Naugy girls win track title; local boys share

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BEACON FALLS — Rosa Moriello staged yet another three-win performance to lead the Greyhounds girls to a Naugatuck Valley League outdoor track and field championship, and Brandon Fowler and Amanze Williams traded double victories, as Woodland and Naugatuck shared the boys’ crown Tuesday.

Well, mostly Tuesday.

“We had some work done on the pole vault runway Saturday,” explained Woodland coach Tim Shea, whose school hosted the meet. “Sometime between Saturday night and Monday, somebody wrecked it, dug it all up.”

The vandalism forced the postponement and relocation of pole vaulting to Wednesday at Watertown High School, site of the league’s junior varsity championships. The delay was a non-factor on the girls’ side—the 1-2-3 order of Naugatuck, Seymour and Woodland in place at the conclusion of Tuesday’s competition remained unchanged—but was the factor on the boys’.

Second-, fifth- and sixth-place vaults by Naugatuck’s Peter Rodrigues, Nakeem Robinson and Colton Wagner, respectively, erased what was a 10-point Woodland advantage, with 17 of 18 events complete. The Hawks’ Mitch White took fourth to salvage a tie for his team.

The two local clubs figured to compete closely for the title—the Garnet and Grey went undefeated during the dual meet season, and Woodland’s only defeat was an 84-66 decision in the borough April 27.

Williams was the standout for Naugy, dominating both the triple jump and the long jump. His mark of 47 feet, 8 inches in the former smashed a 17-year-old meet record by 19 inches and outdistanced by more than three feet the hop, skip, jump of Woodland’s Dan Park, the reigning Class M state champion.

And at a meet where WRHS didn’t dominate relays as thoroughly is it often does—one win in three events—no individual was more valuable to the Black and Gold than Fowler. The senior scorched his home track in the 300-meter hurdles, his time of 39.85 seconds more than two ticks faster than the runner-up and just .07 of a second off the meet record. He won a close 110-meter hurdles final, in 15.37, and also anchored the Hawks’ lone victorious relay, the four-by-100, which took first in 44.05.

That event may have supplanted the four-by-400 as Woodland’s top relay priority. Though Fowler, Tyler Murphy and Chris Savvidou all returned from the four-by-400 squad that won a Class M championship last year, only the latter two ran the event Tuesday. They finished second with John Plaskon and Jacob Pinho, in 3:30.70, when Savvidou’s gallant attempt to close a 20-meter gap between himself and Torrington’s Chris DeBerry on the final lap went unrewarded.

“I basically used up all my energy trying to catch him on the first straightaway,” Savvidou conceded.

He then expressed confidence in the chances of the four-by-100 relay, of which he is also a member, at next week’s class meet.

Ralph Liquori competes in the four-by-400 meter relay for Naugatuck. The Hounds finished fifth with a time of 3:36.56
Ralph Liquori competes in the four-by-400 meter relay for Naugatuck. The Hounds finished fifth in the event with a time of 3:36.56.

One possible explanation for the team’s shift of focus is a medical condition with which Woodland sports fans are suddenly familiar: appendicitis. Turns out the school’s star softball pitcher, Katie Alfiere, doesn’t have a monopoly on infected appendices. Sophomore Eric Dietz, the new member of the Hawks’ four-by-400 team, also underwent a recent appendectomy; he missed the NVL meet and is unlikely to run at Class M. The fact that their best foursome was already compromised may have inspired Shea and fellow coach Jeff Lownds to pull Fowler from the squad, saving him for the four-by-100.

Among the ladies, Moriello was, as usual, the queen, though she had to work harder than usual to secure that status. The trials began in the 1,600-meter race, which she won by only 1.43 seconds, in 5:08.73, over Wolcott’s Caitlin Forte.

There were various accounts of that run: “She had to run 5:08 to win, which isn’t her fastest, but it’s faster than she’d normally have to run,” offered classmate and friend Tori Pisco. “The Wolcott girl [broke her personal best] by like 10 seconds.”

“I think Rosa kind of helped pace her—a little too much chit-chat during the race,” NHS coach Bill Hanley said in an it’s-OK-this-time-but-don’t-make-a-habit-of-it voice. “If this were a state meet, she would have broken her back in the middle.”

“I was just happy for [Forte],” Moriello shrugged. “She ran great and broke her personal best.”

The 1,600 strategy might not have been such a topic of discussion, if not for what happened after the 3,200. Running her third and longest race of the afternoon—she cruised to an 800-meter victory  in between—Moriello was pushed again by Forte, winning by less than six seconds, in 11:48.77. As soon as she crossed the finish line, the senior bound for Boston University collapsed, as if felled by fatigue’s arrow in the 90-degree heat.

“It was just too hot,” Moriello said, after shade and water revived her. “I kind of passed out for a little bit.”

“She scared me,” admitted Naugatuck Athletic Director Tom Pompei, who was among those monitoring Moriello immediately after the race. “Her eyes rolled back for a while.”

Greyhounds coach Ralph Roper said he empathized with Moriello, after suffering similar, heat-related symptoms during a recent physical fitness test for the Army. That experience only heightened his appreciation of Moriello’s three victories.

“She’s always willing to do three,” he said, “because we need the points for the team.”

Pisco too reaffirmed her unselfishness—and proficiency—helping the Hounds to a second-place finish in the four-by-400 meter relay, taking fifth in the 200, and winning the 300-meter hurdles, in 47.66. She sat out the 800, in which she is the NVL meet record-holder, to enter the other events and help her team collect points.

Expect to see her back in the 800 at next week’s Class L meet.

The Woodland girls finished third, getting victories from Ashley Riley in the long and triple jumps, Brittany Battis in the pole vault, Brittany Albright in the high jump and Alyssa Marti in the 100 hurdles.