WATERTOWN — Grady Beasley and Mark Zamani were shoulder-to-shoulder approaching the final half-mile of the NVL cross country championship Oct. 21 at Veterans Park in Watertown.
Beasley, a three-time All-NVL runner, then put it into another gear. Coming down the stretch no other runner was in sight as the junior won the boys race in 16:30.83.
Zamani, a senior and two-time All-NVL runner, finished second in 16:45.01 as the duo helped Naugatuck win its third straight NVL crown with a score of 54 points.
“Having Mark and I finish one and two was really amazing,” Beasley said. “Around the 2-mile mark I decided to kick it in and go all out for it and began to pull away.”
“We wanted to get out to a fast pace,” Zamani added. “The Kennedy kid (Kyle Hotchkiss) really pushed the pace a lot faster than we expected.”
The Woodland boys finished second (65 points) for the second year in a row. The Hawks were led by two-time All-NVL runner senior Brian Sardinskas, who placed sixth in a time of 17:42.72.
Naugatuck’s Brandon Thomas placed 11th in 18:06.31 and Dave Kerns placed 15th in 18:29.01 to earn All-Iron Division honors. Luis Garces finished 25th, Elliott Via 30th and Ross Via in 32nd place.
Kerns and Garces marched to the beat of a different drum this season. Last year they were members of the Naugatuck High School marching band.
“We knew that Grady and Mark were our top two runners and would put us at the top of the field,” Naugatuck head coach Bill Hanley said. “But the story of the season is these two kids who went out for track and decided they liked it and joined the cross country team, and both have ran very well for us this season.”
The Hawks had three runners earn All-Iron Division. Kyle Crowell finished 12th in 18:08.16, Matt Luxeder took 13th in 18:12.94 and Paul Jones was 16th in 18:37.46. Matt Giaquinto finished 18th, Colin Kennelly was 46th and James Jensen was 65th.
The Hawks would have made it much closer if not for an injury to All-NVL senior Jeff Giusto, who finished third at the meet last year.
“It certainly was tough to lose a runner of his caliber,” Woodland head coach Jeff Lownds said. “But he is a leader and one of our captains and never missed a practice. He will be ready to compete at indoors.”
Oxford’s Kristen Barbaris won the girls race in a record time of 19:30.60. The Derby girls claimed the NVL crown with 41 points.
The Woodland girls, who were trying for their own three-peat, finished third with 80 points. The Hawks were led by Kelsey Mitchell, last year’s NVL champion. Mitchell finished seventh in 21:05.73 to earn her second All-NVL honor.
“Congratulations to [Barbaris] she really went out and got it,” Mitchell said. “She really got some distance between the rest of the field and it was hard to close that gap.”
Woodland’s Kailyn Accetura finished 11th in 21:31.60 and Clara Drozdowski finished 14th as both runners earned All-Iron Division honors. Marina Bojka was 17th, Bianca Poehailos was 31st, Meredith Dykman was 36th and Emilie Noreika was 43rd.
“I’m real pleased at our effort and we maintained our performance throughout the season,” Lownds said. “And it’s kind of hard to be disappointed in either team, as the boys have gone 27-2 the last two years and the girls have gone 39-2 the last three years.”
The Naugatuck girls finished fifth as a team with 160 points. Courtney Morin led the way for the Greyhounds, finishing 15th in 22:02.35 to earn All-Iron Division honors.
“I expected to do a little better,” Morin said. “But the pace that was set early on by [Barbaris] was pretty tough to maintain.”
The Greyhounds finished up with Lauren Stankiewicz at 24th, Cindy Stirk 33rd, Liz Trumbley 42nd, Brianna Lennon 46th, Steffanie Dube 72nd and Nicole Diaz 75th.
Naugatuck and Woodland will now prepare for states, which are Saturday.