Greyhounds stayed the course

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Naugatuck’s Julia Kropo is congratulated by Naugatuck cross country coach Bill Hanley after a meet against Woodland Oct. 27 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. Kropo, a junior, led the girls team this season. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys and girls cross country teams hit the trails this season not really knowing what to expect.

The opportunity to run in a Copper Division championship race proved to be a motivational factor as the season came to a close, but the Naugatuck Valley League canceled the postseason amid surging COVID-19 cases.

Naugatuck head coach Bill Hanley said the kids were looking forward to the race. He said the decision to cancel the postseason a couple days before the race came as a bit of a surprise, but was ultimately the right choice.

“I think they made a wise decision,” he said. “Keeping the athletes safe and healthy is, after all, our number one priority.”

Hanley said not having divisional meet to cap the season did nothing to diminish the year.

“If you told me in August that we would make it to November I would have celebrated,” he said. “So we didn’t get a chance to run in the divisional races, but it by no means diminishes the fact that we were fortunate to make it this far in the season and I know the kids were thankful for that.”

The Naugy boys, who won the NVL title last season, finished this year’s divisional run 3-1.

Seniors Jon Volpe, Chris Cook, Dan Fine, Kevin Healy, Justin Stone and Peter Mullin set the example for the younger runners.

Junior Matt Nofri, sophomores Brendan Lyles and Shayne Hasipi, and freshman Zach McCasland were among the varsity runners that kept the Greyhounds competitive.

“We had some awesome freshmen,” Hanley said. “And they all got better as the season went along by just following the example set by our senior leadership.”

The girls team finished the season 1-3.

Seniors Viola Cermenika, Britney Soubannarath and Gina Conforti provided leadership to build a solid foundation for the future.

Junior Julia Kropo led the squad on the course in each race. Kropo and fellow junior Alyssa Jones give the Greyhounds a pair of strong leaders next season.

Sophomore Angelina Pires and two freshmen, Phoebe Jagello and Autumn Tansley, continued to improve throughout the season and will be relied on to assume bigger roles next year.

Hanley said he’s looking forward to the development of Jagello and Tansley on the course.

Overall, he said, the future looks promising for the Greyhounds.

“The future looks bright if they continue to work hard and look to improve,” Hanley said. “Matt (Nofri) is one of the most hardest workers and always wants to succeed, and he will be a strong leader for us next season.”