Hawks have firepower on the track

The Woodland girls track is led by a strong senior class. Pictured, from left, Brianna Vallejo, Jessica Fox, Megen Sirowich, Emilie Noreika, Christina Hart, Casey Donnelly and Alexandra Cianciolo. Seniors Erika Michie and Kristen Persico are missing from the photo. –KYLE BRENNAN

BEACON FALLS — It’s time to start working on the next half-dozen for the Woodland girls indoor track team.

The Hawks have won six straight Naugatuck Valley League championships and have plenty of firepower returning to make it seven in a row. And their counterparts on the boys side may have the star power to make a run at their first NVL title since 2012.

“I think it’ll be a great season,” said Woodland boys coach Bill Ferrare, who teams up with longtime Woodland girls coach Jeff Lownds. “We have a great group of kids. They’re committed and determined to work hard. We’re definitely looking to do well again.”

On the girls side, Woodland returns several athletes with championship pedigrees. Senior Erika Michie won the 55-meter dash at last year’s NVL indoor meet and swept the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the NVL outdoor competition. Jade Brennan was also a winner in the 300 (indoor) and 400 (outdoor) last season, and Emilie Noreika is the defending NVL outdoor pole vault champion.

The return of those champions, plus the addition to the indoor team of some athletes who only participated during the outdoor season last year, has the Hawks feeling confident about their chances at a seven-peat.

“We lost some girls to graduation, but we still have a solid group,” Ferrare said. “We’ll definitely be in the hunt again in the NVL. We have some girls from our outdoor team who didn’t do indoor last year, but they’re here this season. They’ll help us.”

The Hawks also return plenty of star power on the boys side, which fell two points shy of Derby at last year’s NVL indoor meet. Tom Smith, who is one of the state’s fastest sprinters, won the indoor 55 and outdoor 100 in the NVL last season and is back for his senior campaign. Craig Starkey (pole vault) and Matt Luxeder (mid-distance) also return as seniors with gold-medal histories.

Smith will also add the high jump to his list of events. He’s already cleared 6 feet early this winter.

“Tom should do very well,” Ferrare said. “He should hopefully win the 55 (meters) and the high jump (at the NVL championships).”

The Woodland boys indoor track team is led by a strong senior class. Pictured, from left, Jacob Marks, Will Tompkins, Matt Mills, Matt Luxeder, Ben Nuss, Sean Mardin and Tom Smith. Senior Craig Starkey is missing from the photo. –KYLE BRENNAN

Smith’s versatility in being able to win both the 55 and 100 meters is impressive to Ferrare because they can require different strengths against different types of competition.

“It depends on the athlete,” Ferrare said. “Some kids have the quick burst, but others need the full 100 meters to get up to speed. It’s different.”

The Hawks got a head start on the competitive season last weekend when they competed at the annual Reindeer Relays in Wilton. Because the indoor track at Wilton High isn’t the regulation 200-meter distance, times weren’t official for state qualifying purposes. Still, the meet was a valuable opportunity for Ferrare and Lownds to start getting a feel for where their athletes will be most effective in meets.

“We were just looking to get kids in events, get some times and see where we stood,” Ferrare said. “We’ll go from there and get some ideas of where the kids will be most competitive.”

Woodland competed at the Old Saybrook Qualifier on Thursday. The Hawks will head to the New Haven Field House Dec. 28 for the Haddam-Killingworth Invitational. The NVL championship meet is set for Jan. 29 in New Haven.