‘Moneymakers’ on the track

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Naugatuck's Collin Reilly runs to a first place finish in the 800 meter during a tri-meet in April. Reilly, a decorated senior athlete, has stepped forward as a leader for the Greyhounds this season. –RA ARCHIVE
Naugatuck’s Collin Reilly runs to a first place finish in the 800 meter during a tri-meet in April. Reilly, a decorated senior athlete, has stepped forward as a leader for the Greyhounds this season. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — A successful track team can have 100 or more athletes all working for the same common goal: victory. Among those hundred or so, there are the few athletes that Naugatuck coach Ralph Roper likes to call “the moneymakers.”

The Greyhounds have certainly boasted their share of moneymakers over the past decade-plus with plenty of league titles to show for it. It’s no different this season. The ‘Hounds have two very hard-working athletes in Collin Reilly and Madison Beasley who have gone the distance.

The 8-1 boys team has a determined senior in Reilly, who already has earned multiple all-league and all-state honors in his career. Reilly made his mark at last year’s Naugatuck Valley League championships when he was part of a foursome that broke the league record in the 4-by-800-meter relay with a time of 8 minutes, 5.40 seconds. The squad went on to land a state championship, as well.

“Collin doesn’t really love the long distance races,” said Naugatuck assistant coach Bill Hanley, who handles the distance runners. “But he did run two years of cross country and went to running camp over the offseason. He does real well in the relays and the 400 and 800.”

Reilly is the only returning member of last year’s 4-by-800 team and as a senior feels like one of the leaders to keep the team on track. He geared up for his senior outdoor season by winning the 1,000 at the NVL indoor championships and guiding the 4-by-800 foursome to an NVL title and another state championship. Reilly also won the state championship in the 600 at the Class L indoor meet.

“After the success I had in my junior year it was really exciting preparing for my senior year,” Reilly said. “We lost three of our 4-by-800 runners from last year so I knew I had to be the leader and try and keep this going. I knew I had to step up into a leadership role coming into this season and I was prepared for it.”

So far this year Reilly has excelled in the 400 and the 800 along with running legs in the 4-by-400 and 4-by-800 relays.

“My role this year has definitely changed from last year,” Reilly added. “There is a lot more responsibility and expectations on my part. But I don’t worry about the competition because the only thing I can control is what I do on the track and how I perform.”

The Naugy girls lost quite a bit of talent from last season so their 7-2 start is a bit of a surprise in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Beasley has taken the league by storm and has delivered performances that were hardly expected.

Naugatuck's Madison Beasley, left, overtakes Woodland's Mary Sardinskas in the final 100 meters of the 1,600 meter run for the first varsity win of her career during a meet last month. Beasley, a junior, battled shin issues her first two seasons and has been an unexpected surprise for the Greyhounds this year. –RA ARCHIVE
Naugatuck’s Madison Beasley, left, overtakes Woodland’s Mary Sardinskas in the final 100 meters of the 1,600 meter run for the first varsity win of her career during a meet last month. Beasley, a junior, battled shin issues her first two seasons and has been an unexpected surprise for the Greyhounds this year. –RA ARCHIVE

“Madison was certainly not on our radar,” Hanley said. “She has battled shin issues for the past two years and, honestly, most athletes wouldn’t have even bothered to try it again for a third year. But she has shown what hard work, determination and a never-give-up attitude can do for you.”

In two seasons Beasley, who ran cross country as well, never had a varsity win. In the season opener at Woodland, Beasley surprised her coaches, her parents and — most of all — herself as she came from back in the pack to win her first varsity race in the 1,600.

“It was so unexpected when I won that race at Woodland,” Beasley said. “It was an unbelievable feeling because I had never won a race before. But I did a lot of work in the offseason and was just happy to be able to compete again. It has taken a little bit to get used to winning but I’m getting a little more confident with each race I run.”

Beasley had better get used to it. After finishing just tenths of a second out of first place in the 3,200 at Woodland, the junior sensation hasn’t lost a race.

She won the 1,600 and 3,200 at Watertown and in the process qualified for the state meet in both events. Last week at Holy Cross, Beasley was back in the winner’s circle again with first-place finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200. She also runs a leg in the 4-by-800 relay and the girls team is well ahead of schedule at this point in the season.

“I’m still trying to figure out the game plan as I prepare for a race,” Beasley added. “I try and stay with the pack, settling in second or third place, allowing me the opportunity to make my move before we head down the stretch. In between indoor and outdoor I upped my mileage by 10 or 15 miles to get ready for outdoors. I dropped a couple of minutes in cross country and I knew I would be dropping some times at outdoors but nothing quite like this. This has been really amazing.”