BY KEN MORSE
For the second week in a row, Naugatuck senior Allison Murphy came off the last turn of the girls 4×400-meter relay looking to close the gap as coach Ralph Roper shouted out instructions from the sidelines and the Greyhounds faithful roaring their approval.
The noise level in the Floyd Little Athletic Center was at a fevered pitch on Feb. 19 as Murphy glided across the finish line, breaking the school record again and Naugatuck’s “Fabulous Four” were champions for the second week in a row.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel any pressure being the last one to take the baton,” said Murphy. “When everything is on the line and you have so much to race for, of course you are going to feel that pressure.
“We have a solid four girls and the chemistry we have been building throughout the season is what carried us. We have a lot of trust in each other and everyone may have thought we were a fluke, but we trained hard to be here and we deserve to be here.”
Naugatuck’s school record-breaking time of 4:06.96 beat out Windsor, which ran 4:08.15.
“This race had a lot quicker pace,” said Murphy. “I wasn’t familiar with the girl that was ahead of me and wasn’t sure if she could hold that position or falter down the stretch, and I just needed to be ready if she did. I was able to close in on her down the stretch.”
Freshman Lily Jason, senior Julia Kropo, junior Lauren Sonski and Murphy had broken the school record a week before, winning the 4×400 relay in 4:09.89 to claim the Class L state championship. After winning the Class L and state open titles, the next test is the New England championship meet in Boston on Saturday.
“The goal was to keep it close until the last leg when Murphy can bring it home,” said Roper. “We’ve had quite a few rehearsals leading up to this point. The plan was to bust out in the first 30, float in on the turns, and maintain the pace on the straightaway.
“We have talked to them about competing at the New England’s on a banked track. Many of them have never competed on a banked track. It’s a different kind of racing and we will be working to have them prepared to compete in that kind of environment.”
The Greyhounds will have a contingent of athletes heading to the New England meet as the boys 4×200 relay team of seniors Lalo Lopez, Taylor Trowers and Matt Kilmer teamed up with sophomore Dan Anderson to place fifth at 1:34.70. Lopez also ran to a sixth place finish in the 600 meters at 1:24.79.
Racing in the relays is a lot different than running around the block in the neighborhood. There are so many moving parts. The handoff is crucial, the start is important, keeping the pace is critical and closing it out down the stretch are what champions are made of.
“With Ally and I being seniors, we wanted to go all out this season,” said Kropo. “We trust in each other and it has taken all four of us to get here. We are excited but quite honestly I’m not surprised. We have so much passion and trained so hard.”
Kropo added: “Our goal was to be one of these top teams. Once we saw what we could do at Class L, our mindset completely switched and put it all in perspective that not only can we be one of these top teams, we can be state champions, and here we are.”
BY KEN MORSE