NAUGATUCK — One week and one day.
That was the message Naugatuck head coach Ralph Roper had for the Greyhounds’ boys track team on Monday. Simply put, the team had eight days to prepare to have a chance to win the top spot at next week’s Naugatuck Valley League championships.
“We do have an opportunity to do positive things,” Roper said of the boys team. “I told everyone we have one week and one day and this is what we need to look like.”
The blueprint is in place. Now, the ‘Hounds must execute if they want a title.
Naugatuck, now 10-1 on the season, has several athletes who rank among the best in the state in individual events. The next test will be at the NVLs on May 24.
For example, junior Muad Hrezi specializes in the distance events (1,600 and 3,200 meters), while classmate Nick Moriello has raced alongside for the Greyhounds.
“I’m so proud of those guys,” Roper said of Hrezi and Moriello.
The two have formed a formidable one-two punch in the distance category, along with the emergence of sophomore Mike Uva.
Jake Simons, one of the league’s top runners in the 400, has made the unusual switch from distance to sprints. Pat Alves joins Simons in the 4-by-800 relay and also has been a contributor in throwing events such as the pole vault.
In the 4-by-100 relay, Jammal Gee, Tom O’Brien and Iman Farimani have been the regulars for the ‘Hounds and have won key points throughout the season in dual meets. Other runners in the relay have been Amanze Williams, Nick Buie and Colin Reilly.
Williams, a senior, has been stellar in the jumps. He rates among the best in the NVL in the high, long and triple jumps.
In the throwing events, senior Dan Bronko has been among the top performers in the discus. Bronko has also made great strides in the javelin and shot put.
Senior Colton Wagner recently cleared 11 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault.
Andres Jiminez, Brandon Burgos and Farimani—all seniors—have been important newcomers this season and should be a factor next week. Jiminez has made progress in the hurdles.
“This group of seniors have come on board and done a nice job,” Roper said. “They’re impact players.”
The team’s focus has been not only physical preparation, but also mental. Roper, who was upbeat, said the team cannot afford to beat itself next week.
“It looks like the makings of a good situation,” Roper said.
On the girls side, the Greyhounds feature several athletes who will compete for the top spot in various events next week. Overall, the team focus is not only on the NVLs, but also to qualify for the states.
In the running events, junior Shannon Hale is expected to contend in several sprint events.
“Shannon has been top-notch,” Roper said.
Other sprinters include Jocelyn Brantley, Georgette Nixon and Katarina Gullotta. Brantley has been consistently placing in first or second place in the 100 and 200.
“They’ve been providing us with some good times in the dual meets,” Roper said.
In the distance events, a freshman has made a splash. Jordyn Allen has recorded one of the fastest times in the NVL in both the 1,600 and 3,200.
“We’re looking for some big things from Jordyn,” Roper said.
Throwers Breanna Ritter and Monica Niebrzydowski have been impressive. Ritter has shown great improvement in the discus.
“She’s throwing a foot further recently,” Roper said of Ritter’s progress.
In the jumping events, Sarah Konops has been stellar. She has already qualified for the states and expects to among the top performers next week at the NVLs.
The ‘Hounds have received tremendous leadership throughout the season from Gabby Moriello and Becky Renzoni, both seniors. Both have been unsung heroes, according to Roper.
Moriello (relays) and Renzoni (pole vault) both skipped a field trip recently and helped the ‘Hounds to a win over Torrington. Moriello ran the anchor in the 4-by-400 event and led Naugy to victory.
“They showed commitment to the team,” Roper said. “That’s the kind of kids they are.”
While the girls have many individual possibilities, the goal remains the same for the entire team.
“We have an opportunity to qualify for the states,” Roper said of the girls team. “That’s our focus.”