Newtown High School enjoyed another school year filled with success — including championships — in each sports season.
The high school graduated 11 athletes who will be playing a sport in college at the Division I level, as well as a handful of others playing at the Division II and III levels. The Nighthawks, collectively, also brought home five South-West Conference championships, as well as three state championships.
“The success of NHS sports is due to the time and dedication of the NHS athletic department,” said Sabrina Byrne, head athletic trainer at Newtown High.
“We have always taken great pride in winning league and state championships but we have always tried to do it the right way,” said Gregg Simon, athletic director at Newtown High. “Championships just mean so much more when they are won by student-athletes who always put academics, sportsmanship, and community service above all else.”
Athletes from NHS teams volunteered time to contribute to cancer awareness fundraising efforts, the Wounded Warrior Project, and many other great causes.
The teams that took home SWC conference championship trophies were football, both girls’ and boys’ lacrosse, and the dance and cheerleading squads. The hockey team, wrestling team, and dance team all took home state titles.
“We are very proud of our state title last year and we’re looking forward to working very hard for state championship number two in 2015,” said Cheryl Stenz, head coach of the dance team. The team took the jazz title this past winter at the Class LL state championships.
The girls’ lacrosse team won its tenth straight SWC championship, beating Brookfield 12-8. In coach Maura Fletcher’s final season at the helm, the Nighthawks finished with a 14-5-1 record.
“I have been blessed to have coached a lot of great athletes who play multiple sports,” said Fletcher. “Kudos to all coaches who encourage there athletes to play multiple sports.”
While Fletcher will not be on the sidelines next year, she still plans to be involved with the program, coaching during the offseason, as well as attending games.
“We will be losing a lot of key players, but I suspect that next year will be a building year with lots of great young athletes who will only get better and fill in those spots nicely,” Fletcher said.
The boys’ lacrosse team finished off the year at 14-5, winning the SWC championship over Brookfield in a 10-8 thriller.
“I’m really honored I had the chance to play with such a talented group of players my senior year who stepped up and helped me end my career at Newtown with another SWC championship,” said Alec Beauchemin, who was a senior captain.
Football experienced another winning season this past fall with a second straight SWC championship, beating Brookfield, 28-7.
“It was awesome,” said Josh Krapf. “Being able to be a senior captain and win a second straight SWC title was amazing.”
“I would attribute our success to hard working kids who are relentless in preparing. Also, great assistant coaches. They are the backbone of the program and work extremely hard to prepare the kids on a weekly basis,” said Steve George, coach of the football team. “Another reason for our programs success is our supportive youth program.”
The wrestling program, as a whole, had a bundle of success, producing the Connecticut State open wrestling champion, Anthony Falbo, a Class LL state championship, the Connecticut Coach of the Year, Chris Bray, and the Connecticut Assistant Coach of the Year, Mike McKeever. Not to mention, the wrestling team as a whole won the state’s team of the year accolades across all four class sizes.
“Hard work and determination throughout the year and the season made in possible,” said Matt Gonzalez, a junior this past season who was a vital member of the squad during its championship run.
The hockey team won the Division III state championship this past winter, skating past EO Smith-Tolland, 2-1 in overtime. Freshmen Scott McLean netted the winning goal.
“It was an unbelievable experience, not only for me but for all the NHS students and residents of our town,” said McLean. “I’m just glad we could bring home a championship.”
This past winter, the cheerleading team broke barriers, winning its first SWC championship in school history with a near perfect routine.
“Winning SWCs was something our team worked tirelessly to accomplish for years and taking the title this past year was a dream come true,” said Samantha Luzietti, who was a senior captain alongside Carly Sullivan.
What quite possibly might be even more impressive than the amount of championships won this year by NHS athletics, is the amount of the sportsmanship honors awarded to teams. The football, girls’ cross country, boys’ tennis, and baseball teams all were recipients of SWC Sportsmanship Team Awards.
“I was extremely proud of our guys to be one of the stronger teams in the league but still hold ourselves to a high standard in regards to sportsmanship,” said Brett Teolis, the boys’ tennis coach. “We had great captains this year that held other players accountable for their actions.”
“I think winning the award really shows the type of people we had on the team,” said baseball player Mike Davis, who was a senior captain this past year and supported his teammates while battling a knee injury. “The coaches preach sportsmanship and playing the right way and it really showed throughout the year.”
The baseball team also won the Western Connecticut Umpire Association Award, which is given to one high school that is serviced by that board.
The school’s sports teams had some tremendous individual performances, including record-breaking efforts. In track and field, Jenna Calandro was the Class LL state open champion, setting a school record and breaking the Class LL record. Calandro kept on with her success in the spring, setting the Class LL record by pole vaulting 12-01. In addition, teammate Amy Anyoha won the discus event in the stat championship meet, throwing the discuss 111-08.
“NHS truly has an unbelievable athletic staff that supports their student athletes and that makes sure that they not only teach kids abut the success they have on the field but off the field as well,” said Byrne.
More than anything, boys’ track and field Coach Tom Brant is impressed with the success of student athletes on the field, as well as in the classroom.
“It is refreshing to see our student athletes excelling on the field and in the classroom,” Brant said. “NHS truly embodies (the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s) mission to develop outstanding students on the field and in the classroom.”
It’s very common for athletes to go to other Newtown High sporting events, and cheer on their fellow classmates and friends.
“Being able to be friends with all the other athletes, and support them in their sports and seeing their success was a lot of fun to experience,” said Krapf.
The teams also receive plenty of encouragement from those outside the school.
“Newtown has always been an incredibly supportive community when it involves our athletic teams. It is great to see so many fans come out to see our games each week,” said Simon.
“It shows how the community is able to come together and support each other and be more than successful,” Krapf added.
The Newtown athletes weren’t the only ones taking home trophies and awards. Marc Kenney, head coach of the girls’ soccer team, and Fletcher each were selected as a Connecticut High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year.
“This has been an tremendously long, fun run of athletic success at the high school,” said Simon. “It is truly a testament to the hard work and dedication of our student-athletes and our coaching staff. The future continues to be very bright for our student-athletes.”