MOODUS >> There was a mini-dynasty at Portland, a Class LL and State Open title at Xavier, and a Commonwealth Coast Conference Championship at Salve Regina.
Now, the road has taken cross country/track and field coach Dave Kraszewski back where it all started: Hale Ray High School.
“It’s amazing how life takes you full circle,” said Kraszewski. “I am happy to be back at Hale Ray where I started my coaching career.”
Kraszewski spent the last three seasons as the head coach of men’s and women’s cross country at Division III Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. In 2011, he led the Seahawks to their first conference title.
From Portland to Xavier to Salve, Kraszewski was always trying to prove that he could coach at a higher level, “testing myself and seeing what I was capable of doing,” he said.
But with two soccer playing sons in grammar school, the one hour and 45 minute commute from East Haddam to Newport started to take its toll.
“With all the family commitments and time-wise, it was like another world being at Salve,” Kraszewski said.
Kraszewski resigned in February and was ready to take a coaching job at Southington when the Hale Ray position opened.
And already, the Noises are starting to, well…make some noise.
Hale Ray finished fifth out of 20 teams during last week’s prestigious Blue Dragon Invitational in Middletown. Sophomore Thomas Barlow led the Noises with a fifth-place performance (18:05.22), while junior Matt Tung placed 11th (18:26.05) and sophomore Jake Lanning finished 22nd (19:07.77).
In the Girls 5K race, Hale Ray junior Everest Peacock, an All-State and All-Shoreline performer a year ago, was the runner-up in 20:41.56. Haddam-Killingworth’s Maddie Brandon won the race in 20:34.54.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of Everest,” said Kraszewski. “It was the best I’ve ever seen her race.”
Peacock set a course record on Tuesday at Griswold. She placed first in 19:21 while leading the Noises to wins over Tourtelotte (15-40), Montville (25-30), and Plainfield (19-44).
Barlow also set a course record with a time of 16:33 as Hale Ray defeated Griswold (25-36), Plainfield (20-40), Tourtelotte (18-42) and Montville (18-43).
“The kids are running very well at this point in the season,” Kraszewski said.
Heck, a year ago the Hale Ray girls cross country team didn’t have enough runners to score at meets. But there was Alyssa Angell-Mackenzie, Kayla Morse, Ariana Pritchard, Mikayla Mitchell, Alexis Rogers and Peacock getting on the scoreboard, albeit finishing 14th out of 15 teams, at the Blue Dragon Invite and helping the Noises outscore three teams on Tuesday.
“We’ve got nine girls this year,” said Kraszewski. “We’ll be strong up front. Peacock will contend in Class S and in the Shoreline Conference. A lack of experience is going to be big hurdles for the team but the kids are working hard and getting better.”
Besides Barlow, Tung and Lanning, the freshman trio of Connor Egan, Matt Mcpherson, and Ryan Brownell will also be key contributors for the Hale Ray boys team this fall.
“It’s a young team with a lot of potential,” Kraszewski added. “We don’t graduate any of our top seven runners. It’s promising and I’m excited.”
Kraszewski ran cross country at Eastern Connecticut State University, graduating in 1991. He earned his master’s degree in physical education at Eastern in 1998 and is a physical education and health teacher at Portland High School.
After beginning his coaching career at Hale Ray in 1996, Kraszewski left to coach the girls cross country team at Portland. A dynasty ensued.
The Highlanders were Class S runner-ups in 1999 and 2002 before winning the title in 2003. Kraszewski then guided Portland to three straight Class S titles from 2006-2008. This was the Allie Cooper, Kelsey Rooth, Kayley Ryan and Katie France era that also produced a 52-meet unbeaten streak over four years.
“Those teams had such a close-knit bond,” said Kraszewski. “Honestly, everywhere I’ve been since it’s never been the same. It was an entirely different feel at Portland. I was coaching my students. We were together all the time. The one big regret I have was leaving there.”
But other challenges awaited.
In 2009, Kraszewski’s first season at Xavier, the Falcons captured both the Class LL and State Open cross country titles for the first time in 10 years.
Kraszewski’s impact was also immediately felt at Salve Regina where he was named the CCC co-coach of the year in 2011 following a league championship season.
Yes, Kraszewski has come “full circle” now.
He’s back in Moodus where the commute is a lot easier. He’s back coaching in high school where his teams produced 25 all-state runners and 73 all-conference runners over 12 years. He’s back in the Shoreline Conference where he was a two-time Coach of the Year selection and a member of the league’s cross country Hall of Fame.
And he’s back to spend more time with his sons Michael, 9, and Matthew, 7. They’re both budding soccer superstars whose other favorite sport is, undoubtedly, running around with dad.