NAUGATUCK — If the Naugatuck Valley League indoor track championship was any indication of what the outdoor season battle is going to be like we better batten down the hatches.
Both the girls and boys championships literally came down to the final event. The Greyhounds got edged out, both times, by the Woodland Hawks. So the stage is set for another photo finish.
“We did lose some All-State athletes and there are a lot of strong teams in the NVL this season,” said Naugatuck head coach Ralph Roper, who along with coach Bill Hanley, likes the Greyhounds chances this spring. “We have a very string core of middle distance runners and we will be looking to them to keep us competitive.”
The boys team (10-1-1) won the NVL championship meet for the second year in a row last spring but Watertown won the league title with a better regular season mark. If that isn’t enough to spark a controversy, throw in the neighboring rivalry between Woodland and you have a fight to the finish.
The boys team is loaded coming into the season with a 4-by-8 relay team of Muad Hrezi, Collin Reilly, Jake Simons, and Nick Moriello that won the Class L indoor state championship — shattering a school record by 16 seconds in the process.
Hrezi is the returning 1600 and 3200 NVL champion and helped Naugatuck to a second place finish in the Class L championship as the ‘Hounds missed out on being state champs by a mere six points.
However, the boys will be missing two big pieces of that puzzle with the graduation of All-State athlete Amanze Williams and speedster Jamaal Gee. Leading the way along with Hrezi this season will be Nick Moriello, who broke the NVL record on his way to winning the indoor championship in the 600.
The Greyhounds also have a full slate headed by NVL indoor pole-vault champion Colton Wagner, who finished third in the NVL and state last spring. Distance runners Mike Uva and Dan Schumacher along with relay runners Patrick Alves, Giovanni Gonzalez, Isaque Monteiro and Mike Nanadoum will team up with sprinter Mick Pernell to provide some speed for the ‘Hounds. Naugatuck will also look to jumpers Nathaniel Buie, Kyle Johnson, and James SanAngelo along with throwers Mike Johnson, Anthony White and Kevin Ugalde.
The Naugatuck girls will be looking to get back the outdoor title they owned in 2010.
The girls team has certainly showed signs of being one of the up-and-coming contenders in the NVL.
As a freshman, Jordyn Allen was second in the 1600 and third in the 3200 at last year’s NVL outdoor championship. The sophomore sensation is ready to kick it up a notch as she turned a few heads winning the 1000, 1600, and 3200 at the indoor NVL championship.
Shannon Hale showed the kind of versatility that could put Naugatuck in the running winning the pole vault at the NVL indoor championship. She also notched second in the hurdles and third in the shot put.
Brianna Ritter finished second in the shot put at the indoor championship to go along with a second place in the disc at last year’s outdoor championship.
Alexis Simmons will give the Greyhounds a threat in the jumping events with Whitney Stokes, Eguono Onakpoma, Lindsey Thoren and Carla Soares adding a little depth in the mid distance and sprints department.
Christina Batista will help out in the throwing events with Georgette Nixon leading the relay group of Madison Kloc, Regina Roper and Alexis Simmons.
Roper felt the key for Greyhounds is to remain intense.
“We have a lot of potential and have come a long way since last season,” Roper said. “We have the athletes it’s just a matter of putting them in the best position to be successful.”
Naugatuck opens the season Thursday. The boys travel to Watertown to take on the Indians, Seymour and Derby. The girls host Watertown, Seymour and Derby on Thursday.