BY KEN MORSE
There were some anxious moments for cross country coach Kevin Schumann last season when he stepped in to replace an icon in the sport, Bill Hanley. Under the direction of Hanley, the Greyhounds went 259-56 in 17 years and never finished lower than third place in the NVL boys championship race.
“I’m a history teacher so it was rather interesting to look back and research the success this team had under coach Bill Hanley,” said Schumann. “There was a bit of a transition period but nothing too out of the ordinary since I did get to coach under Hanley as an intern a few years back.”
Schumann enters his second season and the team and the coach feel a lot more comfortable with one another. Last season the boys finished as NVL runner-up, compiling a 10-2 mark, while the girls finished with a competitive 8-4 ledger, placing fourth at the NVL championship.
“I think this year is much easier in the sense that the team knows what my expectations are and I know the strengths of every one of the athletes. We did lose some significant athletes to graduation but I’m pleased with the number of athletes we have returning,” said Schumann. “I feel as a team we are ready to take the next step in our development. I think last year the goal was to just continually make progress and remain competitive throughout that process.
Schumann continued: “This year I see there is room for improvement. Finishing runner-up for the boys was great but Woodland was a very good team last year. The goal is to be a little bit better than we were last year. I was encouraged by our numbers at the first practice and hopefully that will equal overall team improvement as well.”
The Naugy boys lost four seniors to graduation but return an experienced trio of Brendan Lyles, Shayne Hasipi and Jack Healy as they enter their senior year looking to leave their mark on the program.
On the girls side, senior Jayda Costa will lead a much smaller group with several underclassmen that showed talent last season and will be looking to take it to the next step.
“There were a lot of changes for the athletes last year not having coach Hanley around,” said Schumann. “Obviously things are a little bit smoother heading into this season as everyone knows what the expectations are. To the kids’ credit they really responded well under those circumstances.”
We had 30 signups for the first practice. That is a good number to work with and I believe that exceeds the numbers we had to work with last season. I just feel very fortunate to have this opportunity taking over for a coach that left that kind of legacy. And the support we get from the school, the administration and the town has been a great asset to the team.”
Naugatuck will get the season underway at Hop Brook on Tuesday, Sept. 13, in a quad meet against St. Paul, Seymour and Oxford.
BY KEN MORSE