Year In Review-A Look Back At 2008
Year In Reviewâ
A Look Back At 2008
By Andy Hutchison
Newtownâs sports scene was off and running â in more ways than one â right from the get-go in 2008. Several town athletes participated in the Brookfield Lions/James OâBrien Run For Sight on New Yearâs Day. Freezing rain did not slow the local running enthusiasts who began the year with some exercise.
From the race courses to the golf courses, the past calendar year was an exciting one for the many youth, high school, and adult athletes. The Newtown Youth Academy opened its doors at Fairfield Hills, tradition continued with annual races and tournaments taking place, and teams celebrated championships. As always, there were countless goals, saves, hits, runs, wins, losses, thrillers, and heartbreakers.
Hereâs a look at some of the highlights from an exciting year:
Among the many titles won by Newtownâs sports teams was the high school field hockey teamâs South-West Conference championship. This one was especially significant because, in addition to being the programâs first conference crown, it came against the biggest and toughest rival the program has encountered: Pomperaug. Newtownâs varsity field hockey team had never beaten the Panthers (regular season included) until last spring when the Nighthawks prevailed in dramatic fashion, 1-0 in double overtime. Hannah Koch ended the game and many years of Pomperaug-produced Nighthawk frustration on a chilly, October 30 night when she scored the clincher.
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The graduation of five of the top seven runners on Newtown Highâs girlsâ cross country team did not prevent the Nighthawks from earning their eighth straight conference championship this past fall. NHS continues to run away from the pack in the SWC.
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Newtown High Schoolâs girlsâ lacrosse team won the SWC title for the fourth year in a row by doubling up Brookfield 20-10 in the pinnacle game. The girls then reached the semifinals of state tourney play for the first time.
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The NHS Color Guard performed at the Dayton Winter Guard International World Championships after earning national ranking.
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At the youth level, as always, many teams â from Little League to lacrosse â competed in town and state and district tourneys.
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Even without taking home championship trophies, some teams celebrated turnaround seasons and, in some instances, their best campaigns in many years. Newtown Highâs football team reached the conference championship game and got to the state playoffs for the first time in almost a decade.
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The NHS boysâ tennis team qualified for the SWC tourney for the first time in four years and the boysâ lacrosse team won more games than it did in the three previous years combined.
Individual Success And Honors
Kim Harmon, the late, longtime Newtown Bee Sports Editor, was recognized with the 2008 Sportsman of the Year Award. The award is now named in honor of Harmon. ... Newtown High standout runner Elise DeRoo set school and conference records in multiple distance events during last springâs track season. ... The NHS boysâ swim teamâs 200 yard freestyle relay group (Wes Hood, Stefan Toi, Luke Fiore, and James OâConnor) broke the school record at the SWC Championships. ... NHS softball pitcher Jenna Legros tossed a 14-strike out no-hitter against Joel Barlow. Maybe there was something (or nothing?) in the air because NHS alumna Mariale Renna tossed a five-inning no-hitter for Skidmore College.
Many athletes from town earned All-Conference and All-State accolades. A select few Newtowners captured All-American honors, including Fairfield Prep swimmer Andrew Golankiewicz and, most recently, NHS soccer player Tania Domingos. ... NHS wrestler John Gouveia won his 100th match in â08. ... 13-year-old trapshooter Nicholas Fatse represented Connecticut in the National Junior Olympics in Colorado. ... The Nutmeg Games produced several medal-winners, including 10-year-old gymnast Kyle Dandrea, who won a gold for her balance beam routine, and NHS sophomore Ashley Mele, who won a gold for her individual freestyle figure skating performance.
Comeback efforts donât always apply to teams overcoming large deficits. In the case of some NHS athletes, it meant bouncing back from serious injuries to compete. Golfer Steve Oberstadt suffered a leg injury caused when the car he was driving was hit by a drunk driver. He came back to not only compete, but perform at a high level during last yearâs golf season. Soccer players Andrew Domingos and Chris Marks also overcame significant injuries (both were sustained on the soccer fields in the fall of 2007) to help the Hawks reach the playoffs this past fall.
The Newtown Youth Academy opened its doors this past fall, providing a new facility for athletes of a variety of ages to get a workout and play ball. The first big event at the new facility was the John Giorno and Kim Harmon 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament. ... A new baseball field was added at Fairfield Hills, providing a little much-needed increase in playing space for the townâs ball- players. â¦ Intermediate/middle school track and cross country programs were offered to young runners in grades 4â8 for the first time in 2008. ... NHS unveiled a Nighthawk mascot. Later named Harmon the Hawk after the former Bee sports editor, the mascot made his first appearance along the sidelines of games last winter. ... Amanda Hadgraft, a former NHS field hockey player, took over as field hockey coach last spring.
The 2008 fall sports season at Newtown High might still be going on if not for penalty kicks and penalty strokes. That may be a stretch, but it seemed as if the Nighthawks and their opponents were fit to be tied in the recent postseason. The Newtown and Joel Barlow field hockey teams played three overtimes and a round of penalty strokes before the Nighthawks prevailed on October 24. Later that same night, on the same field at Blue and Gold Stadium, the Barlow and NHS boysâ soccer teams played double overtime and three rounds of penalty kicks before Barlow prevailed. Both the boysâ and girlsâ soccer teams lost in penalty kicks in the first round of the state tournament. The Newtown girlsâ soccer team also fell in overtime â to Masuk â in the SWC championship.
On The National Scene
Thereâs no doubt that many Newtowners enjoy going to New York to see baseball games and 2008 meant the end of tradition for Yankees and Mets fans who watched their teamâs ballparks â Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium â host their final games as the teams prepare to move into new stadiums this spring. ... Newtown alum Marcus Tracy helped the Wake Forest menâs soccer team reach the title game in the schoolâs third College Cup appearance in his four seasons at Wake Forest.
Another calendar year of sports excitement is in the books, but as 2009 gets underway, this promises to be yet another 12 months of triumphs, achievements and fun for Newtown athletes of all ages.