First pg 11 9-6-18


Linsey Arends in green.
Stella DiPippo in orange.
Photos by Peter Lusa

WOODSTOCK — The Woodstock Academy first-year girls’ cross-country head coach Joe Banas knew the talent that both sophomore Stella DiPippo and freshman Linsey Arends possessed before the two ever stepped foot on to the school campus.
All three live on the same road in Brooklyn and Banas has often glimpsed them running past the house.
Now those two young ladies are part of Banas’ program.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to coach all the girls, but Linsey in particular, because I’ve known her, seen her grow up and she will be a great boost to the team,” Banas said.
Banas was an assistant coach at The Academy last year and replaces John Ywarsky who stepped aside as head coach following last season.
“I am ecstatic,” Banas said of being elevated to the top spot. “Two years ago, I was coaching at three different high schools, three different sports and working for three different athletic directors. To be here and to also be the assistant distance coach for both indoor and outdoor track trams as well – good things happen to those who wait. It’s more than a good thing, it’s a great thing. At 61 years old, I’m really happy.”
The Centaurs girls finished 10-2 overall and second to Stonington with an 8-2 record in Division II of the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
They went on to place fifth in the ECC championship meet with DiPippo earning All-ECC honors with a third-place finish as an individual.
DiPippo finished 25th in the Class L state championship and the Centaurs placed 15th as a team.
From that team, only Hannah Matsas has graduated.
Banas is hoping to better those numbers.
But he realizes, he will have to develop more than just DiPippo and Arends.
“I had this at Killingly. We had a great 1-2 punch, but we couldn’t close. There were times when we would go 1-2 in a race and lose. If we can get that pack – they may be playing musical chairs but that’s good because competition is a good thing – it will move everyone up because they will know their spot is not safe,” Banas said. “I can’t have a four-minute gap between the second and third runner because too many teams will just pile a whole boatload of kids in there and the result will not be positive.”
The Centaurs have three seniors, Shannon D’Alessandro, Aria Gianfriddo, and Summer Chaponis and three juniors, Meg Gohn and Alexia Bourbeau, both of whom will serve as captains, and Cassidy Fortier.
“I’m pretty excited. I love running and I’ve been doing it since middle school, it’s an honor,” Gohn said of being named captain.
Gohn added that it’s nice to have two talented underclassmen like DiPippo and Arends because it will force the older girls to work harder this season.
Also returning to the team is sophomore Emily McClure.
Newcomers, in addition to Arends, are fellow freshman Leah Castle, sophomore Mallory Tyimok and junior Julia Theriaque.
Banas asked the team to do about 200 miles during the summer to try to get ready for the season and, he thinks, most did the work.
Banas feels the Centaurs can make some noise this season, even though they have been moved up to Division I against schools like East Lyme, the defending ECC champ.
“(Vikings coach) Mike Flynn is a good friend and a great coach. Plus, Norwich Free Academy (the ECC championship runner-up last season) and Fitch, we have our work cut out for us, but we’re up for the challenge,” Banas said.
The Centaurs begin this weekend when they compete in the first big event of the season, the Windham Invitational at Windham High School, on Saturday.
Banas has entered the team into the varsity championship race.
“I don’t want to shy away from the best. If you want to be the best, you have to run against the best. I’m looking to go at it,” Banas said.
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director


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