By Kevin Roberts, Republican-American
“We’re all in this together” is a phrase that’s been heard more and more often during this truncated high school fall sports season.
For Woodland cross country, that phrase has figurative and literal meanings.
The Hawks have twin sisters and a sister-brother combination, along with another pair of brothers, who are not twins.
There are two cousins who are running together. There’s also a younger brother who carries on his family name after the graduation of his standout older sister.
“We kind of have an atmosphere that we’re all in this together, and you really are if you have a brother or sister with you,” Woodland coach Jeff Lownds said after his team swept Oxford on Oct. 13, which was senior day.
Jaden Young was one of several seniors honored Oct. 13. Her younger brother, Chase, is a junior.
“This is like a big social outlet for us. We get to be with our siblings,” Jaden Young said. “I’m friends with my brother’s friends, and he’s friends with my friends, so it works out.”
Chloe and Kim Poulos are juniors, and they are also twins.
“We get along pretty well, so it’s pretty fun to chill together and support each other,” Chloe Poulos said.
“We run different times, so I don’t really compare myself to her, but I think it’s just fun being on a team together,” Kim Poulos said. “It’s a different environment to be around with each other, rather than just school or home.”
Cross country is a good release, a “deep breathe area,” as Chloe Poulos put it.
“The whole team is extremely close,” Chloe Poulos said. “Everyone just kind of comes together.”
Jaden and Chase Young have different workouts and run in different races, but they still talk strategy.
“It’s good to have someone to discuss things with,” Jaden Young said.
“We kind of push each other, motivate each other,” Chase Young said.
And the motivation that the runners, including siblings, give each other is never negative, according to Lownds.
“They’re very good at encouraging each other,” Lownds said.
For Colin Slavin, a standout junior, last year brought an opportunity to be on the same team with his older sister, Emma, who graduated this past June.
“It was good to always have someone to talk to and have someone who I knew and could always count on,” Colin Slavin said. “It was a big common interest our whole life, really. We both love running, and it was good to be on the same team after not for such a long time.”
Colin said Emma has been a huge help, whether it’s training tips or motivation.
“I’d be nowhere close to where I am today if I didn’t have her,” Colin said.
Woodland has not only had brothers and sisters running during the same seasons, but they are also successful.
“We’ve been lucky in a sense, because we’ve either had an older brother or older sister,” Lownds said. “It’s almost kind of been self-generating. A lot of times, if you have a sister who’s successful and a younger brother who comes along, like Emma and Colin, they just worked, and it works for the team.”
Emma Slavin, an All-NVL and All-State cross country runner as a senior, had a tremendous career. Colin Slavin was part of a boys championship team as a freshman and is carving out his own legacy. Jaden Young was All-State in indoor track, and Chase Young is a solid runner. Chloe Poulos has been All-State in cross country, and Kim Poulos has accumulated league medals in her career.
It doesn’t stop with these juniors and seniors. Junior Kasey Beard and sophomore Kate Foley are runners, and they are also cousins. Junior Cole Verrelli and freshman Luke Verrelli are brothers. The sibling legacy extends back into previous years as well. Senior Madison Piscitelli is the younger sister of Nick Piscitelli, who graduated in 2019. Sophomore Ervin Owusu is the younger brother of Diondra Owusu, who graduated in June.
What does it mean to be part of such a close program?
“It gives us more friendships and opportunities,” Chase Young said.
Both the Woodland boys and girls stayed perfect in the regular season by defeating Naugatuck on Oct. 27. The boys posted a tight, 27-30 win, while the girls cruised to a 15-45 victory.
Colin Slavin continued his terrific season on the boys side by winning in 16:37. Eric Meade Jr. (fourth, 17:46), Chase Young (fifth, 17:49), Sam Ambrocio (eighth, 18:51), Elias Sturdevant (ninth, 19:01) and Cole Verrelli (10th, 19:13) placed in the top ten.
The Hawks coasted on the girls side thanks again to the terrific running of Chloe Poulos, who won in 18:31. Woodland took nine of the top 10 spots: Jaden Young (second, 20:11), Ireland Starziski (third, 21:31), Brooke Iannone (fourth, 21:35), Kim Poulos (fifth, 22:03), Kayla Drmic (sixth, 22:39), Kate Foley (seventh, 22:42), Madison Aucoin (ninth, 22:46) and Kasey Beard (10th, 22:52).
Woodland is set to finish the regular season Nov. 3 versus Derby. The divisional championship races are set for Nov. 14 at Veteran’s Park in Watertown.
Kyle Brennan contributed to this report.