• Boys Indoor Track

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  • Some bright spots at ECC's

    The Indoor track season continues to wind down with the Eastern Connecticut Conference boys and girls championships held on Saturday at the Coast Guard Academy.

    The boys team finished with 10 points in the championship competition.

    “We showed growth over last year in that several members of the team were responsible for scoring in a variety of events,” Welch said. “We had relay teams and individuals take home awards and put points on the board against some excellent competition. Obviously, we are looking to be more competitive in the league long-term but we don't get there without growth so celebrating that along the way is important.”

    The best individual performance belonged to sophomore Ethan Aspiras who was fifth in the 3,200-meter.

    There were a host of sixth-place performances.

    Danylo Ntamwemizi finished in that spot in the shotput with a throw of 38-feet, 10-inches; Kenneth Birlin placed sixth in the 1,000-meter with his best performance of the season and Lucas Couture was sixth in the pole vault and also qualified for the Class M state championship on Saturday morning at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven in the 55-meter hurdles.

    The 4x200 team of Trey Ayotte, Dylan Ponkala, Jacob Boynton and Spencer Collins placed fourth overall while the 4x800 relay squad of Aspiras, Aidan Lisee, Hans Rynhart and Jackson Dias was fifth.

    In addition to Couture (hurdles), Ntamwemizi (shotput), Birlin (the 1,600-meter in addition to the 1,000) and the 4x200 team have all qualified for state competition.

    Centaurs qualify for states

    It’s called the Bacon Academy Last Chance Invitational.

    That’s because it’s one of the last opportunities for athletes to qualify for the upcoming state championship meets.

    On Saturday, several Woodstock Academy athletes took advantage of the event, held at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven, to either qualify to take part in the state meet or to better their qualifying status.

    On the boys side, the 4x200-meter team of Kenneth Birlin, Trey Ayotte, Spencer Collins, Dylan Ponkala qualified for the Class M state championship meet with a finish of 1:44.9.

    Birlin, a senior, went on to qualify in the 1000m, besting his personal record by three seconds in 2:49.3.

    Danylo Ntamwmezi bettered his qualifying status with a personal-best 38-feet, 6-inch toss in the shotput.

    The Last Chance Invitational is truly not the last chance to put together a qualifying performance for the state championship meet.

    That will take place this weekend when the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship meets are held at the Coast Guard Academy in New London.

    SWCL competition helps Centaurs

    Most indoor track teams in Connecticut don’t get out and compete on a weekly basis in the winter.

    The Woodstock Academy Centaurs are an anomaly thanks to the school’s proximity to the Massachusetts border and the Southern Worcester County League.

    The Centaurs and Marianapolis Prep are eligible to compete in the league as independents. Neither Connecticut school can compete in the league championship.

    That’s fine with Woodstock Academy coach Josh Welch.

    The Massachusetts meets are a great filler in between the Eastern Connecticut Conference non-scoring development meets in December and the ECC championship meet which comes up on Feb. 2.

    “It’s a great opportunity to get some time in on jumps, throws, and the track, in a smaller meet environment than many of the invitationals. It gives Coach (Joe) Banas and I a little more time to help athletes set goals, and chart progress throughout the season particularly for athletes who don't make the cutoff marks at many of the larger invitationals and are unable to compete in those,” Welch said.

    The Woodstock Academy coach added he thought it was a great formula for growth of the program since it does allow the lesser advanced athlete a chance to get a taste of competition.

    The boys finished with a 5-5 mark following a 56-28 win over Milbury and a 50-36 loss to Uxbridge.

    Senior Kenneth Birlin placed first in the 1000-meter; the 4x200-meter relay team also brought home a first-place finish.

    Lucas Couture was second in the high hurdles; Ethan Aspiras was second in the 600-meter and third in the mile; Danylo Ntamwemizi was second in the shotput and qualified for the state meet with a personal-best throw of 38-feet, 4 ½ -inches; Spencer Collins was second in the 300-meter and Evan Giafriddo placed third in the two mile.

    "I am very proud of what both teams accomplished,” Welch said. “We took losses to some great programs like Auburn, and Uxbridge, who put together strong teams, but we're competitive up there and having that regular competition, close to home, helps us get stronger by keeping the athletes engaged in regular competition.  Our kids start to know the kids they are competing against and develop a sense of friendly competition that is difficult to produce in scattered invites.”

    Centaurs back to .500

    The Centaurs boys indoor track team raised its record to 4-4 in the Massachusetts SWCL indoor track league with a pair of victories on Wednesday.

    The Centaurs downed Leicester, Mass., 59-27, and Marianapolis, 65-20, but lost to Auburn, Mass. 52.5-33.5 Wednesday at Tantasqua Regional High School in Sturbridge.

    Kenneth Birlin placed second in the 1000-meter and fifth in the 1,600 while Ethan Aspiras took third in both those events.

    Lucas Couture placed fourth in the 55-meter hurdles and missed qualifying for the Connecticut state championship meet by just a tenth of a second.

    Several Centaur athletes currently own the best performances among the independent schools in the league to date.

    C.J. Burroughs owns the best shotput with a throw of 35-11 ¼; Couture is best in the 55m hurdles with a 9.1-second performance; Aspiras is top in the mile (5:13.7); Birlin is best in the 1600m (2:57.5), Spencer Collins tops the 300m (41.3) and Jackson Dias is tied for best in the high jump at 5-2.


    Centaurs win in Mass.

    The Woodstock Academy boys indoor track team scored against only Quaboag High School in its meet last Wednesday at Tantasqua Regional High School in Sturbridge, Mass.

    Evan Gianfriddo brought home a pair of first-place finishes as he was best in the mile (5:44) and two-mile (12:02.8).

    Senior Kenneth Birlin put together a personal-best performance of 9.4 seconds in the 55-meter hurdles for a second-place finish in that event. He was also second in the 1000-meter with a time of 2:59.9.

    Birlin also joined Dylan Ponkala, Spencer Collins and Lucas Couture to finish second in the 4x800-meter relay.

    Jackson Dias was second in the high jump (5-2) while C.J. Burroughs was third in the shotput (35-4).

    Birlin used his fine performances in Massachusetts as momentum for the University of Rhode Island Invitational on Saturday.

    The senior broke the five-minute mark for a first time this indoor season in the mile, finishing in 4:58 to place 21st among the 81 athletes who competed in the event.

    Fellow senior Robert Maheu threw the shotput for a first-time ever over 30-feet, getting a personal best 31-2.

    Working over the break

    The Woodstock Academy indoor track teams didn’t hunker down for the holidays.

    The boys and girls teams were in action the past two weekends at the Coast Guard Academy in New London.

    The Eastern Connecticut Conference held a pair of invitational meets begin the process of getting athletes qualified for state competition.

    Centaurs senior Ivy Gelhaus and junior Julia Theriaque performed well on both weekends, flipping places in their events.

    Gelhaus finished second in the 600-meter on Dec. 22 with a 1:47.4 time which easily qualified her for state competition and also beat everyone else in attendance by nearly five seconds.

    The competition was a bit stiffer last Saturday and Gelhaus didn’t equal her time of the week before. She placed second in 1:50.76.

    Theriaque finished second in the high jump, clearing the bar at her personal best of 4-feet, 10-inches on Dec. 22. She equaled that this past Saturday and placed first on a tie breaker.

    Pole vaulter Sydney Couture took third when she cleared the bar at 5-feet-6 last Saturday and Iris Bazinet also took home a bronze finish in the 1,600-meter which she finished in 6:19.

    On the boys side, Jackson Dias and Dylan Ponkala finished tied for first in the high jump at a height of 5-feet-2. Dias won the tiebreaker.

    Senior Ken Birlin continues his quest to qualify for state competition and is now just five-tenths of a second off in the 10000-meter. He finished second this past Saturday in a time of 2:52.7.

    “Nearly all of our athletes set a new personal record in their events as we continue to grow,” Welch said of the past two weeks of competition. “Our international students were missed as they are home on break, attendance is thinner, and we're lacking some talent in sprints and throws.”

    Centaurs open season

    Holiday absences hurt the Centaurs in their season-opening indoor track competition.


    The Centaurs downed Oxford (45-40), but lost to Bay Path (51-34); Tantasqua (65-21); and Leicester (44-41) in the meet held at Tantasqua Regional in Sturbridge, Mass.


    Kenneth Birlin was the top performer for the boys as he placed second in the 1000-meter and also participated in the 1600-meter event.


    “He has time to drop to make states in either but has a great chance of doing that in the 1k soon.  It is a gut wrenching event that training can only do so much to get you ready for.  Once he gets a few races in we're going to see him develop quickly,” Welch said.


    Welch is confident that Danylo Ntamwemizi and C.J. Burroughs will continue to improve in their quest to make state competition in the shotput. The two have both been working on their glide and both are throwing the shot around 38-feet currently.


    Freshman Ezekial Pichierri ran well in the 50 meter event.


    The Centaurs were missing two of their distance runners, Ethan Aspiras and Evan Gianfrido due to prior commitments.


    2018-19 Boys and Girls Indoor Track Preview

    Woodstock Academy senior Kenneth Birlin is working hard this indoor track season.

    “He’s really trying to get somewhere down near the 1000-meter and the 800-meter (school) records,” first-year indoor track coach Josh Welch said.

    The current school record holder in those events?

    Josh Welch.

    “It would be kind of cool to train him to beat them. I don’t know if he’s there yet, but we’re going to try,” Welch said.

    Welch is a 1998 graduate of Woodstock Academy.

    “It’s pretty cool,” Welch said of coming back to his alma mater and coaching the sport that he excelled in while attending Woodstock Academy.

    Welch left for a short time and then returned, working for the Hyde School for 15 years until it shut down and the facility was purchased by Woodstock Academy.

    Some chose to stick around.

    Welch was one of them and he currently teaches physics and algebra.

    But when he is not in the classroom, he’s out on the track.

    He was an assistant coach for boys and girls cross-country in the fall and now takes over for Nicole Brousseau as head coach of the indoor track program. He will be assisted by the two cross-country head coaches, Joe Banas and Peter Lusa.

    Welch said it was only fitting that during his transition between Hyde and Woodstock Academy that the cross-country team that he was a part of was inducted into the Woodstock Academy Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame.

    It was during the golden years for the sport at Woodstock Academy.

    “There is this aura of (former Woodstock Academy track coach) Mike Lunt, Bob Mondani and company where a lot of the records changed. The whole board is late 90’s, early 2000’s and I would like to start adding on to that. Mike and Bob were a great combination. They worked together in cross-country and then Lunt took over in winter and spring and they communicated well together and had a good plan for kids.|” Welch said. “Looking at how I trained under those guys, I turned into an 800 runner which really helped me bring my 5K stuff down. I’m doing three seasons now, so it will be good to have some consistency across the board with Banas and myself and Lusa is helping out which is awesome. So we will have a trio of guys, at least for a while, which will really help.”

    Both the boys and girls indoor track teams have 27 athletes currently for the indoor season with a good mix of events covered.

    Those numbers are a bit better than last year, probably due to the influx of some cross-country athletes. Welch is still trying to get some football athletes and athletes from other offseason programs who want to stay in shape over the winter while helping out the program’s fortunes.

    Birlin and cross-country teammate, Ethan Aspiras, will be two of the key performers for the Centaurs in both middle and long-distance events.

    “I haven’t done indoor before so coming into the season with a coach that I know is really nice,” Birlin said.

    The work that Birlin is doing now is in preparation more for the spring season, than the indoor season, in his quest to overtake the school record.

    “I’m very confident that I can. I’m just trying to get in better shape during indoor so I can do (break the marks) in outdoor,” Birlin said.

    Other key performers include Danylo Ntamwemizi and C.J. Burrows, two football players who are coming along nicely in the shotput in their first year with the program; Lucas Couture will compete in the pole vault as well as the sprints and hurdles while Gavin Savoie is working in the sprints.

    Like Birlin, junior Julia Theriaque has some pretty high aspirations this winter.

    Hers are in the high jump for the girls indoor track team.

    “I would really like to win the (Eastern Connecticut Conference) championship, I got second last year and I’m also shooting for the school record (in the event),” Theriaque said.

    Theriaque has also been working on the hurdles.

    Senior Ivy Gelhaus will run either the 300 or 600-meter and some relay events.

    “She has come out pretty fired up this season. She was a little more casual last season, but is putting in the work this year. She looks very promising,” Welch said.

    Meg Gohn and Aria Gianfriddo will be the top distance people for Welch while Sydney Couture will compete in the pole vault.

    “We want to see how many we can get to qualify for the states. I don’t know the competition well enough (in the ECC) to know how we will do as a team right now. We don’t have as big a program as some of the others who tend to be huge so we’re focusing on individuals,” Welch said.

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