Woodland aims for flexibility

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BEACON FALLS — Despite win-loss records that aren’t typical of the Woodland track teams, the Hawks are happy with their positioning entering the final few weeks of the regular season.

The six-time defending Naugatuck Valley League champion girls squad is 7-1 with the lone loss coming during a short-staffed meet against Watertown during the Hawks’ spring break. The boys are 5-3 with losses to Kennedy, Watertown and Naugatuck.

But longtime coach Jeff Lownds isn’t concerned about his teams’ dual-meet records — especially considering the fact that this year begins a new NVL championship format in which the postseason meet results solely decide the league champs.

“We’re working very well,” Lownds said. “We’re getting better each week in different areas. We’ve had good performances from the kids we expect to score, but we’re also getting good performances from other guys.”

The regular stars on the girls side continue to impress, especially in the long-distance and field events. In the April 23 meet against Naugatuck and Sacred Heart, Chloe Poulos won the 3,200 meters in 12 minutes, 13 seconds, while Emma Slavin claimed the 1,600 in 5:34. The Hawks also teamed up to win the 4×800 relay with Chloe and Kim Poulos, Jade Brennan and Jaden Young running a 10:34.

The Hawks also swept the field events. Stephanie Poynton won the high (5 feet), long (16-1), and triple (33-4) jumps, while Jasmine Michie took the shot put (34-10) and discus (70-8). Hailey Bernie won the pole vault (7-6) and Xiu Xiu Sammis-McCoy claimed the javelin (83-10).

Other recent standouts on the girls side have been distance runner Jill Brotherton, sprinters Katy Moore and Sarah Alessio, jumper Emily Cipriano, utility athletes Karly Laliberte and Julia Accetura, and throwers Layne Cronin and Faith Herren.

During the boys meet against the Greyhounds and Hearts, Edit Krivca won the 400 (52.7 seconds), while Bryan Shea took the triple jump (38-9) and Steve Persico claimed the javelin (156-5). Cole Barrows, Kelvin Essilfie, Zach Kabusk, Nathaniel Smith, Eric Meade and Tommy Meade have also stood out.

The goal for Lownds and boys coach Bill Ferrare in recent meets has been finding the right events for the right athletes to maximize both the individuals’ and teams’ potential come the championship season.

“We’re already starting to think about NVLs,” Lownds said. “I look to the state meet. I want to go to the state meet and score and make a statement at the state level. If you can do that, then the other stuff takes care of itself.”

It helps when a cornerstone of Woodland’s track program is developing flexible athletes who can compete in a variety of events.

“You really need to have multi-dimensional athletes in track because you have 18 events,” Lownds said. “A lot of our hurdlers run different events. Our hurdle girls also pole vault. Eric and Tommy Meade also do high jump and long jump, and we could probably run them in an event, but we need them to score in those other events. Bryan Shea can run and jump. Even distance girls — you’ve got the long-distance girls, but then what do you do with the 400 and the 800? You need girls who can go from a 200 to an 800. Jade Brennan ran a 4×800 relay for us the other day and she ran well.

“I don’t want them to see themselves as a one- or two-event athlete; I want them to see themselves as a track athlete,” Lownds added. “If you’re a good track athlete, then you’re a good athlete.”

The Hawks will face Seymour and St. Paul on Tuesday, before returning home for a May 7 meet against Derby and Wilby.