BY KEN MORSE
The Naugatuck boys and girls indoor track teams defended their NVL titles, winning the championship meet by a wide margin.
Last year, the boys edged out Woodland by just two points and won only one event. This year the margin of victory was by 56 points and the Hounds took four first place finishes.
The girls were just as convincing, winning six events and coming out on top of runner-up Woodland by 70 points. The biggest difference between last year’s victory and this year’s was the sheer numbers. Last year Naugy had five athletes make All-NVL, and this year that number swelled to 22 athletes.
“It was a good day for Naugatuck track,” said coach Ralph Roper. “I even invited Mayor Pete Hess to come down and he stayed till the very end and I thank him for his support.”
There was a whole lot of cheering going on as a large contingent of Greyhound fans descended on the Floyd Little Athletic Complex in New Haven on Jan. 27. The Naugy boys won the title, scoring a team total of 133 points, with Woodland taking the runner-up trophy with 77 points. Derby was third at 72 points in the 13-team field.
The Naugy girls more than took it up a notch amassing 176 team points to Woodland’s second place total of 106. Watertown finished third with 82 points.
Jaesah Perry was voted the Most Outstanding Senior, Shayne Hasipi led the boys as the Most Outstanding Distance Runner and Lauren Kropo earned the Most Outstanding Sprinter for the girls.
“It was certainly a banner day for the Greyhounds,” said Roper. “It was a tremendous team effort and we could not have done this without the dedicated effort of our coaching staff.”
Assistant coach Bill Hanley, cross country coach Kevin Schumann, Jason Sonski, Ralph Roper III, throwing coach Trey Taylor and Katie Dowling – the school record holder in pole vault – have all come together and had the team at peak performance.
“It takes an awful lot of supervision to pull this off,” added Roper. “To have three of our athletes bring home most outstanding awards and 22 kids earn All-NVL, it just shows the amount of time and effort that went into this. I’m so proud of the kids and so thankful for my dedicated coaching staff.”
Hasipi won the 1,600 meter (4:52.49) and the 3,200 (10:51.50) and grabbed a second place in the 1,000 (2:41.11). Perry won the high jump (4-8) and was part of the first place 4×200 relay squad. Kropo tied the NVL meet record in the 300 dash, posting a winning time of 41.85. She was second in the 55 dash (7.56) and was part of the first place 4×200 relay team.
Lily Jason was another first place winner, taking the long jump competition for the second straight year with an effort of 16 feet.
Five relay teams took home first place finishes. The boys 4×400 team of Yamil Negron Rios, Brendan Lyles, Joe Cervone and Zach McCasland posted a winning time of 3:43.11. The 4×800 squad of Cervone, Manase Mutshima, Eddie Dalton and McCasland took first place hardware in a time of 8:51.90.
The girls 4×200 team of Serene Parker, Kropo, Perry and Wilnye Joseph won in a time of 1:15.66. The girls 4×800 squad of Gwen Marenghi, Sydney Connolly, Lily Dalton and Leticia DoNascimento posted a time of 10:54.12. The 1,600 sprint medley team of Parker, Zahra Bayonne, Layla Nemeth and Connolly won in 4:47.34.
Runners-up for the boys were: Dan Anderson (55 hurdles); Brendan Lyles (600); Jason Costa (1,600); and Jayden Bartelle (high jump). Runners-up for the girls were: DoNascimento (600); Dalton (3,200), Jason (55 hurdles); and Joseph (high jump). All first and second place finishers earned All-NVL along with all first place relay squads.
“Track and field is 90% mental,” said Roper. “It’s a fine line between getting your team prepared to compete and to just go out there and have fun. In competition you are going to have good days and not so good days. The key is to stay focused and to not put too much pressure on yourself. We will have a little bit of a tune-up before we head into the states and then go out there and just do our best.”
BY KEN MORSE