BEACON FALLS — The last few years for the Woodland cross country teams has been as much about simply fielding a full team than it has been about getting results on the course.
But longtime coach Jeff Lownds and the Hawks don’t have to worry about that this fall.
Twenty-nine runners are in the program, including seven additions to the girls squad that has had to deal with single-digit participation for years, and that gives Lownds plenty of positives.
“We have more depth this year,” Lownds said. “You hope you don’t have any injuries or anybody who has to sit out, but it protects you against that, just in case. Joe Reynolds is probably our best runner on the boys side but he didn’t run [in Tuesday’s opener at Abbott Tech] with bronchitis.”
Reynolds and Ian Chamenko are the boys’ co-captains as they enter their senior years. Chamenko won Tuesday’s meet in Danbury, where the Hawks swept the top five positions. Kyle Beynor, Dean Conway, Matt Butterworth and Dave Terni rounded out the top five in Woodland’s easy wins.
Jeff Guisto and Jimmy Jensen also placed in the top 12, giving the Hawks seven of the top dozen runners — and that was without Reynolds.
Lownds hopes the senior presence combined with the younger runners and an 18-man roster can help Woodland improve over last season’s 4-7 record.
“We lost three or four meets by a total of about six points last year,” Lownds said. “We want to improve on that mark. I see us in the top half of the league. We work real hard. We don’t have superstar runners but we have a great, hardcore, dedicated group of guys. They give 100 percent every day. There will be days when that’s enough to win and there will be days when it’s not.”
Miranda Moffat is the girls’ only senior and is their co-captain. The Hawks have 11 girls on the squad, including Mary Sardinskas and Steph Kiley, who earned All-NVL honors last fall. Moffat also earned All-Brass Division recognition.
Sardinskas and Kiley finished one-two at Abbott Tech while freshman Clara Drozdowski finished third. Moffat was fifth, giving Woodland four of the top five. Angeline Rosato placed eighth.
Kelsey Mitchell, Kailyn Accetura, Kyla Porter, Bianca Poehailos, Taylor Dragon and Carly Giusto are among the team’s new runners, which he pegs as a talented group.
“I told our girls, if you’re our 10th or 11th girl, don’t be surprised if you’re in the top 25 in some meets because you might be beating the third and fourth girls from some schools.”
Woodland was fifth in the league last season with its six-member roster. Lownds said he hopes the team can repeat that feat.
“I see us in the top five or six teams in the league,” Lownds said. “I don’t want to go out on a limb and say we’re going to do much better than that. I would be surprised if we beat [league favorite] Watertown next week but we’re going to work hard enough to compete with them.”
Both teams will compete at Saturday’s Wilton Invitational before hosting their first meet of the season Tuesday against the favored Indians, along with Crosby and Torrington.