Coach Doug Russell goes into his 11th season as head coach of the Newtown High School girls’ track and field team with the same goals he’s always had: To win the South-West Conference and finish among the top ten in the state at the Class LL championships.
Despite the loss of seven seniors — including standouts Reagan Cerney, Melissa Buccino, and Zoe Eggleston — from last year’s team, which was fifth in the conference, tenth in the state class meet, and 16th at the State Open, the coach believes his team again can be in the mix
Newtown retains plenty of talent from last year’s squad, led by captains are Jenna Calandro (pole vault, jumps, and sprints), Brianne Moulder (distance and jumps), Brooke Newtown (sprints), Jillian Vazquez (hurdles and jumps), and Taylor Zingaro (sprints and relays).
Other key team members whom Russell is looking to score points in the postseason are throwers Amy Anyoha and Micaela Nowacki, both of whom went to New Englands last year, along with Calandro.
Russell notes that, with so many standout jumpers and throwers returning, the strength of the team is in the field events.
“I also feel we will have a stronger presence in the mid- and long-distance area,” Russell said. “What I am excited about is the number of new girls we have who are strong in the sprints and jumps.”
The team will look to build back its hurdling contingent, with young and new team members needing more experience in the 100 and 300 meter hurdling races.
The coach points out that the conference is competitive across the board, and that Weston, Joel Barlow of Redding, New Milford, and Masuk of Monroe are among the better teams.
“What is exciting about track and field is that many individuals from a variety of schools may be strong in their events so the regular season is really there to prepare the student athletes for the conference and state championships,” Russell said, adding that placing tenth in the Class LL meet — which features strong teams from a variety of conferences — is a nice accomplishment.
Newtown has approximately 100 girls in the program, many of whom are new. Russell likes what he sees in the up-and-coming competitors, and he expects to again be very competitive in the postseason meets.
“The goal is to qualify as many individuals and relays for each of these meets and prepare them so they may move on to State Open and possibly New Englands,” the coach said.
Assistant coaches are Laura McLean who has been coaching with Russell for the past decade-plus, and Tara Allegretto who coached the girls’ softball team last year but is with the track program full time this year. Former NHS track athlete Stefanie Clavette is also helping out as a volunteer.
The regular season will get going when Pomperaug of Southbury, Immaculate of Danbury, and Oxford visit Blue & Gold Stadium on April 21 for a 4 pm meet.