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Springing Into Track Season At NHS



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Springing Into Track Season At NHS

By Kelley Baylis

Newtown High School’s boys’ and girls’ outdoor track and field teams are racing into the 2012 spring season, the girl’s team being led by Coach Doug Russell, and the boys team led by Coach Daniel McIlrath.

The captains leading the girls’ team include seniors Erin Begg, Stephanie Clavette, Lauren O’Connell, and Kyra Murray. The boys’ team includes senior captains, Dieter Gutbrod, Jordan Hensel, Peter Kerns, Brandon Capaldo, John Hampford, along with junior captains, Anthony Paggett and Ralph Stroccia.

Although the squads have lost some valuable athletes that graduated in 2011, this does not stop the Nighthawks from keeping their heads up high and going for first place. Some key participants lost this past year are John Wlasuk, a shot-put and discus thrower who won conference and state crowns. Wlasuk is currently a freshman thrower at the University of Connecticut.

Fellow 2011 graduate Lauren Pettinelli competed in the hurdle events, such as the 100 meter, where she placed 11th in the state. Pettinelli is currently at Sacred Heart University, running for the school’s Division I track and field team.

At last year’s South-West Conference championship, the boys’ team placed second, while the girls placed fifth. Facing more difficult competition at Class LL state championship, the boys took eighth, and the girls placed 12th. At the State Open, the girls’ team was not among the 64 teams to place at the meet, while the boys took fifth place. The girls’ team, however, was represented by Cerney, O’Connell, and Lauren Pettinelli. For the boys, John Wlasuk pulled in 64 points.

With the large increase of incoming freshman, plus the return of many standouts, both coach Russell and McIlrath have high hopes for the teams.

“We work hard just like every other team to get ready for the start of our season. Yet, our training requires a little bit more technicality when looking in the long run,” McIlrath said. “We are not looking to be the fastest at the first meet. We are looking to be the fastest at the end of the season. Right now we are building a foundation to prepare our bodies for being at our best when it really counts.”

There are many boys who are returning from previous seasons, including standout distance runner Jake Feinstein. They all have individual goals, but also come together to share team goals. “The boys would really like to take an SWC championship this year. We have been steadily improving over the last couple of seasons. A second-place finish last year has really set the stage for their drive this season. Whether we win SWC championship or not, I would like to increase the number of athletes we have qualify for SWCs” McIlrath said.

Kerns shared his goals for the upcoming season. “My personal goal for this season is to get All State. I would love to have my name on one of the banners in the gym. The goal for the boys’ team this year is to take the SWC conference championship, Newtown High school has never won it for boys’ outdoor track, and this year we have a very good shot at it. It is pretty early in the season to pick out any major improvement we have to make, but right now I would say just make sure the team’s morale stays high as we get ready for our first meet.”

For the girls’ team, Russell used tryouts as a way to set the standards and show the incoming team members what track is all about. “A lot of people don’t think track is hard. They think they can walk onto the team, but they soon realize how difficult it is. There are time standards set for each grade,” Russell explained. “We hope to have a very strong season and end up as one of the top contenders in the conference. I would also love to see a good show at the State Class Open meet and strengthen our SWC team.”

Similarly to the boys’ team, there are many returnees from previous years and seniors are back for the spring season. Some of the toughest returnees include senior Abby Blakeman, junior Cerney who runs mid-distance events, along with O’Connell who pole vaults. Both girls hold school records and competed in championship meets.

“My goal for the outdoor season is to break the school’s outdoor pole vault record and also break my outdoor triple jump school record. More specifically, my goal is to clear at least 12-6 for pole vault and 36 feet for triple jump,” O’Connell said.

“Our team goal is to win the SWC championship meet. We placed second at SWCs in indoor this year, but I believe that Newtown can win with hard work and determination,” O’Connell added.

The boys will open the season at home on Tuesday, April 10, and the girls, after beginning the season April 9 at Joel Barlow in Redding, will host their first meet at Blue & Gold Stadium on April 23.

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