Hawks cap stellar seasons with top-10 finishes at state meets 

BEACON FALLS — After a pair of undefeated regular seasons, a pair of Naugatuck Valley League championships, and a pair of top-10 team finishes in state competition, there was only one way for Woodland cross country coach Jeff Lownds to summarize the season.

“This was one of the best seasons we’ve ever had,” Lownds said. “We didn’t have any superstars, but we had a lot of really good runners who worked hard. They had a single goal, and I can’t be happier.”

On the girls side, the Hawks cruised to their fifth NVL title and first since 2014. They continued that success at the state level, where they finished fourth in the Class SS meet Oct. 26 at Wickham Park in Manchester.

Emma Slavin (ninth), Jaden Young (19th), Chloe Poulos (27th), Calisa Costanzo (31st) and Jill Brotherton (34th) scored for Woodland. Brooke Iannone (44th) and Kayla Drmic (59th) also competed for the Hawks at the meet, which Immaculate won.

“If you take their overall composite time, they were really one of the top 20 or 25 teams in the state,” Lownds said. “There are 160 teams in the state, so when you put it in that kind of perspective, we really had a terrific season.”

Slavin’s ninth-place finish qualified her for the State Open, where she finished 106th of 172 runners in a highly competitive field.

On the boys side, it was Woodland’s first NVL title for a program that has often come agonizingly close to a championship. The Hawks placed 10th in the Class M state meet Oct. 26 at Wickham Park with the scoring lineup of Greg Aldrich (34th), Kyle Crowell (54th), Chase Young (56th), Colin Slavin (66th) and Cole Verrelli (100th). Eric Meade (106th) and Charlie Schwarz (146th) also competed at the meet, which Tolland won.

Of the state lineup, four runners — Meade, Slavin, Verrelli and Young — are freshmen.

“I don’t think I’ve ever done that before,” Lownds said. “For those guys to get that experience, all that’s going to do is make them better. They ran well in a tough class.”

Lownds, who recently retired from his longtime career as a teacher at Long River Middle School, will coach the indoor and outdoor track seasons before making a decision on whether he’ll return for another cross country campaign. If this season ends up being his last, the double-championship year will go down as his most successful.

“That was a great thing on a personal level for me, but it’s not about me,” Lownds said. “All 36 kids I had worked hard every day, so the results are created by their hard work and dedication.”