Small Woodland cross country teams showing big fight

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BY KYLE BRENNAN
Nobody wins a cross country championship in the first meet of the season. That was Woodland coach Jeff Lownds’ message after the Hawks faced stiff competition to start the fall season Sept. 12 at Veterans Memorial Park in Watertown.
The Woodland boys beat two out of three opponents on a hot Tuesday afternoon, knocking off Watertown and St. Paul but falling shy against defending Naugatuck Valley League champion Holy Cross.
The Hawks salvaged one win on the girls side, topping the Falcons but coming up just short against the Crusaders and Warriors.
“I’m pleased with where we stand right now,” Lownds said. “I always look to improve throughout the season, but I think we’ve made a good start.”
Lownds was especially encouraged by his top three runners on the boys side. Trevor Genthe and Sam Ambrocio finished second and third, respectively, followed by seventh-place Gabe Diamante. No other team had three runners in the top eight.
“That was great with four schools,” said Lownds, who also noted Andy Orlowski’s 19th-place finish.
In the girls race, Faye Carnemolla edged teammate Leah Zainc in a near-dead heat for third and fourth place. Freshman Ella Iannone was sixth, making the Hawks the only team with three runners in the top seven.
“Ella, Faye, and Leah really ran well,” Lownds said.
The efforts at Watertown followed a season-opening meet at Wilton on Sept. 9. Zainc edged Carnemolla in another near-dead heat to win the JV girls race, and Genthe won the boys JV race with Diamante close behind in third.
The teams’ positive start comes despite small squads. The boys have nine runners, “including some newcomers who are running well” in Will Geci and Logan Mack, according to Lownds. There are seven on the girls roster, including Jamie-Lynn Shaffer, a senior who hurdles during track but has never previously run cross country.
“As she gets more seasoned, she’ll help us even more,” Lownds said. “Payton [Kane] is the captain and always gives a great effort. Faye and Leah have been running well, and Ella Iannone is a freshman who has shown she belongs right away.”
The Hawks were set to take their small team on the road Sept. 19 against Crosby and Oxford before hosting Derby, Seymour and Torrington on Sept. 26.
“We might be down in numbers a little bit, but we’re not down in effort,” Lownds said. “I always look for that. Cross country is hard, and I applaud these guys every day for choosing this sport and continuing our tradition.”