NAUGATUCK — Athletes are always looking for a little extra motivation to take their efforts to the next level. The Naugatuck indoor track team has all the motivation it needs this season with a chip on its shoulder.
Last year at the conclusion of the Naugatuck Valley League indoor championship meet, Naugatuck boarded the bus with a championship title. By the time the Greyhounds arrived home, head coach Ralph Roper got the shock of his life.
Officials decided after Naugy left that during the final event, jumper Amanze Williams was disqualified and Naugatuck actually finished second.
Through four meets this season, the ‘Hounds appear to be a team on a mission, trying to replace key athletes and earn the league title.
“We lost a good core of athletes from last year,” Roper said. “The boys team lost our two main go-to guys in Amanze Williams and Jamaal Gee. But we have a solid group of returning athletes and a strong core of younger athletes who are beginning to come into their own.”
Muad Hrezi and Nick Moriello, both all-state cross country runners, lead the long distance for the ‘Hounds. Jake Simons (distance), Colton Wagner (pole vault), Kyle Johnson (long jump), Matt Harris (sprints), Colin Reilly (sprints), Issac Montiero (high jump) and Mike Uva (distance) give the Greyhounds the experience to put last year behind them and push forward in their quest to become the top team in the NVL at the league meet on Jan. 31.
Through four meets — the Hillhouse and Yale invitationals, the Winter Relays and recently the NVL Copper Division developmental meet — the Greyhounds have seen solid performances from the up and coming members of the team.
Patrick Alves (pole vault) along with freshman Josh Rodriguez (sprints), Brian Reilly (sprints/hurdles), Mike Nanadoum (jumps) and Dan Schumacher (distance) have all made significant contributions already towards the teams overall success.
“All of our freshmen have really put up some solid performances,” Roper said. “Dan has the second-fastest time on the team in the mile. I anticipate all of our younger athletes will give us a solid contribution and make us a stronger team as the NVL championship meet approaches later this month.”
The girls are also much improved from last season, significantly helped by a sharp rise in the team’s size.
“We have also seen a vast improvement with the girls team,” Roper said. “Last year we only had 13 girls but this year the numbers are up to 35 athletes.”
The Greyhounds are led by seniors Shannon Hale (distance) and Georgette Nixon (sprints) along with juniors Brianna Ritter (throws) and Alexi Simmons (jumps).
“Shannon put up a career best of 9.8 [seconds] in the 55 meter hurdles at the NVL developmental meet,” Roper said. “Brianna is a first-time indoor track athlete after two years of basketball and really has come on, reaching over 31 feet in the shot put at the Hillhouse Invitational.”
Naugatuck also relies on a core of strong contributors with sophomores Jordyn Allen (distance), Kaitlyn Berry (sprints) and Madison Kloc (jumps) along with freshman Abby Karbowicz (jumps/sprints) to make the Greyhounds a solid contender at the NVL championships.
“Yeah, we might have come into the season with a little chip on our shoulder,” Roper said. “But the team is really motivated and we should be a very competitive team once the NVL championships roll around.”