Doug Russell is shooting for success in the short term with an eye on building for the future. The Newtown High School girls’ outdoor track and field coach has 70-plus participants to begin the campaign, and he is encouraging those new to the program to develop field events skills, hopeful that it will pay off down the road.
Newtown has strong sprinters, distance runners, and hurdlers, but has had some struggles in the field events in the past Russell notes.
Among the graduates who leave big shoes to fill is one of the few field events standouts, pole vaulter/triple jumper Lauren O’Connell.
Newtown brings back plenty of talent and experience from last year’s squad, which came in third in the South-West Conference and was ninth in the Class LL state championships. Captains are Melissa Buccino (hurdles and long jump), Zoe Eggleston (hurdles, 400 meters, and 4x400 relay), and Reagan Cerney (800 and 4x400). Buccino won the indoor track SWC 55 hurdles title this past winter.
Other key team members Russell expects points from are Jenna Calandro (pole vault, long and triple jump, and 4x100), and Amy Anyoha and Michaela Nowacki (discus, javelin, and shot-put), Brooke Newton (sprints), Molly Arneth (hurdles), Hannah Schwartz and Brianne Moulder (distance), and Taylor Zingaro (400 and 4x400). Additionally, sprinter Brittany Tolla is expected back from a knee injury sometime midseason.
Newtown was third in the conference in the indoor track season this winter. “I would like to see us finish in the top three for outdoor as well,” said Russell, adding that another goal for this year is to get as many girls to qualify for postseason competition as possible.
Weston and New Milford appear, based on the winter results, to be among the top competitors the Nighthawks will face within the conference. Joel Barlow of Redding also stands to be tough, Russell notes. The coach adds that you never know from season to season, with athletes switching sports, if there will be some surprise teams in the mix.