WATERTOWN — Poll a group of coaches about how many times their best-case scenarios played out in competition, and “all the time” probably wouldn’t appear among the answers. Once in a long while, though, it just might play out the right way.
So it was with the Naugatuck boys cross country team at the Naugatuck Valley League championships Oct. 16. Greyhounds coach Bill Hanley didn’t think his squad had a shot at the league title unless everything went Naugy’s way.
“We thought the best-case scenario was that we could score 41 points,” Hanley said. “We needed our No. 5 (runner) in the top 20.”
Well, wouldn’t you know it? The ‘Hounds scored 42 points, their No. 5 runner placed 19th and they won the NVL championship by eight points over defending champion Watertown.
“With kids, to have five guys have their best day on the same day is challenging,” Hanley said. “It was a pleasant surprise today.”
Naugatuck junior Dan Schumacher won the race in 15 minutes, 54.62 seconds. He avenged a third-place finish in last year’s meet and the same placement in the final regular-season meet at Watertown’s Veterans’ Park, the same venue as the league meet.
In the Greyhounds’ previous meet at Watertown, Schumacher finished third to the Indians’ Seamus Rafferty and Bryan Maloney. This time, though, Schumacher turned the tables and beat the duo by nearly 20 seconds.
“I’m grateful that I had these competitors to run with,” Schumacher said. “They were amazing and I can’t wait to see them again at states. They make it so great to run with them.”
Schumacher said he made his move on the race-leading Rafferty near a hill at the back of the loop. Once he made his decision, he made the move “decisive” and carried it through to the finish.
“It’s definitely tense because you don’t know when you’re going to make your move,” Schumacher said. “You have a plan, but you don’t know exactly until halfway through the race.”
Schumacher didn’t win the team event by himself, though. His first-place finish led the way, but Naugy had two other runners earn All-NVL status: Brody Hale (sixth, 16:39.11) and Graden Beasley (seventh, 17:04.94). Tyler Hayward (ninth, 17:20.27) gained All-Copper Division honors while Mark Zamani (19th, 17:44.60) clinched the title. James Dorosh (36th, 18:33.29) and John Caruso (48th, 19:20.15) also competed for Naugy.
“In cross country you’re only as good as your No. 5 (runner),” Hanley said. “Two years ago we had the top two in the league and we weren’t successful. Last year we had four in the top 10 and we weren’t successful. This year our No. 5 came in the top 20 and that was the difference.”
Woodland finished fifth with 144 points, trailing third-place Torrington (96) and fourth-place Kennedy (130). Jeff Giusto paved the way with a 13th-place finish in 17:27.04. He was joined on the All-Brass Division team by Zach Noreika (27th, 18:11.06), while Dean Conway (30th, 18:13.93), Brian Sardinskas (32nd, 18:18.51) and Jimmy Jensen (42nd, 18:51.12) rounded out the Hawks’ scoring. Matt Butterworth (46th, 19:10.26) and Paul Jones (57th, 19:40.34) also ran.
Both squads will compete in state competition Saturday at Wickham Park in Manchester.