Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas … These are among the states that have been practically synonymous with big time college basketball for decades. Oh, and then there’s our state, tucked away in the Northeast corner, where major league baseball and professional football, hockey, and basketball were more popular than college hoops for many years. But things have changed in the past decade-plus here in the Nutmeg state.
Newtown High School’s boys’ track and field team is led by a new coach as Tom Brant takes the lead role. Brant, who was involved with coaching the winter indoor track squad, has high hopes for improvement this spring based on what he saw during the winter campaign. That and the fact there is much more depth to this year’s lineup with the roster size increasing from 42 team members to 72. Last spring, the Nighthawks placed tenth in the South-West Conference meet and were 17th in the Class LL state championships.
Coach Doug Russell goes into his 11th season as head coach of the Newtown High School girls’ track and field team with the same goals he’s always had: To win the South-West Conference and finish among the top ten in the state at the Class LL championships.
After spending the last two seasons competing in the Legends cars ranks at Waterford Speedbowl, Newtown’s Stephen Kopcik will become the newest member of the 2014 SK Light Modified rookie class at Stafford Motor Speedway this spring. Kopcik and his team recently acquired a Chassis Dynamics car that was a backup car for Ryan Preece at Thompson Speedway, and he will have Mike Paquette from CD Chassis helping him out with his chassis setup.
Sure, there’s always tough Pomperaug of Southbury, Bunnell of Stratford, and other formidable South-West Conference foes, but members of Newtown High School’s baseball team don’t really have to look any further than their own bench to find perhaps the biggest competition early on this campaign. Only three of members of the Nighthawks — pitcher Mike Davis, shortstop Virgil Procaccini, and catcher Austin Raftery — have varsity experience under their belts as the Nighthawks take to the diamonds this spring.
Experience proved to be beneficial for Newtown High School’s softball team when a strong roster of returnees improved on its previous season’s record with three more victories. Coming off a 13-7 regular season (11-4 in conference play) in 2013, this year’s version of the Nighthawks — also a familiar looking squad — hopes to again build off its previous season’s success. The Nighthawks, who fell in the quarterfinal round of the South-West Conference Tournament and in the second round of the Class LL state bracket, lost only two players to graduation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they were key contributors: Courtney Escoda and standout Jess Gibbons, the latter of whom joined current Manhattan College senior Kate Bowen on the school’s short list of 100-hit club members.
With every year comes change. Rosters, lineups, which opponents are toughest, etc. For the past 13 years, however, the coach of Newtown High School boys’ tennis team was the same. Now, the boys’ tennis team is led by a new head coach as Brett Teolis succeeds longtime leader Marty Margulies. Teolis inherits a squad that went to the South-West Conference championship, ultimately falling to Weston in the pinnacle match, but that also faces plenty of change on the courts. A handful of players graduated, leaving a mix of up-and-coming and returning players to make up the lineup.
Coming off consecutive seasons in which they captured South-West Conference championships, the Newtown High School girls’ tennis team will rely on a somewhat new group of players to stay at the top. The Nighthawks, who went 15-1 in the regular season before successfully defending its SWC crown, then reaching the state tournament’s semifinals, lost eight players from a year ago. Four graduated and two each were claimed through moves out of town and opting not to play.
Newtown High School’s golf team returns all of its top golfers from last year’s squad, and the Nighthawks are hoping their experience on the courses pays dividends this spring. The Nighthawks are led by captains Bubba LeBlanc and Vivek Tedla. Other top golfers back in the fold are Graham Hubbert, Josh Houle, and Colin Patrick.
Throughout the years, girls at Newtown High School have had the option to grab their clubs and hit the fairways and greens with the boys. For the first time, there’s a girls-only squad at NHS. It may be a club team, but it’s their own team, and Bill Flood, who will coach the golfers along with Jeremy O’Connell, is hopeful it’s the start of something big. Flood, who serves as vice president of the Connecticut Professional Golfers’ Association, and is slated to take over as president in the fall, notes that there is an initiative to grow the activity of golf in the state, especially with females. Some of the smaller towns in the South-West Conference have schools with girls’ programs, and Flood is excited that Newtown is joining the ranks.