Naugy indoor track teams look to climb NVL ranks

NAUGATUCK — After competing in the Hillhouse scrimmage last weekend, the Naugatuck indoor boys and girls track teams are looking to hit the ground running.

The boys, who won the Naugatuck Valley League championship in 2012 and 2014, finished fourth in the league last season, while the girls finished sixth.

Head coach Ralph Roper along with assistant coach Bill Hanley and new assistant coach Ollie Gray are hopeful that the Greyhounds can utilize their speed and versatility to climb the ranks in the NVL.

“We are pleased with the addition of coach Ollie Gray,” Roper said. “The kids have responded well to him, and I know he did a great job as the head coach for Kennedy.”

The girls team finished third in the NVL in four of the last six seasons but fell to sixth last year when the team had only 17 athletes. The team added some young newcomers this season, and Roper is hopeful that the addition will help make the girls team more competitive.

“I’m pleased to see our numbers increase,” Roper said. “We are up to 28 girls and can work with that to build a competitive lineup. The key is you can’t have kids come and go as they please. If they make the commitment, we are there to put them in the best position to succeed.”

Naugatuck has some athletes who have already achieved a good deal of success and are ready to lead the way.

Seniors Aren Seeger, who holds the NVL record in the 300 meters, and Ross Via, who finished second in the 1600 and third in the 1000 last year, will lead a talented boys squad.

Seniors Makayla Teixeira, who took second in the 55 hurdles at last year’s NVL championship, and Briana Lennon, who finished sixth in the 1000 last year, will lead the way for the girls.

The boys also have seniors Christian Nanadoum (jumps), Matt Pimpinelli (throws), Jevonte Swierbitowicz (sprints) and Pedro Rodriguez (distance) to lead by example.

The Greyhounds also have some go-to guys who can put some points up in juniors Ben Healy, who finished second in the high jump last year, Zack Koslosky, who finished fifth in the pole vault, and Nick Airall and Derek Sampaio, who were part of the second-place 4×400 relay team last season.

Roper is looking to some younger athletes and newcomers to provide the competitive edge. He mentioned sophomores Brendon Soubannarath and Bryce Cegielski as runners who are ready to take it to the next level. He is also looking to newcomer sophomore Edgar Morales as a distance threat.

“We have some athletes who know how to compete,” Roper said. “It’s a matter of utilizing our speed to be versatile. We don’t have that long distance depth that we had in the past. This year the depth is in our speed guys.”

For the girls, Alyssa Zarrella and Julia Dudek were part of last year’s 4×200 relay team that finished fourth at the NVL championship, and junior Kimani Grey was seventh in the high jump. Sophomores Abigail Lombardi, Lauren Rupsis and Caitlin Doris made up three parts of the 4×800 relay team that finished fifth.

Roper is looking for the development of juniors Brianna Haye and Alexia Miranda to help the Greyhounds move up the ladder in the league rankings.

Sophomores Rachel Huculak, Lauren Quarles and Letacianna Stoudmire, and freshmen Brittney Soubannarath and Abby Shugdinis are athletes that Roper is hoping will give the team some depth.

“I think we have a lot of young athletes on the girls side who can become impact players for us,” Roper said. “We already have a few who made an impact last season who are ready to step up to the next level.”

The Greyhounds have been preparing for a new season at a new practice venue — the former General DataComm building that the borough owns.

“Let’s face it,” Roper said. “It’s pretty hard to try and get a team prepared to be competitive in track running in the halls of a high school. The boys and girls basketball teams need the gyms, and now we have a place where we can prepare in all the events. It will be a tremendous help in getting these kids game ready.”

Naugatuck will compete in the Hillhouse Invitational in New Haven on Friday and Saturday.