NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Valley League is one of the toughest conferences in the state when it comes to overall cross country talent from top to bottom, and Naugatuck will once again be looking to make some noise this season.
Entering his tenth season as head coach of the boys and the third year leading the girls, Bill Hanley is looking to lead the Naugatuck cross country program back into contention after a successful season last year, including a championship title for the boys.
“By gaining racing experience through the season we’re hoping to run our best performances at the championship races,” said Hanley in an email, encouraged about this upcoming season’s boys squad.
The boys will be led by senior co-captain Dan Schumacher, who has earned All-Naugatuck Valley League honors in each of his three years on the team, and 2013 All-Naugatuck Valley League senior Brody Hale. The Greyhounds are looking to improve on their 11-1 record last season and repeat as Naugatuck Valley League champions as well as Copper Division champions.
To repeat, or approach last year’s mark, Hanley knows he will have to put together a solid lineup of runners from top to bottom to standout in the always competitive NVL.
“By challenging and encouraging our juniors and sophomores to work hard, maintain a positive attitude through the season’s ups and downs, and stay injury free we’re hoping to close the gap between our top four and the group vying for a varsity spot on the team,” Hanley said.
The girls return the majority of a roster that finished 9-3 in 2013 and has improved across the board, says their coach. Senior co-captain Harmony Sturdivant, one of the best runners in the NVL, anchors a lineup of runners that spent the majority of their offseason preparing for the upcoming season.
“All the girls ran over the summer. They work hard at practice and support each other on and off the course,” said Hanley via email.
The girls finished fourth in the NVL in 2013 and were Copper Division champions, which gives the program a solid foundation to build on heading into this season.
Hanley is confident that this year could be the year for the girls because of how well-rounded the roster was last season. He’s looking forward to seeing how much the girls have improved since last year.
“The time span for runners two to six was about 90 seconds. That’s very close. If each can improve a minute we can match last year’s two hour team time. And if the group can collectively find another two-minute improvement, they can make a run at top 15 in Class L,” Hanley said.
Considering the girls placed 14th at the Class Ls last season, trimming two-minutes off their overall time could result in a much higher placing than even their coach thinks, especially when every second matters.
The boys and girls opened their season Saturday at the Windham Invitational. The NVL opener for the Greyhounds is Tuesday as Naugatuck hits the road to face Sacred Heart, Watertown and Seymour.