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Newtown High School’s girls’ and boys’ cross country teams are looking to make runs to the top of the South-West Conference this fall. Both squads graduated a handful of top runners, but both lineups return strong runners who finished third in the SWC a year ago.
Rich Marcello, who took over as the girls’ track and field coach in the spring and guided the Nighthawks to the conference championship, is in his first campaign as the cross country team leader.
“This is my first season as Newtown’s cross country coach so I’m really excited. I’m hoping these girls will build off of the success we had in the spring and keep the momentum going,” Marcello said.
The Nighthawks, in addition to placing third in the SWC in last year’s cross country championships, were fifth in the Class LL state championships, and came in 12th in the State Open.
This year’s captains are Maddie Albee, Maddie Findley, Camille Johnson, and Cate Norton. Lu Hage is an All State returner from last year, and stands to be among the pacesetters out on the trails once again. Hage came in seventh in last year’s SWC meet to earn first team All Conference accolades, and Marcello said more runners will have to step up and finish among the top of the pack if the team is going to compete.
The Newtown coach said camaraderie something the Hawks have on their side.
“Our major strength is how close our team is. We end every practice with a cheer of ‘family.’ It’s because of this bond our girls are willing to fight and hurt for each other every day and every race. We are truly a family,” the coach said.
Carl Strait returns to coach the boys, and anticipates challenges from defending champ New Milford and, among others, Joel Barlow of Redding.
“We would love to be able to crack the top two and give it a run at number one — that’s all training,” Strait said. “Do we have the horses? Yes. Can we do it? Yes. We’ve got a great core coming back.”
Newtown is led by captains Christian Lestik, Joel Duval, Colin Keogler, and Zack Crebbin. Lestik is coming off his second straight Newtown Road race triumph, and Duval was runner-up in the Labor Day Weekend event.
In addition to the captains, others who are competing to be among the top seven are seniors Josh Bent, Matt Brantl, and Tony Moreno, and sophomores Nick Jacobs and Jack Kuligowski.
The girls and boys will open the season on Tuesday, September 12, with a visit to Immaculate to take on the host Mustangs, as well as Barlow and Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport.
Read the full article in the September 8 print edition of The Bee.