Woodland, Naugatuck get year off on the right foot

Woodland’s Colin Slavin, left, and Martin Swercewski sprint to the finish line during a meet against Watertown, St. Paul and Holy Cross Sept. 10 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. Slavin and Swercewski tied for first place. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The defending Naugatuck Valley League cross country champions couldn’t have had a much better start to the season.

The Woodland boys and girls both swept season-opening meets against St. Paul, Holy Cross and Watertown on Sept. 10 at home. The Hawks placed a combined 12 runners among the top 10 in each race.

“The entire team’s performance was excellent,” Woodland coach Jeff Lownds said. “Everyone worked to the best of their ability. This is early in the year, and those times will come down if they work for it.”

Woodland dominated the girls race, claiming the top five positions plus three more inside the top 10. Jaden Young won the race in 20 minutes, 21 seconds, followed by Emma Slavin (20:33), Calisa Costanzo (20:36), Chloe Poulos (20:38) and Jill Brotherton (21:56).

Brooke Iannone was seventh (22:32), Kayla Drmic was eighth (23:53) and Kim Poulos was 10th (24:01).

“When you have (the top) four girls — the spread was only about 20 seconds, so that’s a real good way to start the season,” Lownds said. “We have to be happy with that, but I’m also happy with Jill Brotherton, Brooke Iannone, Kayla Drmic and Kim Poulos.”

The boys race ended in a dead heat between the Hawks’ Colin Slavin and Martin Swercewski. Both finished in 17:57 after Swercewski chased down his teammate down the home stretch.

“Colin was ahead and Marty caught him right at the line,” Lownds said. “If it were a horse race, they would have shown the wire on the screen and tried to see whose nose was ahead. In my horse racing career, I’ve seen maybe two dead heats in hundreds of races. I was at the line and I couldn’t call it for one or another, and the Holy Cross coach said the same thing.”

Those two led the charge as Chase Young, one of the team’s top runners, sat out the season-opening race with a minor ankle injury that shouldn’t be an issue as the fall progresses.

“Their times were very good,” Lownds said of Slavin and Swercewski. “That being the case, when Chase comes back, we could have a nice 1-2-3 punch at the top and then a lot of support from guys behind that.”

Lownds particularly praised Swercewski, who should be one of the team’s top runners this season after missing time over his first two years with injuries.

“He had a couple of injuries his first two years, but he trained hard during the summer,” Lownds said. “He’s a good runner and so is Colin. They’re just runners. They don’t run an easy half (of a race). Their mentality is to run 3.1 miles, and if you can catch them, then go for it.”

Woodland’s Jaden Young heads to the finish line in first place during a meet against Watertown, St. Paul and Holy Cross Sept. 10 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Eric Meade (eighth, 19:38) and Brady Anderson (10th, 19:52) gave the Hawks two more runners among the top 10. Elias Sturdevant finished 12th to round out Woodland’s scoring.

“Without those guys doing what they did, the results could have been a little bit different,” Lownds said.

Woodland is set to face Sacred Heart, Derby and Kennedy Tuesday.

Naugy off to hot start, too: The Greyhounds also blitzed to a terrific start on the trails, as the boys swept their season-opening meet while the girls narrowly missed the same feat.

The Naugatuck boys sped past Sacred Heart, Oxford and Wilby on Sept. 10 by taking seven of the top eight individual spots. Charles Merenghi edged Brendon Soubannarath by just one second to win the race in 18:36.

Bryce Cegielski (third, 18:44), Matt Nofri (fourth, 18:49), Chris Cook (sixth, 19:02), Joe Macary (seventh, 19:07) and Jayshawn Lindsay (eighth, 19:27) also finished among the top 10 for the boys.

The Naugy girls cruised past Oxford and Wilby, but the Greyhounds fell one point shy of the sweep against Sacred Heart. Julia Kropo led the ‘Hounds with a second-place finish in 23:23. Lauren Rupsis (fourth, 24:43) and Viola Cermeninka (10th, 28:20) also made the top 10.

The Greyhounds’ performance pleased head coach Bill Hanley.

“The team showed discipline at the start of the race and during the first mile. That put them in position to deal with the summer like temperatures and a significant hill in the second mile of the course,” Hanley said.

The Greyhounds are set to host Torrington and St. Paul Tuesday.