LITCHFIELD — There’s a new sheriff in the Berkshire League’s track and field town and its name is Northwestern High School.
A year after the Highlander girls ended Nonnewaug’s 22-year domination of the league, pairing with the boys for a double win in the Berkshire League Championships, Northwestern’s girls and boys swept the team titles again Saturday afternoon at Litchfield’s Plum Hill Athletic Complex.
This year, the Highlander girls beat Nonnewaug 173-142.5; the boys beat Gilbert’s surging team 179.5-121.
“We’re just having a good run,” said veteran Northwestern coach Andy Campbell. “We’ve had good stretches before.”
The boys team has ticked off several championships in a row, but the double whammy is special, given the Chiefs’ 22-year undefeated streak.
Sydney Dzenutis led the Northwestern girls with wins in the 800 and 1,600 meters; Ayden Fritz won the long and triple jumps for the boys.
“It’s a thing everyone likes to talk about in school,” said Fritz, a junior who began his track and field experience in middle school, explaining the rise of Highlander track and field in numbers and success.
‘Track is great,” says Northwestern discus winner Jon Chappel, further endorsing the Highlander program.
That same kind of fervor is at work behind sixth-year coach Amie Kurtz on The Gilbert School’s boys team, where Dylan Amery joined the meet’s select ranks of double winners with triumphs in the 100 and 200-meter dashes.
“All the credit goes to the kids,” said Kurtz. “They’re going out and bringing in more kids to the program.”
That’s what the Chiefs had going, especially for all those years in a row on the girls side. Now, Nonnewaug’s program finally seems susceptible to the same kind of hills and valleys familiar to most other schools and sports in the state.
“More people are going to tennis,” said Nonnewaug senior Azria Malloy, whose showing on Saturday — first places in the 100-meter hurdles and javelin and seconds in the 200-meter dash and shot put — show there’s still plenty of life in the program.
“People think track is a challenge,” said Malloy. “It used to be all about winning; now, we’re putting more emphasis on developing people.”
Saturday, in the midst of a BL track community currently ruled by the Highlanders, there was plenty of both — winning and development — across the league.
Shepaug Valley’s Cameron Brown was a double winner in the 110 and 300-meter hurdles.
Thomaston’s winning 4×400 girls relay team — Abby Blasko, Briana Grecco, Bianca Knox and Sydney Stevenson — lopped 13 seconds off its best time (4:18.45).
“We tried harder,” laughed a member of the team.
That effort never stops.
Nonnewaug senior Eddie Nicholas, headed for CCSU in the fall, is undefeated this year in the 3,200. He lapped most of his competition Saturday, going out for the first mile in a time that would have won the day’s 1,600-meter race.
Nevertheless, he was disappointed, missing his goal of a BL record by 6 seconds.