Naugy boys, Woodland girls claim cross country crowns
WATERTOWN — The day before the Naugatuck Valley League cross country championships, Woodland’s Kelsey Mitchell and Clara Drozdowski had a prediction for their head coach.
“Clara and Kelsey told me they were going to go 1-2,” Woodland cross country coach Jeff Lownds recalled standing at Veterans Memorial Park Oct. 15.
The running duo proved to be prophets. Mitchell won the race in 20:38 with Drozdowski (20:47) right behind her.
Woodland’s Steph Kiley put the icing on the cake. She finished third in 20:48 to give the Hawks a 1-2-3 finish and their second consecutive cross country championship with 34 points to second-place Watertown’s 63.
“My girls were totally dedicated today,” Lownds said. “They took it upon themselves. Last week they said, ‘We’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to be focused, and we’re going to go out and try to win the whole thing.’”
Mitchell said the push came “right before we went into the woods,” about mid-race, on the second lap of the course.
“I was just trying to get through,” she said. “I wanted to win, but it wasn’t a big thing. I just wanted the team to do well.”
Woodland’s Emilie Noreika sixth (21:10) made it four Hawks in the top 10. Bianca Poehailos rounded out the team finish at No. 22 (22:46).
“All told that’s a great team effort,” Lownds said. “They were dedicated to this from day one.”
The Naugatuck boys put on a great team effort as well on their way to a second consecutive cross country crown.
“The course was slow, the air was heavy and all you can do is give it all you have and they did,” Naugatuck cross country coach Bill Hanley said.
The Naugy boys won the championship with 31 points to runner-up Woodland’s 62. The Greyhounds were led by Dan Schumacher, who won the race in 16:12.
“It just was a good day,” Hanley said of Schumacher’s race. “I’m sure he’ll tell you it’s on the states now. It’s all about going on to states.”
Schumacher said he decided to lay it all on the line.
“I just decided to go fast today to see what happens, just to lay it all out there and hopefully pull my teammates along and they did a great job too,” Schumacher said. “I’m so happy with that.”
Schumacher had plenty of reasons to be pleased. Graden Beasley finished fourth (17:20), Brody Hale fifth (17:28), Mark Zamani sixth (17:53) and Brandon Thomas 15th (18:53) to make it five ‘Hounds in the top 20.
The Woodland boys were nipping at the heels of the Greyhounds. Led by Jeff Giusto, who finished third overall in 17:11, the Hawks also placed five runners in the top 20. Brian Sardinskas ran to seventh (18:03), James Jensen 13th (18:46), Paul Jones 19th (19:08) and Zach Noreika 20th (19:09).
“I can not say enough truly about my boys and my girls. We’re not really stars, we just work hard,” said Lownds, who added his Hawks have tremendous respect for the Naugatuck program.
The Naugatuck girls captured fifth with 149 points. Courtney Morrin led the Greyhounds with a tenth-place finish in 21:35.
Hanley was very pleased with his girls’ effort. He said it’s just of matter doing the right things in the offseason and the girls will be in the mix. The future looks bright, he added.
“We’re only losing one senior,” Hanley said, “so life is good.”
Woodland and Naugatuck will now turn their attention to states on Saturday. Naugatuck will race in the Class L meet. The Woodland boys will compete in the Class SS meet, while the girls run in the Class M meet.
The Republican American contributed to this article.