MANCHESTER — The Naugatuck boys and girls cross country team ran their final race of the season Saturday at the Class L state meet at Wickham Park in Manchester.
The boys team finished 16th out of the 25 teams that competed. The girls team only had four athletes finish the race due to injury. Teams need five finishers to score as a team.
“Wickham Park is a tough and demanding course, much different from Veterans Park where the NVL championship was held,” Naugatuck head coach Bill Hanley said. “It was a good experience for such a young team, but I think next season we will work out there more often before the states.”
Naugatuck entered the season armed with only three seniors to lead the way.
The boys were led by senior brothers Ross and Elliot Via. Ross Via finished 49th in 18:26 at the Class L meet, and Elliott Via finished 53rd in 18:28.
The girls were led this season by senior Briana Lennon, who finished with a time of 25:43 (130th) last Saturday.
“We only had three seniors to lead the way this season,” Hanley said. “That bodes well for the future. We even brought some freshmen up there who didn’t race just so they could experience the environment of a Class L meet. Hopefully that experience will give them the desire to put in the work in the offseason and comeback ready to compete harder next year.”
Austin Herb (155th, 21:13), David Garces (159th, 21:18), Charlie Marenghi (75th, 18:55), Brendon Soubannarath (118th, 19:43) and Bryce Cegielski (150th, 20:50) competed at Wickham Park for Naugatuck.
The Greyhounds’ times were higher than the week before at the NVL meet, where the boys finished third.
“I could see a few of our kids struggling out there,” Hanley said. “It’s a tough course, and we did some mile repeats up there earlier in the season but definitely would benefit if we did more work on it next year prior to the states.”
The girls will also look forward to a young group of returning runners next season, including sophomore Lauren Rupsis, who led the team at the Class L meet by finishing 106th in 24:29.
A pair of freshmen also made their mark this season with Brittany Soubannarath (141st, 27:11) and Gina Conforti (145th, 28:08) getting their first taste of states.
Juniors Jade Lima, Kimani Grey and Jessica Maguire should also be an influence on next year’s group of runners.
“There was improvement this season even though we had a young team,” Hanley said. “Lauren (Rupsis) improved her time by a minute from last year’s Class L race. Kimani Grey went from 39 minutes down to 32 minutes.
“For most of the team this year was going there and seeing what it takes to compete at that level. It was more of a learning experience this year.”