NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys and girls cross country teams are looking to present a challenge to the rest of the Naugatuck Valley League as the season draws near.
Last season the boys compiled a 10-1 mark, winning the Copper Division, finishing as runner-up in the NVL to Watertown, and placing ninth at the Class L state meet. The girls went 7-4, finishing fifth in the NVL, and placing 17th at the Class L state meet.
This season, boys head coach Bill Hanley, entering his 8th season with a 70-3 career ledger, will take over the girls squad as coach Keith Raczkowski stepped down after 26 years at the helm.
Assistant coaches Matt Basile and Steve Frank have been hard at work, putting the teams through their paces as the Greyhounds are intent on catching Watertown at the finish line.
“I think last year Watertown showed us how to work hard,” Hanley said. “These kids took it upon themselves and worked real hard over the summer, putting in 80 miles a week.”
That hunger to achieve success was evident as one by one runners came up to the coach asking to do even more work during a recent practice as temperatures bordered the 80-degree mark.
“One of the toughest jobs I have as a coach is to try and hold them back to prevent injuries,” Hanley said. “They are all so eager to put in the hard work to succeed. They certainly have a great work ethic and a passion to improve. We have quite a bit coming back especially on the boys side.”
Leading the way for the boys will be senior Muad Hrezi, last season’s Class L state champion. He also finished sixth at the State Open and 14th at the New England championship.
Seniors Nick Moriello and Jacob Simons add to the strong group of returning runners along with juniors Mike Uva, Jake Lisakolski and Colin Reilly.
Sophomores James Dorosh, Skylar Kuroski and John Caruso along with freshman Dan Schumacher add to the Greyhounds’ depth.
“This year’s team possesses talent, mental toughness and preparation,” Hanley said. “In my time as coach no team has ever run the summer miles that these guys have. If we can find a solid fourth and fifth runner we will be able to compete with the league favorites, Watertown and Wolcott.”
Senior Shannon Hale will lead the girls while juniors Julia Hayward and Samantha Hilse represent the experience coming back for the Greyhounds.
Sophomores Caitlyn Colella, Madison Beasley and Aaseesdeep Kaur along with Jordyn Allen give Naugatuck some talented options to go the extra mile in this year’s NVL race.
“This is a very talented group,” Hanley said. “We are a little young but they are very coachable. Their summer miles have put them in a position to improve on last year’s performance. Jordyn achieved a lot of success for the track team and she will be a valuable asset to the cross country team this year.
“We have six girls who are all within 30 seconds of each other,” Hanley continued. “We have a big meet this weekend at the Windham Invitational and that will tell us a lot about the team and where we need to improve. One of our goals this year is to place a team in the state open. The last time that happened was in 1983.”
The first NVL meet for the Greyhounds will be Sept. 20 when they take on Seymour and St. Paul in Bristol.