Nighthawk Cross Country Teams Ready To Race Against South-West Conference Rivals
Newtown High School’s cross country teams are off and running on another season, which officially begins on Tuesday, September 10, with a home meet.
The girls’ squad, coming off a fifth-place finish in last year’s South-West Conference championships, is looking to improve on its standing and again qualify for the state open.
“Most of our varsity team, including our alternates, last year have returned,” said Coach Christina Caron, who lost just two runners from her top seven to graduation last year. Caron added that a wealth of promising freshmen add to the confidence for potential success.
In order to succeed and meet team goals, the Nighthawks need to work on “keeping our team spread small and working together during races,” Caron said as the preseason unfolded.
This year’s captains are Hallie Filan, Sarah Tressler, and Mary Sortino. Other key returnees are Rylee Harrell, Emily Tressler, Maddie Fetchick, Gloria Rowley, and Courtney Henchcliffe.
Teams Caron anticipates being strong are South-West Conference rivals Pomperaug of Southbury, Immaculate of Danbury, New Milford, and Bethel.
An advantage the Nighthawks have this year over last season is the coach’s familiarity with her squad.
“Very much looking forward to the season. Being a new coach to Newtown last year and starting just before the season started was challenging because I didn’t know the girls, they didn’t know me, and we had to start from scratch. This year, we are able to build off of last year’s foundation, and it’s looking to be a great season,” Caron said.
On the boys’ side, Coach Carl Strait’s Nighthawks lost five team members among the top group — those that scored points in varsity meets — to graduation last year, leaving significant holes to fill.
The Nighthawks will look to improve on last year’s fourth-place finish in the conference championship meet.
“We return a lot of depth and a couple kids at the top of the conference. We have a few new faces with some experience and a few with little to no experience. Regardless, everyone has a role. (Assistant) Coach Jen Marden and I are excited for this season,” Strait said.
The strength of this squad is its roster size. Just how big is this Nighthawk lineup?
“Most teams field, on average, 20-25 kids. We are at 61, and growing each day,” Strait said during preseason in late August, adding that he expected the number to grow resulting from other team cuts since cross country is an inclusive sport. “It’s exciting to see the numbers in this sport continue to grow,” Strait said. “Everyone will contribute in their own way. All 60-plus kids have tremendous value to our program.”
With such a big roster, Strait has 15 captains to help manage the team’s size. Each will be assigned to a small group of runners.
This year’s captains are Max Bloomquist, Arav Dave, Tucker Depuy, Max Hanson, Trey Hazard, Nick Jacobs, Dan Keogler, Jack Kuligowski, Zack Masone, Owen Meeker, Keenan Murphy, Nihal Nawaz, Sean Roche, Will Tainter-Gilbert, and Jack Wojtowicz.
New Milford, Immaculate, Joel Barlow of Redding, and Brookfield are among the most challenging foes the boys will take on this fall.
“The kids know they have to show up every day, trust their individual captains, listen to their coaches. If they put the work in, the results will speak for themselves,” Strait said.
The September 10 opener features visits from New Fairfield and Stratford to Newtown’s course, behind Reed Intermediate School; the boys race begins at 4:30 pm, followed by the girls at 5 pm. In the only other home meet for the Nighthawk distance runners, New Milford, Notre Dame-Fairfield, and Weston come to town on Wednesday, October 2. The SWC championships are set for Wednesday, October 16, at Bethel High.