Sibling tradition helps fuel Hawks’ track success

Eleven sets of siblings compete on the Woodland track team this spring. From left, Ryan and Sean Swanson, Tommy and Eric Meade, Chase and Jaden Young, Kayla and Alanna Drmic, Matt and Brooke Iannone, Luca and Eliana Cambra, Kim and Chloe Poulos, Charlie and Jack Schwarz, Colin and Emma Slavin, and Nick and Madison Piscitelli. Not pictured: Stephanie and Kristina Poynton. –KYLE BRENNAN

BEACON FALLS — Boys run with boys. Girls run with girls.

That’s the way it’s always been at high school track meets, but sometimes there’s one exception — the interminable 3,200-meter run, an event that can often last more than 15 minutes near the end of a meet. Coaches usually decide to run the boys and girls races simultaneously.

That usually facilitates a quicker end to the meet, but it also encourages something else — sibling rivalries.

Over the past two decades, the Woodland track teams have enjoyed as much championship success as any school in the Naugatuck Valley League. Many of the same last names have been common threads among those titles: Joneses and Albrights, Langs and Parks, Watfords and Michies.

The sibling tradition is as rich as ever now at Woodland with 11 sets currently competing for the Hawks: Ryan and Sean Swanson, Tommy and Eric Meade, Chase and Jaden Young, Kayla and Alanna Drmic, Matt and Brooke Iannone, Luca and Eliana Cambra, Kim and Chloe Poulos, Charlie and Jack Schwarz, Colin and Emma Slavin, Nick and Madison Piscitelli, and Stephanie and Kristina Poynton.

Some of those duos compete in many of the same events — especially the long-distance races. The Slavins have consistently posted the team’s best times in the 3200. Emma, a junior, has already qualified for the Class M state meet with a best time of 11 minutes, 45.61 seconds, and Colin, a freshman, is closing in on the qualifying standard of 10:45.

Emma talked about a recent two-mile race.

“I got in front of everyone in the 3200,” she started.

“For five seconds, maybe?” Colin interrupted.

“And then I waved a few guys along and everybody passed me,” Emma admitted.

“She said, ‘I want to know what it feels like (to lead the 3200),’” Colin recalled with a laugh.

“There’s a rivalry — well, he’s not really in on it, but I try to run faster than him sometimes,” Emma said. “It doesn’t really work.”

Colin, who’s enjoyed a terrific freshman year across all three seasons, said he probably wouldn’t have joined any of the high school teams if his old sister hadn’t first blazed a trail for him.

“I probably wouldn’t have done it if she didn’t do it,” Colin said. “Coming in, I already knew what the team was like from the stories she’d tell — the daily funnies from practice and stuff. It was good knowing that she was going to be there the first couple of days of practice at cross country.”

Emma said she had mixed emotions about her younger brother entering her running world.

“At first, I kinda wanted it to be my own thing and to not have a sibling on the team,” Emma said. “But he’s really good at it and it’s good for him. It’s kinda cool having a sibling on the team, and we do the same events, so that’s kinda cool. He’s really flourished. He’s done really well, so it’s really fun.”

The Slavins are usually joined on the track during their long-distance events by the Iannones.

“I think the Iannones are the poster children for being siblings,” Emma said.

Matt, a senior, acknowledged that he didn’t try to talk Brooke, a sophomore, into joining the track team.

“It’s definitely complicated when she’s up my butt talking about track all the time,” Matt said. “She’s always around me — it’s hard to put up with her sometimes, but in the end it’s good because we talk to each other and motivate each other to get faster.”

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The younger sister looks up — and usually ahead — to her brother.

“I liked joining the team with Matthew on it,” Brooke said. “We motivate each other and we understand each other’s races. We don’t have that much rivalry — he usually passes me on the last lap.”

As a matter of fact, that’s become a helpful timing mechanism for Matt.

“I know that when I lap her on the home stretch, I have one more lap to go and I’m on a good pace,” he said.

Freshman twin sisters Kim and Chloe Poulos helped the Hawks win the NVL cross country championship in the fall. They can pass as identical if they wanted — they played the switcharoo game “when we were younger,” Kim said — but they oftentimes compete in different events.

Chloe was a runner throughout middle school and was surprised, to put it mildly, when Kim said she wanted to run in high school.

“I did not like her joining,” Chloe attested. “I thought she was joining as a joke. It’s fine now. I mean, it’s fun sometimes.”

“I probably wouldn’t have joined if Chloe didn’t run — she always ran and I never did,” Kim said. “I just joined to bug her at first, and now I really like it.”

Does that make Chloe feel better about it?

“I mean, it’s fine,” she said with a hint of sarcasm.

Many of the siblings will play a key role for the Hawks as they look to compete for league championships Tuesday in Torrington. Emma Slavin and Jaden Young both have individual gold medals to their credit in their careers, and their freshman siblings helped the Woodland boys win the NVL cross country title in the fall.

The Hawks’ three sets of twins — the freshman Meade boys, the Poulos girls, and the senior Poynton girls — also should factor for Woodland. The Poyntons are particularly versatile and should complete for medals in the field and relays as the girls team looks to win its seventh straight NVL outdoor track title.

At the NVL indoor track championships in January, all the Hawks’ siblings combined to score 69 percent of Woodland’s team points — 67 of 99 for the girls and 18 of 24 for the boys.

If Tuesday ends up being a championship day for Woodland, it’ll probably be all in the family.