NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck indoor track teams are on the inside track to competing for Naugatuck Valley League titles this season, according to coach Ralph Roper.
The Greyhounds boys and girls finished second at last year’s league championship meet in a down-to-the-wire showdown with Woodland.
The 4-by-800-meter relay team of Muad Hrezi, Nick Moriello, Jake Simons, and Collin Reilly went on to win the Class L state championship while leading Naugatuck to a third-place showing in the state meet.
Reilly is the only returning athlete from the fabulous foursome but Roper is very encouraged by an equal mixture of youth and experienced talent that will have the boys battling for an NVL title.
“That was then and this is now,” said Roper, entering his 10th season at the helm with five NVL boys titles and six NVL girls titles. “We have quite a few athletes that will bring us back into the fold of competing for an NVL title. We have a lot of new, young athletes along with quite a few first year seniors joining the boys program.”
Naugatuck will be led by seniors Reilly and Mike Uva in the mid-to-long-distance events. Senior sprinters Patrick Alves, Nate Buie, and Isaque Monteiro give the ‘Hounds a solid core of runners that will take up the slack in the relays.
“We will be hard pressed to replace the 4-by-800 team but we do have the potential to put up a solid challenge for a title with our 4-by-400 team,” Roper said.
Junior thrower James SanAngelo, sophomore distance runner Dan Schumacher and sophomore sprinter Brian Reilly will also be key factors in filling some of the void.
Newcomers are senior mid-distance runners Mike D’Agnone and Justin Jimenez along with a trio of sprinters: junior Thales Silva, sophomore Enrique DeJesus, and freshman Danny Silva.
“The team is committed to the hard work that being successful requires,” said Roper, who is assisted by Bill Hanley and Matt Basile. “They all show a lot of potential and it’s our job to find an event for them to be at home with.
The Naugatuck girls team has a lot of young athletes that Roper feels can be become impact performers.
“We have some strong, experienced leaders in our seniors, Brianna Ritter in the throws and Samantha Hilse in the distance events,” Roper said. “But I think the key to our success is the enthusiasm of our younger girls like freshman (sprinter) Ariana Alvarado, who I had at Hop Brook School.”
Junior distance runner Jordyn Allen and sophomore hurdles and jumpers Carla Soares and Harmony Sturdivant give the Greyhounds a well-rounded lineup.
Newcomers to watch include sophomore distance runner Lindsey Thoren, freshmen Hehi Cheng, and Melissa Goja in the sprints and freshman Courtney Morin in the distance.
“We want them to keep their focus and build their confidence to be successful,” Roper said. “But we have some work to do. I certainly don’t want the NVL championship to end up in another photo finish.”