Hawks hit the finish line unbeaten

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Woodland’s Colin Slavin runs during a cross country meet with Seymour Oct. 14 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. Slavin won the boys’ meet. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

BEACON FALLS — When it comes to going the distance, the Woodland boys and girls cross country teams are always in the running.

The boys and girls teams both finished the shortened season undefeated at 5-0. The Hawks didn’t get the chance to land a divisional championship due to the Naugatuck Valley League canceling the postseason because of COVID-19 concerns.

“There were several factors that went into the decision to cancel the postseason,” Woodland head coach Jeff Lownds said. “When you look at the whole picture, I’m just happy we were able to have a season at all, with all things considered.”

Senior captains Noah Behrle and Nick Santovasi led the boys along with fellow seniors Mike Bunce, Martin Swercewski and Gerrit Wissink.

Junior Colin Slavin set the pace. He won all five races, including a career-best time of 16 minutes, 37 seconds in an Oct. 27 meet against Naugatuck.

“We had Mike (Bunce) who came over from the football team,” Lownds said. “That helped us out since one of last year’s best runners, Martin (Swercewski), had surgery in the offseason. But he was there at every meet and helped out where he could. That’s the kind of commitment that allows us to be so successful.”

Juniors Eric Meade, Chase Young, Elias Sturdevant and Cole Verrelli, sophomore Kayo Niebrzydowski, and freshmen Sam Ambrocio and Nicholas LaChapelle were mainstays in the varsity lineup.

Senior captains Jaden Young and Brooke Iannone led the way for the girls along with seniors Rebecca Benoit, Madison Piscitelli and Judy Lippa.

Woodland’s Chloe Poulos, followed by Brooke Iannone and Jaden Young, sets the early pace during a cross country meet with Seymour Oct. 14 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

The girls team also had a topnotch performer in junior Chloe Poulos, who won each race this season and posted a career-best time of 18:31 against Naugatuck.

Juniors Kim Poulos, Kayla Drmic and Kasey Beard, sophomore Kate Foley, and freshmen Madison Aucoin, Ireland Starziski and Payton Kane gave the Hawks a deep lineup and made their presence felt.

“I’m happy for our seniors that they got to compete since we lost the spring season,” said Lownds, who also coaches track at Woodland. “We had good leadership and I couldn’t ask for better captains to lead the way.”

“I’m very fortunate to coach at Woodland,” he added. “They are a great group of kids and they really like being a part of the program. You tend to put a little more into it when you are happy doing something and the success comes with that.”

The Hawks return their top runners in Slavin and Chloe Poulos next season and will once again look to set the pace in the NVL.

“We have Colin and Chloe coming back to lead the boys and the girls teams, so we are in pretty good shape going forward,” Lownds said. “We also have a very deep team on both sides that are very good runners. So I expect us to be right there next season as well.”