NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck High cross country team has a few holes to fill, but head coach Bill Hanley feels his team has the right stuff to go the distance.
“We lost a few athletes to other sports,” Hanley said. “So, we won’t be as deep as in years past but we will still be just as competitive.”
The boys team went 12-2 last season and finished in third place at the Naugatuck Valley League championship. The girls finished last season 7-7 and placed eighth at NVLs for the second year in a row. The boys team graduated 10 seniors, while the girls squad graduated four.
“We certainly have our work cut out for us, especially being such a smaller team numbers-wise, but I am encouraged with the talent we do have coming back,” Hanley said.
Senior captains Charlie Marenghi (2018 All-Iron Division), Bryce Cegielski and Brendon Soubannarath will lead the way for the boys team this year.
The girls will be led by senior captains Lauren Rupsis, a two-time captain, and Caitlin Doris. The girls also return the team’s top finisher at NVLs last year in sophomore Julia Kropo, who placed 26th at the meet.
“What we can’t do, especially in this sport, is be too concerned with what our opponents have,” Hanley said. “It’s all about what we can control, our own times. That is what we will be focusing on, and with the help of our new coaches, we will get there.”
Hanley has a 167-10 record in his 15 years as the boys head coach and 66-36 mark coaching the girls team. Hanley has assistant coach Joe Teixeira and volunteer coaches and former Greyhound runners Bill Gordon, Brody Hale and Josh Perry by his side to help keep the team of pace.
“We have a lot of great athletes,” Hanley said. “We will work hard daily and learn how to race intelligently.”
The boys team has depth in the upperclassmen ranks with seniors Connor Behuniak and Joe Macary and juniors Jonny Volpe, Chris Cook, Jon Chatfield, D.J. Fine, Kevin Healy, Peter Mullin and Justin Stone.
The girls round out their lineup with some experience as well as a few newcomers, including senior Mikayla Williams, juniors Gina Conforti and Britney Soubannarath, sophomore Alyssa Jones and freshman Isabella Rafala.
“I’m encouraged by the girls’ great character,” Hanley said. “We will measure our success based on past performances. Conditioning will be the key to stay away from injuries.”
Naugatuck opens the season Tuesday when the Greyhounds head to Oxford to take on the Wolverines, Sacred Heart and Wilby.