BEACON FALLS — With eight straight Naugatuck Valley League girls indoor track titles in a row and a slew of returning athletes from last year’s squad, Woodland’s championship streak might inch closer this winter to the double-digit mark.
Almost all of the Hawks’ scorers from last year’s NVL championships return this season, including familiar names such as Emma Slavin, Jaden Young, Chloe Poulos, Jasmine Michie, Jade Brennan, Kim Poulos, Hailey Bernier and Jill Brotherton.
“They were really instrumental in helping us win last season, and we’re fortunate to bring them back,” Woodland coach Jeff Lownds said.
Young is the defending league champion in the 1000 meters, while Michie is the defending shot put gold medalist. The entire 4×800 relay team of Slavin, Chloe Poulos, Young and Brotherton also returns after winning that race at the NVL meet last winter.
Brennan (600), Slavin (1600), Young (1000), and Michie (shot put) continued last year’s success into the Class S state meet, where they all earned fourth-place individual finishes.
Lownds pointed to other potential contributors such as Sara Alessio, Isabella Mejias, Rebecca Benoit, Abby Colt, Ella McKay, Cassidy Doiron, Amber Rosato, Caitlin Marvin, Kayla Drmic, Kate Foley and Kasey Beard.
“We have a good nucleus of kids and we’re going to try to fill in (the gaps),” Lownds said. “The kids we have are a lot like the cross country teams (that won another NVL title this fall). They want to be here — you can’t coach that.”
The boys team will look to improve upon their ninth-place finish at the league meet last season. Two of their top individual point-getters will return with distance runner Colin Slavin (fourth in the 1600 and 3200) and pole vaulter Cole Barrows (fifth) leading the group.
The Hawks have only four upperclassmen on the boys roster — seniors George Hughes and Barrows, and juniors Jack Schwarz and Jordan Jones. The rest of the roster is filled with freshmen and sophomores.
“We’re pretty young,” Lownds admitted. “We’re covering all the areas. Youth has its advantages because if they stay with us, they can get better and our team can get better. But sometimes you’ll get overwhelmed by running a freshman against a junior all the time.”
Other key contributors on the boys side could be Chase Young, Cole Verrelli, Carl Cicchetti, Eric Meade, Tommy Meade, Ervin Owusu, Luca Cambra, Sean Swanson, Ryan Hughes and Landon Barrows.
“We’ll see how it all shakes out,” Lownds said. “We have great kids to work with. They work hard in practice and they give us a good two hours. Bill (Ferrare, the boys head coach) and I and the other coaches are excited about the season.”
Lownds also praised the efforts of distance running coach Mario Longo, volunteer throwing coach Mike Sirowich, and volunteer jumping coach Deb Flaherty for their efforts with the squad.
Woodland is set to begin the season Wednesday with a meet in Glastonbury, followed by the annual Wilton Reindeer Relays on Saturday.
“The kids get excited if they make that list (for the Reindeer Relays),” Lownds said.
Overall, Lownds expects both teams to compete up to the program’s standards this winter.
“We have a good mix of veterans with some new faces,” Lownds said. “Hopefully we can carry on the tradition that we started. It’s going to take a lot for us to win the league, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”