Hawks setting the pace early

Woodland’s Jaden Young, front, and Emma Slavin head toward the finish line in a cross country meet against Naugatuck, Waterbury Career Academy and Seymour on Sept. 19 at Seymour High School. –LUKE MARSHALL

SEYMOUR — Whether or not an opponent provides a strong challenge on the trails, there’s always one thing a runner can race against: the clock.

So when Woodland’s Jill Brotherton crossed the finish line on Seymour High’s 3.05-mile course Sept. 19, her exclamation of a personal-best time by more than a minute was the best indicator of the day’s success.

“The best thing about all of that is that she knew what her PR was before and knew what she had to do to beat it,” Woodland coach Jeff Lownds said. “Knowing where you were (before) and recognizing that you did a better job, that’s what really strikes me and impresses me.”

Brotherton finished fifth overall in 21 minutes, 28 seconds. That was also fifth among Woodland runners as the Hawks girls swept the top five positions in easy victories over Seymour, Naugatuck and Waterbury Career.

The story was almost the same on the boys side as the Hawks claimed five of the top six spots in the race. Both Woodland squads improved to 5-0 on the season with the victories.

Personal-best times are impressive, but they don’t mean quite the same thing as they do on a standard track. That’s why Lownds wanted his runners to pay attention to their own watches as they crafted race strategies.

“I told them to keep track of their paces,” Lownds said. “You really can’t judge a time on a cross country course because they’re all different. We want to run certain times and have runners finish in certain places.”

Jaden Young (20:21) won the girls race. Following closely behind were Emma Slavin (20:25), Calisa Costanzo (20:32), Chloe Poulos (20:33), Brotherton and Brooke Iannone (22:22) to help Woodland claim the top six finishes.

Chase Young pulled away for a win in the boys race with a time of 17:31. Greg Aldrich (17:34) was second, while Kyle Crowell (17:45) was fourth, Marty Swercewski (18:04) was fifth, and Colin Slavin (18:05) was sixth.

Woodland’s Chase Young, front, is followed closely by his teammate Greg Aldrich as they head toward the finish line during a cross country meet against Naugatuck, Waterbury Career Academy and Seymour on Sept. 19 at Seymour High School. –LUKE MARSHALL

The results from the first few weeks have been encouraging for Lownds and his Hawks.

“I’m very pleased with where we are at this point in the season,” he said. “I’d like us to get a little deeper. We’re good 1-5 with the boys and 1-6 with the girls, but we need some backup. We’re very young, so that’s what we’re working toward.”

Woodland’s youth is talented. On the boys side, Young and Slavin are freshmen while Swercewski is a sophomore. It’s a similar story on the girls side, where Young and Iannone are sophomores and Poulos is a freshman. There are 17 freshmen and nine sophomores on the Hawks’ rosters.

“I knew that these guys coming in would be pretty good because they ran at the middle school,” Lownds said. “(Coaches) Dean Accetura and Deb Flaherty do a great job at (Long River). The biggest problem is that they’re used to running a 2.2-mile course (in middle school), and (in high school) they have to run a mile farther. They haven’t trained as high school athletes yet, but they get it. We’ve told them, ‘If you follow our program and do what we want you to do, your times will get better.’”

Woodland is set for another meet Tuesday versus Holy Cross, Watertown and St. Paul Catholic.