BEACON FALLS — Touting last year’s Naugatuck Valley League cross country championships for the Woodland boys and girls squads doesn’t do much for longtime coach Jeff Lownds with a new season about to begin.
“That was last year. If you want one of these,” Lownds said, pointing toward the championship T-shirt he wore at practice last week, “you’ve gotta earn it this year.”
The Woodland girls won their fifth league title last fall and return almost all of their top scorers. The boys graduated their top two scorers from their first group to win an NVL title, but several other key contributors to that unit were just freshmen.
Senior Emma Slavin placed ninth last year to lead the Hawks to a fourth-place finish at the Class SS state championships. Woodland’s other four scorers — junior Jaden Young (19th), sophomore Chloe Poulos (27th), senior Calisa Costanzo (31st) and senior Jill Brotherton (34th) — also come back, making the Hawks a logical pick to repeat as league champs and perhaps even more.
The entire team’s senior presence — Slavin, Costanzo, Brotherton, Caitlin Marvin and Diondra Owusu — is limited to the girls side. The boys don’t have any seniors but boast four juniors, including a couple of potential scorers in Marty Swercewski and Nick Santovasi.
“Our senior girls are some of our top runners, and our junior boys are a couple of our top boys,” Lownds said. “They can lead by example, and they can lead not only in warmups but also in course runs. I expect them to be in the forefront for those types of workouts. They’ve shown that they care about the sport. This is a hard sport. You only get out of it what you put into it. We’re fortunate in the sense that we’ve had some success, and success breeds success.”
Lownds expects sophomores Colin Slavin and Chase Young to lead the boys team in scoring, while fellow sophomores Eric Meade, Cole Verrelli and Elias Sturdevant could also figure into the mix.
“Our boys success will depend on who our 5-6-7 guys are,” Lownds said. “Those (top) guys have had some experience so far, so hopefully that will carry over to a successful season.”
Woodland also boasts a strong roster of about three dozen runners, which is among the highest Lownds has ever enjoyed as the only head coach in school history. More importantly, he feels as though most of those runners possess a strong work ethic.
“I’m very pleased with our numbers, and I’m very pleased that some of our guys put in the summertime work,” Lownds said. “I told the team the other day, ‘You win your October meets in August. It depends on what you put in, and that determines what you can take out.’”
The Hawks will open the season with a home meet Tuesday against Holy Cross, St. Paul and Watertown.