Depth key for Woodland

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls track team heads into the NVL championship meet with a rather large target on its back having won the title four years running. The boys are out to prove that they can remain in the thick of things having finished in the top three the last two seasons after a three-peat as champs from 2012-2014.

The girls capped an undefeated regular season on Tuesday with wins over Sacred Heart, Kennedy, O’Brien Tech, and Platt Tech to improve to 17-0. The boys swept the meet as well to finish the regular season at 15-2.

The Hawks will need depth to bring home the track titles when the league gets together May 23 at Seymour High for the championships.

The Woodland girls came from behind last year to win with Derby finishing as runner-up and Seymour taking third. It should be a similar three-team go-around for this year’s title, and the Hawks may be hard pressed to repeat what they did last year — winning the title without taking a first place in any event.

“Our season has progressed pretty much the way we thought it would,” Woodland head coach Jeff Lownds said. “We have some guys who can go out and win events and that’s worth ten points. But what it comes down to is do we have enough athletes to cover all the events and do we have the depth to pick up those fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place finishes to add to the point total.”

What the Hawks do have is a diverse unit. They score in every event and that will keep them near the top heading down the stretch.

The Hawks are led by triple threat junior Erika Michie, who was second in the 400 and third in the 200 at last year’s NVL championship. This season, Michie has been a consistent winner in the 100, 200 and 400.

Woodland is solid in the throws with seniors Alexa Hassan and Stephanie McLean along with juniors Christian Hart and Kristen Persico. The biggest surprise is the emergence of freshman Jasmine Michie, who has shown the capability of earning a medal for the Hawks.

Senior Jordan Williams is a go-to hurdler and junior Alexandra Cianciolo is effective in the jumps. Seniors Gianna Polletta (relays/mid-distance), Sam Plasky (sprints/pole vault), Erin Machado (relays) and Gillian Hotchkiss (mid-distance) and juniors Emilie Noreika (pole vault), Megen Sirowich (mid-distance) and Julia Swiatek give the Hawks experienced depth.

The Hawks are young in talent with sophomores Julie Accetura and Karly Laliberte in relays, and Kristina and Stephanie Poynton in sprints and jumps. They also have a few freshmen who have stepped up and taken on major roles, including distance runner Emma Slavin and sprinter Jade Brennan.

“You always have to keep your fingers crossed,” Lownds said. “Anything can happen in a meet that large with so many schools involved. You pretty much have to have a near perfect day to come out on top.

“Overall depth is what will win this meet. The league is getting too large now to have a meet like this and maybe we should look at running divisional meets and let the kids focusing on getting ready for the states.”

The Seymour and Derby boys teams finished first and second, respectively, at last year’s NVL and are the only squads to beat the Hawks during the regular season.

The Woodland boys, under first year head coach Bill Ferrare, are serious contenders. The Hawks have defending NVL champion pole vaulter senior Craig Starkey and the defending NVL champion 4×8 and 4×4 relay squads, led by seniors Matt Luxeder, Cedric Benoit and Quincy Koch, junior Sean Mardin and sophomore Edit Krivca, at their disposal.

The relays are the strength of the boys team with senior Isiah Miller, juniors Ben Nuss and Jack LaPerriere and sophomore Ryan Swanson adding to the quality depth that will score points for the Hawks.

Tom Smith, a junior, is a bona fide sprinter that can take home a title for the Hawks, and with the quality depth of seniors Mark Crowley (jumps) along with (mid-distance) Matt Giaqunito and Colin Kennelly, Woodland can cause quite a stir when the final points are tallied up.