Picking up the pace

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Naugatuck's Michael Popescu and Wilby's Raymond Young battle it out on the final straight away of the boys 4x100 relay during a track meet at Wolcott High on May 5.  Young edged out Popescu to help Wilby win the relay. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Naugatuck’s Michael Popescu and Wilby’s Raymond Young battle it out on the final straight away of the boys 4×100 relay during a track meet at Wolcott High on May 5. Young edged out Popescu to help Wilby win the relay. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck track team got the season off to a slow start. But, the Greyhounds have picked up the pace the past two weeks.

The Greyhounds continued to show improvement Tuesday in Wolcott, as they emerged from a four-team meet victorious.

The Naugatuck boys improved to 8-3 on the season after sweeping Wolcott, 103-47, Oxford, 112-37, and Wilby, 105-43.

The Naugatuck girls picked up a pair of victories to also improve to 8-3 on the season. They defeated Wolcott, 114-35, and Wilby, 122-24, but were edged out by Oxford, 79-71.

“The team is starting to come together after a rough start,” Naugatuck head coach Ralph Roper said. “It takes a while to find out the capabilities of the new kids and plug them into the best combinations to allow them to be successful. But, we are starting to pick up the pace.”

The Greyhounds number one threat, Dan Schumacher, has yet to make his presence felt. He’s run only two races at the start of the season, but that may be by design as Naugatuck is quietly building up a stable of runners.

“There is really no need to push Dan as he is working through some orthotic issues,” Roper said. “Our distance guys are drumming up a lot of points and their production has been giving us a fighting chance.”

Brody Hale has been nothing short of magnificent. He is undefeated this season in the 3,200. Mark Zamani and Graden Beasley have also emerged as a threats to give the ‘Hounds a stable of runners that will take them across the finish line.

Last week, Naugy handed Holy Cross its second loss of the season. The ‘Hounds ran to victory behind Zamani, who won the 800, Beasley, who took the 1,600, and Hale, who was victorious in the 3,200. On Tuesday, Zamani won the 800 and 1,600, and Hale remained undefeated in the 3,200.

The Greyhounds are centering their focus on building up their strengths. That is evident with the efforts of Brian Reilly, who is an automatic in the hurdles. In the win over Holy Cross, Reilly took first in the 110 and the 300 hurdles.

Naugatuck's Cindy Stirk finishes the last leg of the girls 4x800 during a track meet at Wolcott on May 5. Naugy won the relay. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Naugatuck’s Cindy Stirk finishes the last leg of the girls 4×800 during a track meet at Wolcott on May 5. Naugy won the relay. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Mike Nanadoum has shown tremendous speed as part of a very successful relay squad working his way into the 4×100 and 4×400 teams.

Another surprise on the season is the abilities of Fejiro Onakpoma in the triple jump. The junior continues to improve every meet. Last week in the win over Holy Cross, Onakpoma leaped 40 feet, 3 inches to victory. On Tuesday, he jumped 42 feet, 1.5 inches, which according to Roper is the longest jump in the NVL this season.

Mike Popescu continues to be around the 20-foot mark in the long jump and took first in the win over Holy Cross landing a 19-foot, 6-inch effort.

Kevin Stephensen is the guy Naugy is pinning their hopes on in the throws, as he took first in the discus on Tuesday with a heave of 115 feet, 3 inches.

“Nanadoum and Onakpoma have been pleasant surprises,” Roper said. “Reilly and Popescu have been nothing but consistent giving us an all around lineup to score points from. We are starting to come together and getting ready for the push to the championship meet.”

The Naugatuck girls are being led by a triple threat in Ariana Alvarado, who runs the 100, 200 and 400. She was a triple winner in the meet against Holy Cross as the girls handed the Crusaders their first loss of the season. On Tuesday, Alvarado won the 100, 400 and was part of the 4×400 winning relay team along with Melissa Goja, Macie Best and Hannah Lauer.

“We are trying not to over burden Ariana as she can do four events,” Naugatuck assistant coach Bill Hanley said. “We are also developing a strong squad of distance runners with freshman Cindy Stirk and Briana Lennon joining sophomore Lauren Stankiewicz.”

Stankiewicz was a double winner against Holy Cross in the 1,600 and the 3,200. Carla Soares won the 100 hurdles, and Abreanna McKoy took first in the shot put and the javelin.

Sprinters from Wolcott, Wilby, Oxford and Naugatuck battle it out to the finish line during the girls 100 meter dash at Wolcott on May 5. Naugatuck's Ariana Alvarado, far right, won the event. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Sprinters from Wolcott, Wilby, Oxford and Naugatuck battle it out to the finish line during the girls 100 meter dash at Wolcott on May 5. Naugatuck’s Ariana Alvarado, far right, won the event. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

“We also have a couple of more girls making a difference in the throwing events — sophomore Erin Schofield and junior Jasmine Grey,” Hanley added.

On Tuesday, the Greyhounds got a strong effort from Harmony Sturdivant, who won the 800 and then leapt to victory in the long jump and triple jump.

The ‘Hounds are showing signs of being a complete team, as Naugatuck won the pole vault event for the second week in a row with two different competitors. Liz Trumbley was victorious in the win over Holy Cross, and on Tuesday Brianna Prentice won the event.

As the season draws to a close, Roper knows there is still work to be done.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” Roper said. “We need to continue to stay focused, work hard and stay away from injuries in order to be ready for the championship meet, and I feel we are bound to do some good stuff there.”

The Greyhounds will get a final tune up May 12 against St. Paul and Sacred Heart. The NVL championship meet is scheduled for May 27 at Naugatuck High.