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Championships, Coaching Changes Highlight Action-Packed Year In Sports

Published: December 30, 2017 at 12:00 am

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Newtown High baseball players celebrate winning the conference championship.
Newtown High baseball players celebrate winning the conference championship.
NHS cheerleaders, decked out in holiday sweaters, entertain the fans during a basketball game this winter. Cheer Coach Susan Bridges received Coach of the Year accolades. (Bee Photo, Hutchison)
NHS cheerleaders, decked out in holiday sweaters, entertain the fans during a basketball game this winter. Cheer Coach Susan Bridges received Coach of the Year accolades. (Bee Photo, Hutchison)
Sarah Houle selects a putter during action at Rock Ridge Country Club earlier this spring. Houle was the medalist for the Hawks in the SWC championship. (Bee Photo, Hutchison)
Sarah Houle selects a putter during action at Rock Ridge Country Club earlier this spring. Houle was the medalist for the Hawks in the SWC championship. (Bee Photo, Hutchison)
Late-March snow and ice prevented spring sports teams from holding tryouts and preseason practices on the softball and baseball fields.
Late-March snow and ice prevented spring sports teams from holding tryouts and preseason practices on the softball and baseball fields.

The past 12 months have generated plenty of exciting sports news here in town. From championships to coaching changes, record-setting performances to individual accolades, a lot unfolded on and in the playing fields, courts, pools, track, and ice rinks. Here is a look back at much of what transpired this past year:


Team Championships


Newtown High School's boys' hockey team won the South-West/Southern Connecticut Conference championship, the program's first conference title in its history. The Nighthawks did this in dramatic fashion, with a 3-2 shootout triumph over Lyman Hall-Haddam Killingworth-Coginchaug at West Haven's Bennett Rink, in early March.


The hockey team's triumph helped bring a sweet ending a somewhat bitter finish to the campaign. Newtown was suspended from the Division III state tournament because of excessive major penalties, culminating with a penalty-filled contest against North Haven in the season finale.


In the spring, Newtown High won three team titles. The girls' track and field, girls' lacrosse, and baseball teams all won SWC bragging rights.


The lacrosse team's triumph meant Coach Maura Fletcher picked up where she left off. Fletcher, who coached the girls' lacrosse team to ten straight South-West Conference championships before stepping down following the 2014 campaign, returned in 2017 and led the Nighthawks to a title once again.


Newtown High School's boys' cross country team ran away with the South-West Conference championship, at Bethel High, this past fall.


The NHS dance team was dethroned by Joel Barlow of Redding for the SWC title but still had a stellar season with a second-place conference finish as well as a second-place state result. Other runner-up SWC teams include gymnastics, wrestling, boys' tennis, girls' golf, cheer, girls' soccer, and girls' volleyball. The wrestling team also placed second in New England.


Individual Champs


On the mats, Ed Lovely and Joe Accousti won individual weigh division titles as the wrestling team placed third in the Class LL state championships. Lovely, Accousti, Alex Stavola, and Tom Long all won weight divisions in the SWC championships. Accousti won a New England title.


There were many winners in the SWC track and field championships. During the winter indoor season, Lauren Russo won the pole vault event, clearing the bar at 11 feet. Carly Swierbut was tops in the 55 meter dash in a time of 7.60 seconds. Newtown's 4×200 relay team of Swierbut, Emma Curtis, Grace Pettinelli, and Makenna Cerney, was first in 1:51.59, setting a school record (see more records below). On the boys' side, Jack Godfrey captured the shot-put title with a throw of 48-02.


During the spring outdoor track and field slate, Swierbut was first in the 100 meter dash, coming across the finish line in a time of 12.87, and won the 200 in 26.15. Cerney won the 300 hurdles in 46.50. Annika Alexander was tops in the discus event with a finals tally of 103-01.
For the boys, Newtown's 4×800 relay team took the top spot as Ryan Escoda, Joel Duval, Dylan Bartlett, and Christian Lestik combined for a time of 8:13.13, chopping a whopping 12 seconds of their previous best time.


Brett Deri won the 110 hurdles in a time of 15.82 and took first in the 300 hurdles in 41.01.
In the field events, the boys were led by Aiden Jasinski with the best overall effort in the pole vault, as he cleared 12-6, a full foot more than his nearest competitor, and Jack Godfrey, who won the shot-put with a throw of 50-08.


Field event standouts Russo (pole vault) and Godfrey (shot-put) were runner-up in their events during the state championships for both indoor and outdoor track and field. Swierbut won the 55 meter dash conference championship during the indoor campaign.


Sarah Houle was the only golfer among 104 to finish under par in the girls' state championship, at Trumbull's Tashua Knolls Golf Course, in June.


Houle also earned medalist honors the SWC championship, as Newtown was dethroned by Joel Barlow of Redding, at Shelton's Brownson Country Club, in late May.


Records


Cross country runner Ryan Escoda set the Nighthawk course record, at Fairfield Hills, with a 5K race time of 16:47 during a race this past September.


Newtown High School records get shattered by swimmers and track and field athletes every year, and some of these marks are set during the postseason, including:


Dawson Stout and Tommy Horan in 500 and 50 yard freestyle events, respectively, during the state postseason meets.


In the spring season track and field state championship, Newtown's 4x100 relay team of Brianna Lovely, Carly Swierbut, Emma Curtis, and Katie Ryan set a school record with an eighth-place finish in a time of 50.42.


New NHS Coaches


Several new coaches took over, in many instances for longtime leaders, at the high school level. Gymnastics: Kim Kane; wrestling: Ron Chivinski; football: Bobby Pattison; boys' soccer: Nick Booth; girls' track and cross country: Rich Marcello; boys' tennis: Mike Stedronsky; baseball: Ian Thoesen; boys' track: Becky Osborne; and girls' lacrosse: Maura Fletcher.


Thrilling Games And Statement Triumphs


Every year there are games that go down to the wire, overtime dramatics, and stellar comebacks. Among the tilts that took the cake in 2017 were:


*The Newtown High boys' lacrosse team's comeback/overtime victory over Fairfield Warde in the state playoffs. Newtown scored twice in the final couple of minutes, including the game-tying tally with just five seconds to go, before prevailing 13-12 in overtime, in early June.


*The high school baseball team played a wild 13-inning mid-May battle with Masuk that ultimately took three days to complete after the matchup was postponed because of darkness and resumed the day after Masuk's game the next afternoon. Masuk won 8-7.


*In a precursor of things to come, the hockey team won a 4-3 overtime thriller on Lucas O'Brien's hat-trick tally in an early-January battle against New Milford. The Nighthawks went on to win the conference crown after being tied in regulation of the pinnacle game.


*The laxmen handed New Fairfield its first defeat, 14 games into the campaign, doing so in convincing 10-4 fashion, in their May matchup.


*Newtown High's boys' soccer team handed Joel Barlow of Redding its only loss of the season this past fall.


*The high school football team beat rival Masuk of Monroe in the annual Thanksgiving Eve contest, ending Masuk's bid for a perfect season. With the win, the Nighthawks earned a share of the SWC season championship, along with Masuk and Bunnell, which previously handed Newtown its first loss to a conference foe at Blue & Gold Stadium since back in 2011.


Standouts


*Football player Ben Mason, in January, was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the previous year, and the Walter Camp Foundation's Player of the Year. Mason went on to score his first touchdown for Michigan this past fall.


*Romy Gold competed in the Crossfit Games in Madison, Wis., in August, and earned the distinction of being the 11th fittest teenager.


*Steve George was honored as The Newtown Bee's Sportsman of the Year. George stepped down after a decade of leading the football team, and remains with the program as an assistant coach.


*Lindsey Carly won the Chris Stenz Volunteer Award, presented by Newtown Youth Football and Cheer.


*Susan Bridges and Marc Kenney received cheerleading and girls' soccer coach of the year recognition through the High School Coaches Association.


*Multisport scholar athletes Makenna Cerney and Cormac Roe were selected as The Newtown Bee's Newtown High School athletes of the year.


*Lisa Irving, after serving as an assistant coach with the program, took over head coaching duties with the Torpedoes' youth swim program.


*Richard Muir took over as president of the Newtown Soccer Club.


*Jim St Pierre took over as Golf Professional at Newtown Country Club.


*George Wilson edged two-time champ Chris Watson for the Rock Ridge Country Club championship.


Road Race Repeats


Among the town's race winners were some repeat standouts.


*Riley Rising was tops in the Mad Dash for the fourth straight year; Liz Chamiec-Case was tops among female participants.


*Zach Schwartz won the Turkey Trot for the second year in a row.


*Christian Lestik won the Newtown Road Race; fellow Newtown/Sandy Hook runner Brenda McRae led the field of women.


*Cody Gotthardt won the Rooster Run in late April; Debbie LeMein was the top female.


*Kevin Boughan was tops in the Sandy Hook 5K in early April; McRae led the females.


*Kevin Hoyt won the Newtown Forest Association and Newtown Cross Country 5K; Sarah Mawdsley was the top female finisher.


Youth Championships


*Youth teams make their marks in local tournaments each year, and some Newtown squads go on to have state and regional success. One the baseball diamonds, the One Eyed Cats went all the way to the 13-15-year-old Babe Ruth World Series, in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. The third time was the charm for the Cats, who reached the New England Regional title game each of the previous two years, narrowly missing advancing to the World Series.


*Newtown's D15 cheerleaders made their way through regionals as champs and went on to capture a national title in December.
*Newtown Youth Wrestling, in addition to having five state champions, was represented by five grapplers who were New England place winners, and two All Americans.


Father-Son Success


*Dr Tom Conrod and his son Joey won the parent-child double championship at the Children's Charities Tennis Classic in New Britain in early August.


*The U13 Prime Time club lacrosse team, which is coached by Newtown's Scott Bulkley and includes his son, Jake, qualified for the World Series of Youth Lacrosse, in Denver, in early July.


Around Town


*Newtown families, representing the Aspetuck Valley Rugby Club, hosted youth athletes from England for on and off the field experiences


*Black Swan won the Women's Softball League championship.


*Newtown High's boys' volleyball team, in its third season of existence, qualified for the state playoffs this past spring.


*Newtown Youth Wrestling hosted its first tournament, the Nighthawk Classic, drawing approximately 400 grapplers from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.


*Newtown's youth field hockey program expanded under the direction of new Coach Amy Krompinger.


*Newtown High's hockey team bumped up to the Division II level to begin the 2017-18 campaign.


Milestones


*Wrestlers Joe Accousti and Tom Long earned their 100th career wins.


*Scott Bulkley, leader of the NHS boys' lacrosse team, won his 100th career high school game in the spring. The former Greenwich coach led Newtown to a 20-7 triumph over Brookfield, in mid-April.


*Jeremy O'Connell picked up his 200th career win as the girls' basketball team beat Wethersfield, 44-38, in a late February clash.


Weather Impacts Sports


Mother Nature always has some say in the world of sports, and 2017 was no exception, including mid/late-March snow that left spring sports teams scrambling to practice and hold tryouts at various indoor venues, or making due on artificial surfaces. Blue & Gold Stadium's turf and track were cleared of snow, allowing for teams, including baseball and softball, to prepare, using makeshift fields.


The Newtown sports world is sure to be in for another thrilling year as the calendar turns to 2018. Keep reading The Bee to follow the local teams and athletes as they compete during the next dozen months.

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