Old Timers honor Woodland coach

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Woodland cross country coach Jeff Lownds cheers on his team during a meet last year. Lownds, who has coached at Woodland since it opened in 2001, was recently honored by the Danbury Old Timers. –RA ARCHIVE

DANBURY — Jeff Lownds has coached more seasons at Woodland than anyone else — and by a fairly wide margin. Thanks in part to his highly successful career leading the Hawks, Lownds recently earned recognition from a special hometown group.

The Danbury Old Timers, an exclusive sports club in Lownds’ hometown, honored him at their annual awards banquet late last month for his achievements both athletically in Danbury and coaching-wise at Woodland.

Lownds said he put in an application with the Old Timers a few years ago but he didn’t get in. But a friend convinced him to try again.

“They’re very selective,” Lownds said of the Old Timers’ membership. “I didn’t know if I’d get in this time because I don’t live there, even though I still have roots there. It’s a tremendous honor.”

Lownds attended Immaculate High School and Western Connecticut State University. He also played in Danbury’s adult sports leagues for more than 25 combined seasons, earning four all-star honors in the Industrial Softball League.

Not only has Lownds played and coached, but he’s also been an official. He worked nearly 10 combined years as a southern New England lacrosse official and a parochial league basketball referee.

While Lownds said his career in the Danbury area contributed to his recognition by the Old Timers, his coaching experience at Woodland is what set him apart.

“Despite the fact that Woodland isn’t really in the Danbury area, the success that a Danbury guy has had at Woodland was reason for recognition,” Lownds said.

Lownds is one of the last remaining coaches from the original staff hired at the school’s opening in 2001. But Back Rimmon Road wasn’t where he started his coaching career.

The year before Woodland opened Lownds was already coaching in three seasons, much like he still does. Two of those were at Southington High, where he was an assistant girls lacrosse and indoor track coach.

But more important to his hiring at Woodland was his experience as Long River Middle School’s cross country coach.

“I was asked by several athletes who I had coached at Long River if I would consider coaching them in cross country at Woodland,” Lownds said. “[Principal Dr. Arnold] Frank and [athletic consultant] Rich Calabro asked me if I would be interested and the kids asked me. They all wanted me to come here, so I did. I felt that it was an honor and I’ve been entrenched here since.”

He was originally going to stay in Southington for the winter and spring seasons but when Woodland offered him a co-head coaching position with the track teams, he decided to leave as a Blue Knights assistant.

Over the last 11-plus years, Lownds has been among the most successful coaches both at Woodland and throughout the Naugatuck Valley League.

His girls cross country team has won a pair of NVL and NVL division titles, and the track teams he co-coaches with Tim Shea have won five NVL and five division titles. More impressively, all of those championships have come within last five years.

Lownds also earned an award as Woodland’s girls coach of the decade in 2010 and has led both cross country teams to 100 wins. Both squads achieved that feat this season, where they have a combined 20 wins as of press time Wednesday.

Lownds credited all the athletes and coaches he’s worked with for helping him earn his new recognition.

“I’m very lucky to work at Woodland and to have worked with Dan Scavone, Brian Fell, Time Shea, Adam Schultz, Brian Maglione, Ross Cooper and others,” Lownds said. “I’m lucky to have the athletes I have, the coaches I work with and the support of everyone. I gave my speech and said I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I grew up in Danbury, played sports with everyone I did and now am in the same circle with my uncle Bob and older brother Dave. It’s an honor.”

The 60-year-old Lownds, who is the longest-tenured teacher in Region 16, said he isn’t planning on giving up all he’s got for a while.

“I’m looking to stay as long as I can be successful,” Lownds said. “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I retired. I don’t plan on going anywhere soon.”

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