Gone from last year’s South-West Conference-winning Newtown High School boys’ cross country team are four of the team’s top five runners, but the Nighthawks have high expectations to again be a factor in the championship meet, maybe with another win.
“While losing a lot from last year, we are still a very deep team with a couple of potential lead pack runners. I think we could surprise a few teams this year,” Coach Dave Foss said. “A good chunk of guys had strong summers, making the competition for varsity spots very, very competitive. I hope this team can challenge to defend our SWC crown and qualify for Opens.”
After a 12-2 regular season, the Nighthawks dethroned ten-time SWC champ New Milford, then placed fourth in the Class LL state championships, came in third in the State Open, and finished things off with a sixth-place result in the New England championships.
Gone, in addition to standout Jake Feinstein and another All New Englander and All Stater, Mitchell Russo, are No. 4 runner Paul Mangiafico and No. 5 team member Rob Russo.
Junior Christopher Gamble, an All-SWC honoree last fall, is the team’s likely No. 1 runner, this year, Foss said. Senior Grandon Smith, junior Joey Whelan, and sophomore Ethan Burg are among the other top runners. The team’s senior captains are Tom Floros, Kevin Gorman, Nate Steinebrey, and Don Sun.
“I’m excited to see how we do in the regular season, and hopefully we’ll be able to come in at least top three in SWCs, and hopefully defend our title,” Gorman said.
It won’t come easily. New Fairfield has a strong returning cast with two lead runners, and New Milford also has a good squad as always, Foss said.
“We just have to work hard. Everyone’s got to push each other and we’ll try to defend our title,” Sun said.
Steinebrey is optimistic about the prospects for short-term success and also has an eye on the future of the program. “I’m pretty excited to hopefully do really well in my last year in high school and leave an impact on the team for future years,” he said.
The Nighthawks hope that the collective impact is punctuated by another title.