Runners’ maturity evident in NE prep

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BOSTON — Naugatuck track and field coach Ralph Roper remembers—with a mix of personal humor and vicarious embarrassment—the first time Greyhounds star Tori Pisco ran on a banked track.

“I was watching [at floor level] her go up around a turn,” he recalls. “But I didn’t see her come down the other side. She had fallen.”

That was several years ago. Roper doesn’t expect Pisco, now a slope-savvy senior, to have any such trouble Friday, when she, teammate Rosa Moriello and the Woodland boys’ four-by-400 meter relay team compete at the New England Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.

Pisco is seeded 14th in the 600-meter run, at one minute, 38.57 seconds, which means barring multiple scratches by other entries, she’ll be in the C heat—likely not where she expected to be, after finishing fifth at this meet in 2009, with a career-best time of 1:36.61.

Roper acknowledges the recent state meets frustrated Pisco. She led most of the Class L race but was caught on the home stretch by Daniel Hand’s Meghan Derken then placed sixth at the State Open. Those performances may have shaken her confidence, Roper says, but he adds she is feeling healthy and has had an excellent week of practice.

“She still has all the tools to do the job,” he said.

And the experience to navigate those turns.

Tyler Murphy and the Hawks' four-by-400 meter relay team have helped to raise the program's profile by qualifying for the New England championships.
Tyler Murphy and the Hawks' four-by-400 meter relay team have helped to raise the program's profile by qualifying for the New England championships.

The Hawks’ quartet of Chris Savvidou, Kyle Cranney, Tyler Murphy and Brandon Fowler also has some banked-track experience, from the Yale Invitational in January, and believes the Lewis Center surface could help the squad break the 3:30 mark for the first time.

“They were apprehensive at first,” Woodland coach Tim Shea said of the boys’ first heat at Yale. “But after the second time, to a man, they all said they love [the banked track]. It’s faster and has that big-time feel.”

WRHS athletes haven’t experienced the big-time feel of New England meets very often. The last to compete at this level was Eric Alfiere, who was the 2007 New England outdoor javelin champion. No Hawk has been to an indoor meet since Gina DellaRose, in 2005.

Shea concedes his 15th-seeded foursome, a full 10 seconds slower than top-ranked Mansfield, Mass., isn’t a threat to win. But the boys’ mere qualification is a boon for a program on the rise, and the two weeks of preparation have been a chance for the veteran group (three seniors and a junior) to show its collective maturity.

“It’s just four of them, so they basically practice by themselves now,” Shea said. “I’m really just an administrator at this point.”

Naugy’s Rosa Moriello is slated to run both the mile, in which she is seeded eighth, and the two-mile, in which she is the No. 6 seed. Roper indicated the senior may scratch one of the two—none of the other Connecticut girls who ran multiple events at the state level plan to do so here—but if she does, it almost certainly will not be the 1,600. Moriello has said the mile is her favorite race and is still seeking her first sub-five-minute time.

She likely will need one to be competitive Friday. Three Massachusetts runners boast seeded times in the fours, and Moriello’s friendly rival, Meg Ryan of Fairfield Warde, has run a 4:59.02 this season.

Roper says decisions about running one or two events Friday will be made on race day by Moriello herself.

“We used to tell her what to do,” he said, “but now we really listen to her. Rosa’s a true student of the sport.”