Woodland girls track and field secures second straight NVL title

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BY KEN MORSE
CITIZEN’S NEWS
The Woodland girls knew what they were up against and met the challenge head on, racing down another NVL title on May 21 at Torrington High School.
Some teams flourish in the heat of the competition and with temperatures approaching the 95-degree mark, the Hawks took flight and got past the rest of the field to defend their title.
“We knew coming in that Naugatuck had a very good team,” said Woodland coach Jeff Lownds. “Watertown was also very competitive and we felt between those two teams and us it would come down to that, which it did.”
Woodland scored 161 team points, Naugatuck was the runner-up with 137 points and Watertown was a distant third with 119 points scored.
After winning the opening track meet of the season against Woodland, it was no secret that Naugy was much better than its fifth place showing at last year’s championship meet.
“Our coaches have us prepared to do our very best,” said Naugy’s Ayana Williams. “Competing in the championship can be very intimidating, but we are prepared.”
Layla Nemeth added, “It’s the memories of seeing Coach Hanley shoveling snow off the road so we could have practice, that is what motivates us. Our coaches believing in us and doing what ever they could to help us succeed.”
Naugy always had talent but now they had some depth to go with it. Woodland has a long line of success having won eight of the last nine titles, so it would come down to taking advantage when ever the opportunity presented itself.
Naugatuck had Allie Murphy named outstanding hurdler after she won the 100-meter hurdles (15.35) and 300 hurdles (meet record 44.92). They also had the most outstanding jumper, Lily Jason, who was second in triple jump (35-07) and third in long jump (16-06), along with a second place time of 12.81 in the 100 dash.
“Coach (Ralph) Roper is real good at stacking the lineup, putting us where we need to be to score the most points,” said Murphy. “Between Lauren (Sonski), Julia (Kropo) and Lily (Jason) and myself, along with Alyssa (Jones), coach needs to get the most out of us.”
“I can’t remember the last time we didn’t have anyone qualify for the 3,200 in the NVL championships,” said Roper. “We knew we had that challenge going in but we felt we could make up some points elsewhere.”
Woodland scored points in every event except the hurdles and it was that kind of diversity that kept them in the running. When it came time to drop the hammer, they did it with authority.
“We had some kids step up,” said Lownds. “Laci Davis told me she was going to set a new school record in the triple and then went out there and did it. Chloe (Poulos) was named outstanding distance runner and Sarah (Cooley) outstanding thrower, so we took home some hardware.”
The Hawks outscored Naugatuck 42-0 in the 1,600 and 3,200, and that was all the difference it took to race past the Greyhounds. Chloe Poulos finished first in the 3,200 (12:45.56), second in the 1,600 (5:19.67) and third in the 800 (2:27.23). Daniella Celotto won the 1,600 (5:17.37) and was 4th in the 800.
“I was a little surprised to win the 1,600 especially with Chloe in the race,” said Celotto. “I look up to her and it takes kids stepping up in every event to help us succeed.”
Cooley was second in the javelin (109-0), second in the shot put (31-8.5) and fourth in the discus (93-04). Emma Swanson was second in discus (95-02) and fourth in shot put (29-11). Isabella Bianchini was second in the pole vault (8-06) and Davis won the triple jump (school record, 36-08). Paige Letourneau was second in the 200 (26.46) and fourth in the 100 (12.92), Amber Rosato was third in the javelin (107-0) and Kathleen Henriques was third in the 3,200 (13:13.75).
“Competing in multiple events requires diversity,” said Sarah Alessio. “The form and technique it takes to go further, to jump higher, to run faster, we work on this everyday to be the best that we can be come championship time.”
The Hawks 4×800 relay team of Ireland Starziski, Kim Poulos, Faye Carnemolla and Henriques raced to a silver medal with a 2nd place finish of 10:21.09.
The Greyhounds 4×400 relay team of Kropo, Leticia DoNascimento, Lauren Sonski and Nemeth took home gold with a first place finish of 4:16.58.
“We had some young kids step up and take up the slack,” said Roper. “Against all odds I think we got the most out of our lineup. We went from fifth last year to runner-up and that’s a lot of progress made in one year. We have a lot of new young athletes and we’re looking to carry this over.”
Naugy had strong showings from Divine Kabongo (first in the long jump, 16-10); Alyssa Jones (1st in the discus, 100-11); and Sonski (1st in the 400, 1:01.46; 2nd in the 800, 2:25.42). Kropo added a third place in the 400 (1:02.34) and a fourth in the javelin (102-0).