NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys and girls cross country teams are changing gears as they get ready to run at the NVL championship meet.
Naugatuck has been in the hunt for a league title almost every season under head coach Bill Hanley, winning eight championships in the last 13 seasons. When the NVL assembles at Veterans Park in Watertown on Wednesday, the Greyhounds won’t be considered one of the league favorites.
“We will be there to do our thing, but on the boys’ side it will really be a battle between Woodland and Kennedy,” Hanley said. “Seymour always has a powerhouse, and Derby comes back with last year’s champion Ken Little. The boys have exceeded my expectations. I knew we would get better, but we are getting better quicker than I expected.”
“In the girls’ race, Derby will be the team to beat,” Hanley continued. “Woodland will be right there and Watertown is always a strong team. We didn’t get the wins we were looking for on the girls’ side but they are moving in a great direction.”
The Greyhounds finished the regular season on Tuesday against Watertown, Torrington and Waterbury Career.
The boys swept the meet with Ross Via finishing first in 17:40. Charles Marenghi (fourth), Elliot Via (sixth), Brendon Soubannarath (seventh) and Bryce Cegielski (ninth) rounded out the top-ten finishes for Naugatuck.
The girls picked up wins over Torrington and Waterbury Career. Abigail Lombardi finished fifth for Naugatuck, and Lauren Rupsis took ninth.
The boys are led by senior brothers Ross and Elliot Via. Hanley has also been impressed by the development of Marenghi and has seen Cegielski and Soubannarath step up to take over the four and five spots.
Each team is allowed to run seven varsity runners with the top five scoring points for the team. Hanley and assistant coach Joe Teixeira are still in the process of finalizing the lineup and several freshmen are in the picture.
“Our number six and seven will come down to a battle among juniors Austin Herb and David Garces along with a freshman Connor Behuniak,” Hanley said. “In fact we have an outstanding group of freshmen and on any given day you never know.”
Freshman Christopher Cook is knocking at the door according to Hanley, who added freshmen DJ Fine, JD Stone, Jonathon Chatfield and Peter Mullin can’t be counted out.
The girls are led by senior Briana Lennon.
“I give her credit for steering the team through the drills and showing the team how to work hard,” Hanley said.
The Greyhounds have depth to choose from when it comes to their top seven spots with Lombardi, Rupsis, Jade Lima, Brittany Soubannarath, Gina Conforti, Kimani Grey, Brianna Soubannarath, Daniella Acevedo and Caitlyn Doris.
“Abigail Lombardi, a sophomore, has really stuck her nose in the last two races challenging some of the top runners in the league,” Hanley said. “Lauren Rupsis, also a sophomore, really worked hard over the summer and on some days she’s our number one.”