The Woodland indoor track teams may not have the most gold-medal contenders entering Friday’s Naugatuck Valley League championships, but no team in the league will enter the meet with more experience this winter than the Hawks.
With nearly a dozen competitions in the book over the past month and a half, Woodland coaches Jeff Lownds and Bill Ferrare have had plenty of opportunities to prepare their athletes and optimize their championship lineup.
“I hope it helps us a lot,” Lownds said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the administration and the athletic office, so we’ve tried to get to as many meets as possible. We’ve tried to vary everyone’s training throughout the season so that they’re prepared to run a lot of different events at NVLs. It’s a lot of trial and error.
“These meets have helped us figure out some lineups that we want to try to use, and we’ve been able to look at kids in different events,” Lownds continued. “We didn’t know what they could do, and they’ve either proven to us that they can do it, or maybe a different event is better for them.”
A handful of Woodland athletes will challenge for top spots on the podium. Sam Ambrocio leads the boys team and could win the 1,000 meters after placing third last year. His time of 2:41.3 placed him first Jan. 17 at the Old Saybrook Qualifier and was his best time of the winter. He also won the 800 at the Hillhouse Varsity Night on Jan. 12.
Faye Carnemolla and Leah Zainc will also contend in the mid- and long-distance races. Carnemolla won the 800 at Hillhouse in 2:25.5, and she and Zainc finished fourth and fifth in the 1,000 at Old Saybrook with times of 3:19.5 and 3:19.7, respectively. Carnemolla was the runner-up in the 1,000 at last year’s league meet, and Zainc recently qualified for states with a season-best time of 12:03.06 in the 3,200.
Emma Swanson, who finished second in the shot put at last year’s NVL meet, is among the favorites to reach the top of the podium this winter.
Jamie Shaffer, a state qualifier in the 55 hurdles, recently set a season-best time of 9.9 seconds, placing her in the hunt for a medal in that race.
“It’s a small crew that’s carrying us, and then we’ve got a good crew filling in the rest of the lineup,” Lownds said. “Sam, Faye, Leah are really good runners. Emma is a really good thrower. Jamie is a really good hurdler, but the NVL is loaded with good hurdlers. She’ll be in the mix, and her attitude is great. We have kids with great attitudes.”
That’s exemplified by the effort of Gabe Diamante, who shaved 28 seconds off his best time in the 3,200 at Hillhouse to finish in 10:32, just two seconds away from a state-qualifying time. Hurdler T.J. Lewis and miler Ella Iannone are also close to qualifying for states, and the girls sprint medley relay team of Shaffer, Carnemolla, Kyla O’Connor, and Arina Rigali qualified for states in Old Saybrook.
“We should have some state medalists and maybe a few State Open qualifiers,” said Lownds, looking ahead to the Class S meet Feb. 9. As for the outlook at NVLs, Lownds thinks Woodland will have an uphill climb on the boys and girls sides with Naugatuck a likely favorite to repeat.
“I think it’ll come down to Naugatuck and Watertown on the girls side,” Lownds said. “I’m not sure about the boys; it’s spread out pretty well. The boys meet should be interesting.” The NVL championships are set for Friday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.