By Ken Morse
The Naugatuck indoor track teams will head into the NVL championship meet this season with much to prove, even though they are the two-time defending champions. A lot of talent has graduated over the course of the last two seasons.
Coach Ralph Roper, along with his staff of assistant coaches, has been hard at work trying to put all the pieces in place to make another run at the title.
“We did lose a lot of talented athletes to graduation over the last two seasons,” admitted Roper. “But I will say the kids we have here, come everyday willing to work hard and put the work in order to get better. From a coaching standpoint, you really can’t ask much more than that.”
Even with all the personnel changes, the Greyhounds bring a talented core of athletes to the track and will be more than ready to line up at the starting gate come championship time.
Seniors Dan Anderson (hurdles), Sheldon Barnes (long jump), Joe Cervone (relays) and Zack McCasland (mid-distance) will be key performers on the boys side, along with junior distance runners Jason Costa, Eddie Dalton and Luke Dalton.
The girls have senior leadership in Zahra Bayonne (relays), Wilnye Joseph (high jump), Briana Rubas (throws) and Layla Nemeth (relays). There are also talented juniors, including Sydney Connolly (mid-distance), Lily Jason (hurdles), Divine Kabongo (long jump) and Lily Dalton (distance).
“We have a solid group of athletes that have a couple of years experience under their belt,” said Roper. “We will be relying on their experience and leadership when the stakes get high at championship time. The competition in the NVL is always a concern. You have to be at the top of your game and we are slowly building up to that. Overall team depth is what will carry you in a competition of this magnitude.” Roper continued: “We need all hands on deck and we have a very strong group of younger athletes that can make a difference and be our money makers. And if they are successful the team as a whole will be successful.”
Roper mentioned the impact of freshmen distance runners Aiden Hasipi and Kenial Scale on the boys side, along with sophomores Jaiden Roach in the 300 and John Deitelbaum in the jumps.
The girls are loaded with talent at the sophomore level with runners Gwen Marneghi, Susana Rego and Jezaiah Ramos pushing one another to succeed. Chloe Tome has been hard at work perfecting her performance in the pole vault.
“When it comes championship time I know these athletes will be there,” added Roper. “I’m excited for the kids. This will be their opportunity to shine and with all the hard work they have been putting in I know we will have a good day on the track.
“Woodland is going to be tough. Watertown always has some very competitive athletes. You can never count out Seymour or Oxford. We will certainly have our hands full but if we go out and perform the way I know we can perform, we will be competitive and that’s all you can ask for.”