continued into last season. The boys won their third straight league crown and placed fifth in the Class L meet, while the girls finished sixth and sixteenth at NVLs and states, respectively.

Naugy’s recent success has been due to depth, where all five runners running for both teams put in solid times. However, this year looks to be different for each of head coach Bill Hanley’s squads.

The boys still have Grady Beasley, a senior who already has three All-NVL medals. But there will be a huge hole to fill with the loss of Mark Zamani, a two-time All-NVL recipient.

“If we can find a solid group to support Grady we may be able to run with league favorites,” Hanley said.

Beasley won’t be alone as many of the boys’ key returning players are seniors, including Brandon Thomas (All-Iron 2015), Dave Kearns, Luis Garces, Joe Dempsey, Matt Wahl, Romi Ammir, James Clark and Caleb Brito.

Juniors Elliot Via and Ross Via, sophomores Dave Garces, Austin Herb, Ben Healy, Brendan Kerns, Yeshe, Rakagme, and freshmen Connor Behuniak, Aaron Lampham, Charles Marenghi, and Reginald McGregor IV add depth to the squad.

Hanley is looking forward to seeing who will step up this season and follow Beasley’s lead.

“Grady is encouraging his teammates daily to commit to doing what it takes for the team to be successful,” Hanley said.

With a large group of seniors teaming up with a decent number of underclassmen, Hanley feels the team’s strength is that they seem to mesh very well with each other.

“This year’s team is a tight-knit group that seems to enjoy each other’s company and doesn’t shy away from hard work,” Hanley said.

As for the girls, they are also looking fill a void left by the graduation of three key players: Courtney Morin, Jill Orts and Liz Trumbly.

With a roster eight deep, including seniors Lauren Stankiewicz and Steffanie Dube, Hanley will look to utilize all of his runners.

“This year’s team is a talented group,” Hanley said. “They’re all very coachable. Their summer miles have put them in position to improve on last year’s performances.”

Improvement is something that Hanley has stressed with the girls since last season and is how he will continue to measure the team’s success.  If the team follows that mentality, the girls will continue to post better times and prove their worthiness in the NVL.

“Last year the girls’ team time was two hours and 19 minutes at the start of the season,” Hanley said. “By NVLs, they brought it down to 1:57. We want to continue that trend throughout this season.”

The Greyhounds open the season Sept. 13 at home versus Woodland, Kennedy and Seymour.