BEACON FALLS — Can the Woodland girls make it an unprecedented nine straight Naugatuck Valley League indoor track championships?
The Hawks have enough gold medal-caliber athletes, but the title might actually come down to a few other people.
“It’s all going to come down to how we match things up as coaches and see if our chess moves beat the other teams,” Woodland coach Jeff Lownds said.
Oftentimes, the NVL track meets come down to the way athletes match up across different events. Woodland figures to boast some of the best female competitors Monday night at New Haven’s Floyd Little Athletic Center, but they’ll have to fit together in the right arrangement to top other contenders such as Naugatuck, Seymour and Watertown.
“There will be some areas where we won’t be as strong as some other teams, but there are areas where we will be better than other teams,” said Lownds, who planned on setting the Hawks’ entry list last weekend with boys coach Bill Ferrare and assistant coach Mario Longo.
A group of familiar athletes will once again lead the Woodland girls, including Emma Slavin, Jaden Young, Jade Brennan, Hailey Bernier, Jill Brotherton, Jasmine Michie, Caitlin Marvin and Rebecca Benoit.
“They’ve been there before, so we’re relying on them,” Lownds said.
Michie has enjoyed a tremendous regular season during which she’s broken her own school record in the shot put multiple times. She started the year by throwing in the high 35-foot range, but she’s all the way up to 37 feet, 6 1/2 inches — good for third best in Class S.
“She keeps breaking her school record week after week,” Lownds said. “She’s just remarkable with shot put. She trains hard every day. We’re really lucky to have Mike Sirowich to work with our throwers, and Jasmine has responded really well to him.”
Lownds added that Michie has been a role model for younger throwers Amber Rosato and Cassidy Doiron.
“(They) have improved each week in shot put, so we’re hoping to have them produce something for us,” Lownds said.
While many will focus on Woodland’s effort to win the league title for a ninth straight season, Lownds said that hasn’t really been a topic of conversation among the team.
“They understand what they have to do to make things happen,” Lownds said. “We don’t stress it as coaches. We don’t want to put extra pressure on our athletes. We don’t talk about it. It’s a real nice thing to know that you’re part of that, but the other side of that can be counterproductive. We’ll tell them offhandedly sometimes, ‘We’ve won eight in a row, let’s win another one,’ but we don’t brow-beat it into them. That’s not our style.”
The Woodland boys aren’t expected to challenge for the league championship, but this could be an important meet for a team that is largely dominated by young athletes. Eric Meade and Colin Slavin could be the Hawks’ best chances for individual medalists.
“The good thing with our boys team is despite the fact that we’re relying a lot on underclassmen, we have some good ones,” Lownds said. “We’re looking forward to some big performances from our young guys, and that should help us for the next few years. We’ve got some talent with them. They’ve been receptive to (coaching).”
Freshmen Ervin Owusu and Alex Farr will be key runners in the Hawks’ relays.
“They’ve really shown a lot of promise for us,” Lownds said. “It’s going to be a good experience for them to get into some really heated competition in the league. They’ve done well when we’ve taken them to bigger venues. They’ve run at Hillhouse a few times, so they’re used to it.”
The NVL championships are set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Monday in New Haven.