BEACON FALLS — Coming off their most successful seasons in years, the Woodland boys and girls cross country teams are excited about their prospects for this fall.
The Woodland boys, who went 12-4 last regular season before finishing sixth at the Naugatuck Valley League championships, lost several talented seniors who routinely led the Hawks’ results. They included captain Ian Chamenko, an All-NVL Brass Division runner last season, and fellow leaders Kyle Beynor, Joe Reynolds and Dave Terni.
But other top runners from last season return, including junior Dean Conway and sophomore Jeff Giusto, who both placed among Woodland’s top six at the 2012 NVL meet.
There isn’t a single senior on the boys roster, which features three juniors and a slew of underclassmen. Dean and PJ Conway join Zach Noreika among the junior class while eight sophomores — Giusto, Matt Butterworth, Jimmy Jensen, Collin Blewitt, Chris Pinevich, Pat Vogel, Donovan White and Brian Sardinskas — comprise most of the roster.
Head coach Jeff Lownds, who has been with the program since its inception, is excited about the youth movement that also includes freshmen Colin Kennelly, Paul Jones, Hayden Bartlett and Matt Giaquinto.
“We have several younger runners who are freshmen and sophomores who will have a major impact on our program,” said Lownds, who has amassed a 101-51 record in 12 seasons with the boys. “We are working hard in practice and we want to be among the better teams in the NVL.”
The Woodland girls may be more of a threat this season with a deep group of returning runners. They include senior Mary Sardinskas, who earned All-NVL honors with a third-place finish at the NVL championships. Woodland finished 12-3 as a team last season and placed fourth at the league meet.
Lownds named Sardinskas the lone captain for the entire program this season, citing her work ethic and leadership throughout the preseason.
She is joined at the front of the pack by sophomore Clara Drozdowski, who snagged All-Brass Division accolades last year with an 11th-place showing at the NVL meet.
Carly Giusto and Angeline Rosato join Sardinskas among the senior class, while Steph Kiley, Taylor Dragon and Elaine Ferretti comprise the junior group.
Like the boys, the girls team draws its strength in numbers from underclassmen. In addition to Drozdowski, Woodland’s roster includes sophomores Kelsey Mitchell, Kailyn Accetura, Bianca Poehailos and Kyla Porter and freshman Megan Holland, Meredith Dyckman, Julie Hinckley and Meghan Terni.
“We were fourth in the NVL last season and we hope to improve on that,” said Lownds, who sports a 111-38 record with the girls. “We have several freshman and sophomores who are working very hard and will help us have another successful season.”
The Woodland boys opened the season with decisive wins Tuesday over Abbott Tech and Bullard Havens in Danbury. Jeff Giusto won the boys meet in 19 minutes, 20 seconds, while three of his teammates — Brian Sardinskas, Butterworth, Noreika — filled out the top four.
The Hawks girls also coasted past Bullard Havens as Mary Sardinskas took the victory in 22:11. Kiley, Drozdowski, Mitchell, Poehailos, Rosato, Accetura, Porter and Dyckman gave Woodland a sweep of the top nine positions.
Woodland will compete in Saturday’s Windham Invitational before beginning the NVL season Tuesday at home against Watertown, Sacred Heart and Wilby.