BY KEN MORSE
The Naugatuck boys and girls indoor track team made a whole lot of noise last season and even snuck up on a few unsuspecting competitors. There will be no sneaking up on anyone this time around as teams throughout the NVL will be looking to unseat the defending champions.
The Greyhounds graduated a solid group of athletes that got them to the mountain top last season, including two members of the girls 4×400-meter relay team that earned All-American honors and a State Open title, Allison Murphy and Julia Kropo. That relay returned Lauren Sonksi and Lily Jason.
Coach Ralph Roper did not return to an empty cupboard. In fact he did help to usher in a couple of more freshmen on the girls side to bolster the overall depth of the team.
Newcomers Lauren Kropo (sprints), Gwen Marenghi and Chloe Tome (distance) head up a strong freshman class to join the up-and-coming talents of sophomores Lily Jason (relays), Sydney Connolly (mid distance), Dvine Kabongo (hurdles) and Lily Dalton (distance).
Seniors Lauren Sonski (relays), Ayana Williams (throws), Jayda Costa and Leticia DoNascimento (distance) form a solid nucleus of leadership along with Serene Parker (hurdles). Jaesah Perry, Leilani Marsh and Jodie Saint Paul take care of jumps.
“For a few years there, we had low numbers on the girls side,” said Roper. “Now we are seeing a reversal of that trend. And as the girls team grows so do the expectations. Wilmye Joseph and Jaseah Perry just qualified for the states in the high jump. Every meet we are adding to our totals of athletes that qualified for the states.
“We have a group of freshman who are hitting the ground running. Every time Gwenn Marenghi hits the track she is knocking double digits off her time by ten and twenty seconds if not more.
Roper continued: “Lauren Kropo broke the school record in the 300 (41.28) in only the third time she ran that race. At the Elm City meet the girl – Victoria Francis of Windsor – that beat her by two-tenths of a second was last years state champion. Both of there times are the top two in the state.”
Roper is looking forward to some exciting results at this year’s NVL indoor track championship slated for this coming Friday at the Floyd Athletic Complex in New Haven.
The boys have a strong group of seniors wanting to defend their title led by Shayne Hasipi and Brendan Lyles, two distance runners that helped the cross country team secure an NVL title last fall.
Senior Jayden Bartelle has become a leader in the jumps, along with Cordell Jones in the pole vault, Matt Davy in the sprint, and Justice Santiago in the throws. It’s in the underclassmen that the Hounds’ depth begins to take hold.
Juniors Dan Anderson (55 hurdles), Zach McCasland (mid-distance), DJ Ottowell (throws), Joe Cervone and Manase Mutshima (relays) all figure to make a difference for the Hounds come championship race day.
“The boys don’t have the same numbers as the girls,” said Roper. “But we are still competitive in most events. We are still looking to shore up our sprints and add some depth.”
BY KEN MORSE