Pair of runner-up finishes for Woodland track at NVL meet

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BY KEN MORSE

CITIZEN’S NEWS

Woodland track and field coach Jeff Lownds smiled and proclaimed the Hawks are a work in progress. That they are, and what progress they have made. At the NVL championships on May 24 in Naugatuck, the Hawks were second to none, except to the Greyhounds.

In one of the most competitive and talented championships in recent memory, Woodland emerged as the boys and girls NVL runner-up. Naugatuck outpointed the Hawks, 132-98, on the boys side and 181-138 on the girls side.

WCA placed third (93 points) and Derby was fourth (85) in the boys championship while Watertown (third place with 114 points) was the only other girls team that broke the 100-point mark.

Right from the start it was evident that Watertown had come to compete. The Warriors ran away with the relays in the girls championship finishing, first in the 4×100 and 4×800 with a second place finish in the 4×400.

The Woodland foursome of Kyla O’Connor, Megan Hartnett, Faye Carnemolla and Kathleen Henriques finished second in the 4×800, the first event of the meet, and that spoke volumes as to what the Hawks would bring to the track in this championship competition.

“It was so important to get out and have a strong start,” said Carnemolla. “It’s a long day and we needed to come out and make a statement that we are here for the duration of this meet.”

That work in progress was never more evident than in the girls’ throwing events where the Hawks piled up 47 points, led by Sarah Cooley, who finished first in the javelin (102 feet), first in the shot put (35 feet) and second in the discus (109 feet, 11 inches).

“We have worked so hard to get to where we are in our throws and coach (Mark) Swanson has really helped all of the throwers get the most out of it,” said Cooley. “And it doesn’t all land on the shoulders of one person. Emma (Swanson) has been right there with me scoring points and it has become a strength of this team.”

Swanson placed second in the shot put (31-3.25) and was third in the discus (104-11) in helping Woodland to stay in the top of the heap as the competition began to ramp up. Laci Davis leapt to a pair of second place finishes (long jump, 16-3; triple jump, 34-11) and Isabella Bianchini took second in the pole vault (9-6).

“A lot of teams struggle with only one or two throwers but we have a great group of athletes that can compete and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Swanson. “Of course following someone like Sarah it’s a real good motivator to try and match her distances and has made me a better thrower in the long run.”

Dani Celotto raced to a pair of second place finishes (1,600 meters, 5:26; 3,200, 12:18) with Carnemolla taking third in the 800 (2:28) and the 4×400 relay team of Abby Bunk, Carnemolla, Olivia Schwenger and Paige Letourneau taking third.

“We are very fortunate to have great coaches,” said Lownds. “Mike Sirowich and Mark Swanson working with our jumpers and throwers to get the most out of their efforts. That’s important because on the track we are not as deep as we have been in the past. It makes us a more well-rounded team having a strong group in the field events.”

The Woodland boys were led on the track by Alexander Farr, who will go on and compete at the University of Tampa next season. Farr took first in the 800 at 2:02 and was first in the 3,200 at 10:25.48.

“We have all the tools to get the job done and I always feel with the kids we have that we always have a chance to compete,” said Farr. “Both coach Lownds and coach (Mario) Longo, I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. It’s been a great four years here.”

Nick LaChappelle ran to a second place in the 3,200 (10:25.82) and a third place in the 1,600 (4:44). The 4×800 relay team of Sam Ambrocio, Gabe Diamante, Trevor Genthe and LaChappelle took third.

Kian Sirowich was first in the pole vault (11-6), Nathan Messina was second in the javelin (148-05) and Brian Babo was second in the discus (139-02) and third in the shot put (43-05.5).

“We can score a lot of points in the field events and that can decide the outcome of a meet,” said Babo. “My teammate Ryan O’Donnell and I stay after practice to work on our throws with coach Swanson and we have seen a lot of progress since the start of the season till now.”

Woodland was set to compete in the Class M state meet at Willow Brook Park in New Britain May on Tuesday.