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Plenty Of Memorable Moments, Records, Championships Despite Impact Of Coronavirus



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When the gymnasium lights went off at halftime of the Newtown High School girls’ basketball team’s South-West Conference tournament quarterfinal game with visiting New Milford on February 21 — resulting from a fire to a transformer in town — the game had to be resumed the next day, at a different site, at NYA Sports & Fitness. It was, at the time, a strange occurrence in an otherwise pretty standard year in Newtown sports, one filled with championships and record-setting performances.

Little did we all know that so many sports would go dark in the months that followed.

The impact of the coronavirus on Newtown’s teams has been significant. It wiped out some winter sports tournaments in the middle of March and all of the spring sports slate, halted activity throughout much of the summer, delayed the start of and truncated fall sports, then delayed the start of the 2020-21 winter slate. The winter season is tentatively set to start later in January, but not many would be surprised if things are pushed off until spring — at the earliest.

No question, 2020 has been a sports year to forget in some ways.

But it has been one to remember for so many youth, high school, collegiate, and adult athletes here in town. Newtown’s sports enthusiasts certainly have made the most of the opportunities under these bizarre circumstances.

Ultimately, there was no traditional 11-versus-11 football season, but the Nighthawk gridders got to play 7-on-7 touch football with lineman challenges between quarters of contests.

Road races could not be held due to social distancing protocol, but the Rooster Run and Turkey Trot went on with virtual races. Participants got to pick their own courses and submit times to keep these traditions alive.

Before COVID hit last winter, and again before the second wave this fall, there were plenty of accomplishments on the fields, as well as on the tracks, at the ice rinks, and in the gymnasiums, and pools.

*The youth basketball program celebrated its 50th anniversary season during the 2019-20 season, honoring its past players, coaches, and league directors along the way.

*Although football was the most significantly impacted fall sport, things started well for the Nighthawks in 2020 with coach Bobby Pattison recognized as the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance Coach of the Year, and Pattison and player Ben Pinto receiving Walter Camp recognition. Additionally, football team members Luke Hannan and Nick Sabilion won divisions in the Nutmeg Weightlifting Competition. The NHS team was recognized as The Newtown Bee Sports Team of the Year last winter, following its 2019 run to the state championship.

*Newtown High’s cheerleading and dance teams both captured conference and state championships, and it was the first state crown for the cheer program, just before the virus halted postseason play, thwarting the girls’ basketball team’s state playoff run. The cagers did not lose in the state playoffs, but had their title hopes stymied upon reaching the semifinal round.

*The NHS wrestling team placed second at the SWC championships, led by a weight division triumph by Steven Vournazos.

*Fall sports got underway in October, following a gradual increase from small cohort training to full-team competitions. Players and coaches were required to wear masks along sidelines, and volleyball players had to wear masks during practices and match play since they play an indoor sport. Girls’ swimming took place with teams competing only in their home pools and combining times and scores with opponents to determine meet winners.

*Fall championships: The girls’ volleyball and boys’ soccer team teams both went unbeaten and won SWC North Division titles. Football went unbeaten, but there was no playoff. Girls’ soccer advanced to the SWC North championship game before falling to New Milford. Field hockey had a stellar fall, losing only once in the regular slate. The girls’ swimming and diving team placed second in the SWC meet.

*Several track and field and swimming records were set during meets last winter and this fall.

*NHS hockey goaltender Markus Paltauf broke his own single-season saves record.

*The Jacobs siblings — skiers Nick, Andrew, Matt, and Lauren — represented Team Connecticut in the annual High School Alpine Regional Championships at Cannon-Mittersill Mountain in New Hampshire.

*Field hockey player Katie Goyda set school records for goals, assists, and points.

*Among the notable games last winter: The boys’ basketball team beat Torrington 78-73 in double overtime; the boys hit 11 3-pointers in a 69-46 win over Pomperaug of Southbury, and the girls used a 26-0 run to build a commanding lead before holding off Bethel, 53-37.

*In youth sports, for the second year in a row, the Newtown Youth Wrestling Association’s Elementary and Middle School squads captured Western Connecticut League championships; the youth program sent 37 grapplers to the state championships, the most in the 15-year history of the program. The sixth grade girls’ and sixth grade boys’ Blue and Gold basketball teams all won New Castle Martin Luther King Jr Basketball Tournaments. The Newtown Torpedoes swim team went unbeaten and claimed a division title.

*Newtown’s Maddie Patrick scored her 1,000th career point for the Waterbury-based Chase Collegiate School basketball team on February 6.

*Runners and triathletes did their thing virtually. Nick Waaler completed an Iron Man around Newtown and Monroe to support the CMAK Foundation on September 5.

*Fore! Jimmy Davies hit a hole in one at Ridgefield Golf Course on October 21.

*New head coaches who took over this past fall were Ellen Goyda (field hockey) and Ryan Lyddy (boys’ soccer).

*College athletes made their marks. Marcus Tracy, a former NHS soccer standout, was inducted into the Wake Forest Hall of Fame. Lacrosse player Mark Urso earned conference honors as Men’s Lacrosse Specialist of the Week for his faceoff abilities at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the spring. Swimmer David Lawrence set individual and relay records at Western Connecticut State University during mid-February meets. Carly Swierbut was part of a relay team that set a school record, and also broke multiple freshman records for the College of William & Mary women’s track team.

Whenever sports contests pick back up in 2021, there are sure to be more achievements of note. See you at the games — eventually.

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