Hawks have ‘good problem’ with large numbers for track team

BEACON FALLS — With the sight of about 100 athletes crammed outside the Woodland locker rooms fresh in his head, longtime Hawks track coach Jeff Lownds admitted that it can be a challenge to have “a lot” of kids out for the team this spring.

But, Lownds said, “It’s a good problem to have.”

Another good problem to have? The Woodland girls championship streaks in the Naugatuck Valley League.

The Hawks will attempt to defend their six straight NVL girls outdoor track titles after making it eight in a row during the indoor season. The boys, meanwhile, will look to rebound after finishing eighth at the 2018 NVL outdoor meet and ninth in the recent indoor championships.

“I’m not going out on any limbs,” Lownds said, “but we’re going to be in the conversation for the NVL championships.”

The first challenge of the outdoor season is to reacclimate the vast number of athletes, whether or not they competed during the indoor season.

“If they’ve done indoor and then they’re coming to outdoor, we tell them to take that time off (between the seasons),” Lownds said. “Some of our kids just really like to run. If they want to go for a run, they can, but we don’t want them to train. We want their bodies to recover. Indoor is tough, so they need some recovery time. For kids who didn’t do indoor track or another sport, some of the kids have a bit of a tough time in the first few weeks.”

Once competitions start next month, the Hawks should feature plenty of athletes capable of winning.

The nucleus of girls with championship success returns. Jasmine Michie, Emma Slavin, Jaden Young, Jade Brennan, Chloe Poulos, Stephanie Poynton and Hailey Bernier combined to score 91 of the Hawks’ 99 points at the NVL indoor meet.

On the boys side, Lownds pointed to sprinters and short-distance runners Conrad Filippone, Edit Krivca and Ryan Swanson as potential high scorers.

Now, Lownds said, “It’s about finding the other pieces.”

He noted that the common thread among successful athletes is that they put in the necessary practice work and are receptive to coaching.

“We’re fortunate that the kids who are coming have had that success,” Lownds said. “They were successful because they did the workouts properly and made a real effort. It was something important to them to be able to achieve on a high level, so they apply that same directive in outdoor. We have kids who buy into what we want to do.”

Woodand’s throwers could make a difference this spring. Swanson, Peter Rosato and Steve Persico should be among the top athletes on the boys side, while Michie, Layne Cronin and Xiu Xiu Sammis-McCoy should pace the girls.

Lownds is also excited for the addition of throwing coach Mike Sirowich and jumping coach Deb Flaherty. Along with boys head coach Bill Ferrare, distance coach Mario Longo and jumping coach Tony Cipriano, Lownds feels confident in the coaching staff’s ability to develop athletes throughout the season.

Of course, though, any success will be dependent on the athletes’ own work.

“We always tell the kids, ‘If you don’t put anything in the bank, you can’t make a withdrawal,’” Lownds said.

Woodland is scheduled to open the season Tuesday with a meet at Crosby against the Bulldogs and Oxford.