Runaway winners

Woodland boys, girls claim NVL cross country championships

Woodland’s Emma Slavin, front, and Jaden Young run to the finish line at the Naugatuck Valley League cross country championship meet Oct. 17 at Veterans Park in Watertown. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

WATERTOWN — The Woodland boys and girls cross country teams came into Veterans Park in Watertown last Wednesday with a purpose and they left with a trunk full of hardware.

The Hawks swept the Naugatuck Valley League championships, winning the boys and girls titles.

The Woodland girls easily outdistanced the competition. The Hawks won with 38 points, well ahead of runner-up and three-time NVL champion Derby, which finished with 61 points.

“The girls were outstanding,” said Woodland head coach Jeff Lownds after the Hawks landed four runners in the top ten. “They came in with a purpose and they met their purpose. It’s not me. They earned it. I’m very proud of them. They did a great job.”

Junior Emma Slavin led the barrage at the finish line, taking fourth place in 20:25.

“I have been really working toward this race for months,” said Slavin, who finished seventh at the NVL championship last season. “I didn’t come in with any particular expectation, I just wanted to do better than last year. The results are a testament to all the hard work that went into this.”

Sophomore Jaden Young was on Slavin’s heels and finished fifth in 20:29.

“Last year, I was running about 22 minutes,” Young said. “I got my time down a lot but never expected a fifth-place finish. I love being on this team. They are all so supportive of one another, and Emma is so great encouraging everyone.”

Junior Calisa Costanza (7th, 21:01) and freshman Chloe Poulos (8th, 21:03) joined Slavin and Young on the All-NVL team.

Junior Jill Brotherton, who rounded out Woodland’s scoring by placing 14th in 21:43, and sophomore Brooke Iannone (16th, 22:18) both made the All-Copper Division. Freshman Kayla Drmic finished 22nd in 22:36.

“The one thing that would make this day even better is to finish with a daily double,” said Lownds in between the girls and boys races.

Woodland’s Kyle Crowell sprints to the finish line ahead of his teammate Greg Aldrich, right, and Seymour’s Daniel Bouzolin at the Naugatuck Valley League cross country championship meet Oct. 17 at Veterans Park in Watertown. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Lownds has guided the girls to five NVL titles but never won a boys championship, even with the boys going undefeated in the regular season (14-0) this year and last year.

The boys made their coach proud, winning the first NVL championship in Lownds’ 18 years at the helm.

“This is a tribute to the kids. They worked hard all season. They endured rainy days, hot days, cancellations, running inside. They put it altogether,” Lownds said. “This is their championship. They earned it.”

The boys won with 52 points, 22 points ahead of runner-up Watertown.

Three Hawks finished in the top ten. Seniors Kyle Crowell (5th, 17:32) and Greg Aldrich (6th, 17:33) led the way and made All-NVL.

“I knew we had to have a good start and a strong finish,” Crowell said. “We have been undefeated in the regular season the last two years and it feels good to finally go out as champions.”

“We knew we had to get by Watertown,” Aldrich added. “They were one of the teams we had to beat here, and we just ran our race, sticking together running as a pack and put five guys in the top 20.”

Freshman Chase Young (10th, 17:59), freshman Colin Slavin (14th, 18:26) and sophomore Martin Swercewski (17th, 18:33) rounded out the Hawks’ scoring and made the All-Copper Division.

Cole Verrelli (32nd, 19:21) and Eric Meade (34th, 19:26) also ran for the Hawks.

Woodland will now look to the state meets, which are set for Saturday.