Diversity keeps Naugy in the running

Naugatuck’s Erin Schofield competes in the shot put on Tuesday during a meet against Seymour and Waterbury Career at Naugatuck High School. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys and girls track teams brought home four most outstanding awards from last year’s NVL championship, but the one thing they didn’t bring back was an NVL title.

As impressive as the Naugy athletes were taking away the most outstanding awards for sprinter, jumper, distance runner and meet performer, it was a three-team race for the girls and boys championships with Woodland, Seymour and Derby. The Naugatuck boys finished fourth last year and the girls finished fifth.

The Greyhounds capped the regular season on Tuesday against Seymour and Waterbury Career.

The boys beat Waterbury Career, 97.5-55.5, and tied Seymour with 75 points to finish the regular season 11-2-1. The girls beat Seymour, 92-58, and Waterbury Career, 93-56, to improve to 7-7.

Naugatuck will now prepare for the NVL championships May 23 at Seymour High School.

Diversity and depth will be the key to winning this year’s title, and the usual suspects — Woodland, Seymour and Derby — will all have their eyes on the crown.

Naugatuck is usually solid in mid and long distance keeping up with the team’s moniker of the Greyhounds. Every few years Naugy will develop a jumper that is second to none, as with last year’s New England and All-State champion Fejiro Onakpoma.

This season, Naugatuck has a two throwers that are a consistent triple threat in the javelin, shot put and discus. Seniors Tyler Blair and Erin Schofield give Naugy the kind of edge they haven’t seen in quite a few years.

“Having both of them certainly rounds out our team and doesn’t leave us with a big hole in the lineup,” Naugatuck head coach Ralph Roper said. “It’s hard to try and stay competitive when you are giving up 15, 20 points in an event.

“Tyler has worked hard to get where he is, and Erin is the state runner-up in the javelin. They have certainly made a difference this season, and in most meets came away with three wins helping us to be successful.”

Blair worked hard in the offseason to perfect his technique and won the javelin, the discus and the shot put in the Greyhounds’ first three track meets.

“It’s certainly helped the team to get out to successful start,” Blair said. “I know it’s been a while since we’ve been consistent with our throwing. I worked hard on technique and distance during the offseason and all the hard work is paying off.

“My throwing coach, Kevin Ugaldi, has been working with me and the rest of the throwers, and I think it will give us an edge in the NVLs.”

Schofield won the NVL championship in the javelin for the second year in a row last season and went on to finish as the Class L runner-up.

Naugatuck’s Bailey Mortensen talks with head coach Ralph Roper after competing in the long jump on Tuesday during a meet against Seymour and Waterbury Career at Naugatuck High School. –JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

“I used the offseason to break everything down,” Schofield said. “I have gone through every phase of the throws to try and add some distance and really worked on getting the technique down. I would like nothing better than to go out as NVL champion again and finish what I started at the states.”

The Naugatuck boys have another triple threat in junior Aren Seeger, who can run the 100 and 300 hurdles along with the 100, 200 and 400 sprints. The Greyhounds also have some of the specialized events covered with sophomore Ben Healy (high jump), sophomore Zach Koslosky (pole vault), senior Bailey Mortensen (long jump/triple jump), junior Ross Via (mid-distance) and senior Rami Ammar (sprints).

“We have a lot of diversity, and that will help us to stay with the rest of the teams,” Roper said. “Last week, (sophomore) Shane Carey cleared 10 (feet) 6 (inches) in the pole vault giving us two athletes (with Zach Koslosky) who are close to 11 feet and score points for us. Bailey (Mortensen) set a personal best over 20 feet in the triple jump, so we are heading in the right direction going into the NVL meet.”

The girls head into the NVL championship looking to get the most out of their performance.

Seniors Lauren Stankiewicz (distance) and Renell Clarence (mid-distance/relays) will be key in keeping Naugy in the running.

Naugatuck will also be counting on the continued development of some of their younger girls with sophomore jumpers Kimani Grey and Emily Kropo looking to be a factor along with sprinter Alyssa Zarrella and hurdler Makayla Teixiera.