With a fourth-place finish in the Class SS cross country championships and a pair of All-State runners for the first time in a decade, there wasn’t much Woodland cross country coach Jeff Lownds could do to hide his feelings about his Hawks.
“This is a very special group of girls,” Lownds said. “They really are the best girls team overall that’s ever run here, and I’ve had some really, really good ones.”
Woodland placed fourth in the Class SS girls race Oct. 26 at Wickham Park in Manchester. Emma Slavin (sixth, 20:45) and Chloe Poulos (11th, 21:04) paced the Hawks and earned All-State honors, becoming the first Woodland harriers to achieve that feat since Brittany Albright and Crystal Steinfeld did it in 2009.
Calisa Costanzo (15th), Brooke Iannone (27th) and Jill Brotherton (33rd) rounded out the scoring for Woodland, which scored 92 points to place behind Haddam-Killingworth (61), Immaculate (64) and Rocky Hill (80).
“That was a really tough bracket,” said Lownds, who compared times among other divisions and found that the Hawks would have placed second in Class S and third in Class M. “We did our absolute best. I’m very, very pleased with the results we turned in.”
The Woodland boys tallied an 11th-place finish in Class M. Colin Slavin (35th, 18:17) crossed first for the Hawks, followed by Marty Swercewski (45th), Chase Young (55th), Elias Sturdevant (95th) and Eric Meade (97th).
“I am very, very proud of both of my teams,” Lownds said.
Although the boys fell short of defending their Naugatuck Valley League title, they finished 12-2 during the regular season, winning the NVL Copper Division and placing second in the league with a senior-free team.
“The boys were a work in progress each week,” Lownds said. “With younger runners, your performances will vary. Colin Slavin was consistent, but sometimes Chase Young and Marty Swercewski would finish second. Nick Santovasi, Brady Anderson and Eric Meade all came on. It was nice to know that if one guy wasn’t up to par one day, the other guys would step up. They’re still developing as runners, so I’m very lucky to have a big corps of sophomores and freshmen all coming back next year.”
The five seniors on the girls side — Slavin, Costanzo, Brotherton, Caitlin Marvin and Diondra Owusu — left a deep impact on the program. They only experienced two dual-meet losses in four years, and they absolutely dominated the NVL championships last month.
“We had seven girls at NVLs — four girls went All-NVL, the other three went All-Copper, and our JVs went 1-2-3-4,” Lownds said. “They earned that, they didn’t just get that. They weren’t overconfident, but they believed in themselves.”
Slavin and Poulos placed 82nd and 94th, respectively, at the State Open on Nov. 1 at Wickham Park, which wrapped up the most successful season in program history.
“I want to credit the athletes for understanding that you win the October races in August,” Lownds said. “They realize that you’re only as good as the work you put in.”