A glorious run for Greyhounds

Naugatuck’s Josh Perry crosses the finish line in second place in October 2006 at the NVL cross country championships at Veterans Park in Watertown.  -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN ARCHIVE

Before the high school sports year begins, we would like to take a look back at some of the most memorable sports streaks Naugatuck High and Woodland have to offer. This week, we look back at the Naugatuck boys cross country team’s 51 meet winning streak from 2006 through 2010.

NAUGATUCK — The sport of cross country is a true test of an athlete’s physical and mental endurance. From 2006 through 2010, the Naugatuck boys cross country team set the bar to the highest point it’s been raised in school history.

The Greyhounds lived up to their namesake by leaving teams in the dust meet after meet after meet and running to victory 51 straight times against NVL opponents. The faster they ran the more the legend grew as Naugatuck strung together four NVL titles in a row from 2006 through 2009.

“We were successful because of (head) coach (Bill) Hanley,” former Greyhound Josh Perry said.

Perry, who won a Class LL and state open title in indoor track in the 600, was a cross country captain his senior year with Nick Aviles and Mark Kichar. The trio led a team that included Mike Santos, Tim Stiekel, Mike Carson and Joe Renzoni.

“I was a basketball player initially,” Perry said. “The summer before my senior year coach Hanley told us that we had the potential to be the greatest team to ever come out of Naugy as far as cross country was concerned. That put a fire in me. I wanted to be the best runner that Naugy ever had. Nick and I both ran about 500 miles over that summer. Coaches Ralph Roper and Matt Basile were always in our ear encouraging us.”

Hanley set the wheels in motion. Over a seven-year period, the Greyhounds compiled a staggering 70-3 record including the 51 straight wins.

“Coach Hanley is the running extraordinaire,” Perry said. “He told us exactly what we needed to do and put us in a good position to succeed. He has been right about everything he preached about, and I went on to get a full scholarship to Southern Connecticut (State University) and set six school records there.”

Hanley’s record certainly shows he knows a thing or two on how to be successful. His career record is right up there with the other legendary coaches at Naugatuck High School. Going into his 14th season this fall, Hanley has 142 wins and just six losses to go along with eight NVL championships.

“I don’t like to talk about records,” Hanley said. “It’s the kids that are putting in the work and they are the ones that deserve any recognition. We would have sessions in the weight room and the pool on alternating days. They were willing to put in the work and that’s why they were successful.”

In 2007, Naugatuck welcomed an athlete by the name of Mohamed Hrezi into the cross country program. Little did anyone realize at the time that this athlete would go on to win the state championship, become an All-American at Iowa State and represent Libya in last summer’s Olympics.

“I have such fond memories of coach Hanley and being part of the Naugatuck team,” Hrezi said. “Being part of those championship teams gave all of us so much confidence.

“Coach Hanley would never focus on the streak, but rather do his due diligence before every meet to let each one of us know what we needed to do to be successful. He would lie out a plan for every athlete. He built an unbelievable team culture that propelled us to the success that we had.”

Hrezi was the Class L state champion in 2008 and led Naugy to an 11th-place finish. Rosa Moriello also won the Class L state championship in 2008 for the girls, giving the Greyhounds the first boys and girls state champions.

“Nothing was more satisfying than watching my little brother, Muad, continue the legacy,” Hrezi said. “Not only as league champion but state champion and leading his team to runner-up in the state. That to me was the biggest accomplishment of that stretch.”

With runners like Muad Hrezi, Jeff Dorosh, William Corkindale, Evan Sizemore, Ralph Liquori, Jacob Simons, Eric DeSousa, Tom Mashia, Ryan Mahoney and Nick Moriello, Naugatuck continued the streak into the 2010 NVL championship meet.

Watertown ended the streak at 51 by racing past Naugatuck to win the NVL championship meet.

Muad Hrezi would go on to win the Class L state championship race and lead his team to a ninth-place finish. In 2011, Muad finished second in Class L with Nick Moriello taking third as Naugatuck finished as the state runner-up for the first time in the team’s history.

While the streak of 51 wins is history, there is another streak alive and well that is threatening to make its mark this season.

The Naugy boys are preparing to enter this season the winners of four straight NVL titles and 42 straight NVL meet wins.

The mark of 51 in a row is within their sights as well as coach Hanley’s 150th victory of his career. But gone are the guys who got them to this point, including Dan Schumacher, Mark Zamani and Graden Beasley.

Naugatuck is stocked with some talented runners who are poised to make their own mark and rewrite history, including Ross and Elliot Via, David Garces, Ben Healy, Austin Herb, Brenden Kerns and Charley Marenghi.

“We have some work to do,” cautioned Hanley. “We lost some pretty good runners over the past few seasons. I think the challenge is some of our runners are sophomores, and we will have to see how they have improved.”