Hawks up for the challenge

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The Woodland boys and girls outdoor track teams boat a robust senior class that will look to lead the Hawks to the top of the NVL once again. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
The Woodland boys and girls outdoor track teams boat a robust senior class that will look to lead the Hawks to the top of the NVL once again. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — Winning a championship isn’t the hardest thing to do in sports. Repeating as champions is what sets a team apart.

The Woodland boys and girls track teams come into the spring season with a huge target on their backs. But the Hawks are up for the challenge and the rest the NVL better be ready for some stiff competition.

The Woodland boys come into the outdoor season as the three-time defending NVL champs. The girls are the two-time defending league champs and fresh off a four-peat at the 2015 NVL Indoor championships.

That’s a whole lot of hardware in the Hawks trophy case. It may be time to designate an entire wing just to show off the prowess of the Woodland track program ably manned by the coaching staff of Jeff Lownds (girls) and Tim Shea (boys).

However, with each passing year more athletes graduate. Attrition can take its toll on even the best well-oiled machines, and the Hawks are no exception.

The boys lost three kingpins, Mike Lang, Levi Fancher and Jack Pinho, to graduation after finishing third in Class MM last season.

“We graduated a lot of points and experience from last year’s team,” said Shea, whose indoor team fell off the pace to fourth at this year’s NVL indoor championship. “However, this year’s group is very eager and is working extremely hard to live up to that expectation. We will have to be ready to compete at a very high level week in and week out. The NVL is a tough league, and I’d like to think that we will be in the mix come championship time.”

Seniors Tom Bethin and Dean Conway return as part of the 4×400 relay team that took gold at last year’s NVL meet. Juniors Jeff Giusto and Jim Jenson were part of the relay squad that ran to gold in the 4×800 relay last year and return to defend their title. Senior Drew Chura will be looking to go out as an NVL champion in the pole vault.

Senior mid-distance runners Jeff Moffat and Zach Norieka will team up with seniors Chris McDonald in the throws and hurdler Pat Hale to keep the Hawks at the top of the pack.

Juniors Sean McAllen and Tyler Collodel in the sprints and Brandon Clifford in the jumps give Woodland some more veteran experience.

Seniors Dylan Abaruza, Brian Guerrera and Dylan Fidalgo join the mix this season along with juniors Dave Bobbie, Tristan Baxter, Brian Sarinskas and Colton Cronin and a host of others as 69 boys give Woodland its largest team ever.

The girls team took a little less of a hit from graduation and is primed to be the team to beat heading into the spring season.

The Hawks are simply loaded with talent led by senior Jazmyn Menzies, who was named the MVP and won the Outstanding Field Award at the 2015 NVL indoor championship, and senior Clara Drozdowski, who won Outstanding Distance Award at the indoor meet.

The ship is steered by Lownds, who has racked up a 160-34 record in his 13 seasons at the helm.

“We return several All-NVL athletes and hope to be among the top teams in the league,” Lownds said. “We will attend several invitationals looking to qualify as many athletes as possible for the state Class M meet.”

Senior co-captain Menzies returns as the NVL champion in the high jump and long jump and was a key performer in the relays as the Hawks swept all three events at the NVL championship meet last season.

Senior Abby Rosato returns as the NVL champion in the discus. Senior co-captain Marisa Macek and juniors Bianca Poehailos, Lisa Thrasher, Haleigh Resnick and Ava Capuano return as part of winning relay squads.

Seniors Meg Lynch, Clara Atallah, Courtney Jurzynski, Emma Poryanda, Katie Bolduc and Rosalina Santos along with Christine and Michelle Angrand give the Hawks a veteran presence. Juniors Lauren Lombardo and Alexis Casimiro along with sophomore Samantha Plasky add to the depth of a talented squad.

“We view ourselves as a state program, and we want to continue to excel in the league and the state,” Lownds said. “We lost some key athletes to graduation, but we have an awful lot of experience coming back.”

The Hawks are scheduled to open the season Wednesday by hosting Bullard Haven and Kaynor Tech. Woodland will be back on the track April 14 at home versus Crosby and Oxford.