Hawks ready to challenge NVL

Woodland’s Emma Slavin sprints to the finish line Oct. 11 during a meet with Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and Derby in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Woodland’s Emma Slavin sprints to the finish line Oct. 11 during a meet with Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and Derby in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland boys and girls cross country teams will be among the challengers for the crown at the NVL championship meet. The only question that remains is can the Hawks go the distance.

“Sometimes it comes down to a runner who comes out of nowhere,” Woodland head coach Jeff Lownds said. “That’s what took place in last year’s meet when Derby surprised the field and won the girls’ title. It’s all about putting your best seven runners out there and hoping they have a good day.”

The Hawks’ final tune-up before the championship came Oct. 11 at Woodland.

The boys swept Holy Cross, 19-40, Sacred Heart, 15-45, and Derby, 22-37, to finish the regular season 12-2. Vin Costanzo (17:56), Matt Luxeder (18:02) and Kyle Crowell (18:09) finished second, third and fourth, respectively to lead the Hawks. Greg Aldrich and Matt Giaquinto rounded out the top ten finishes for Woodland taking seventh and tenth, respectively.

The girls ran past Sacred Heart, 23-37, and Holy Cross, 21-37, but fell to Derby, 19-36, to finish the regular season at 12-2. Emma Slavin (21:37) took fourth and Emilie Noreika (22:23) finished eighth to lead the Hawks.

The intensity will ratchet up when the NVL comes together Oct. 19 at Veteran’s Park in Watertown for the championship meet.

“The pace is much quicker and there is a lot of excitement going on so anything can happen,” Lownds said. “But I like our chances. We certainly have the runners to challenge if we do what we are supposed to do as far as times go.”

The Woodland boys will come into the championship with experience on their side. Luxeder, who holds the school boys record, finished 13th at NVLs last season. Crowell was one of the surprises last season, earning All-NVL honors for his 12th-place finish.

Giaqunito, Wes Stein, Costanzo and Aldrich represent the experience from last year’s team that finished second at the NVL meet.

Woodland’s Matt Luxeder, right, and Vinnie Costanzo keep up the pace Oct. 11 during a meet with Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and Derby in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Woodland’s Matt Luxeder, right, and Vinnie Costanzo keep up the pace Oct. 11 during a meet with Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and Derby in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Lownds planned to narrow down the number seven runner after Tuesday’s meet.

Any one of the three final runners would be an asset to the Hawks. Seniors Paul Jones (16th last year), Colin Kennelly (46th last year) and junior Tom Bucciferro are all capable of putting Woodland over the top.

The girls will be led by seniors Meredith Dyckman (36th last year), Noreika (43rd last year) and Sydney Patterson. Junior Jessica Fox has been a stable influence this season, as well.

The girls also have four freshman that have made a significant impact this season. Slavin, who holds the Woodland girls course record at 21:34, leads the core of freshmen.

Fellow freshmen Jill Brotherton, Diondra Owusu and Calisa Costanzo will round out the field as the Hawks, who won championships from 2012-2014, look to get back on top after finishing third last season.

“Emma can be as good as she wants to be,” Lownds said. “She is an aggressive runner and doesn’t run like a freshman. Jill doesn’t back down either. Like I said, sometimes it comes down to someone coming out of nowhere so anything is possible.”