Woodstock Academy boys' track and field coach Pete Lusa, middle, helps conduct a combined, early season, boys’ and girls’ outdoor track practice on the South Campus.

A plus and a minus.
That’s how Woodstock Academy boys’ track and field coach Pete Lusa looks at the Centaurs ascension into Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference this season.
“We only have three dual meets because there are only four of us (teams in the division) so unless we try to start scheduling some other people in there, we get a lot of training and a little competition which may be a good model for some of these kids to not be going, going, going, and needling an injury,” Lusa said. “Get them trained down and then, trained back up for the next competition.”
Lusa said it also doesn’t concern him that it will be too little in the way of competition as the Centaurs will also intersperse a couple of invitational meets. They will travel to the Ledyard Relays at the end of April and to the Middletown Invitational at the beginning of May.
“Those are a chance for the kids to go against good competition,” Lusa said.
Lusa, in an early practice, was excited about the turnout.
He had to two pages of names that he was trying to muddle through.
“We’ve got some good, strong, returning veterans and some new kids with enthusiasm. They’re not tested yet, but it’s that raw energy and enthusiasm that I like,” he said.
Woodstock Academy finished with a 1-5 overall record and a 1-4 mark in ECC Division II last season.
Gone from that team are weight man Mark Dumas; sprinter and middle distance runner Natanael Colon and hurdler Dan Crème.
But Lusa, in his eighth season of coaching, will have seniors to work with.
Distance runner Kenneth Birlin returns as does Andrew Roy (discus, shotput); Danylo Ntamwemizi (shotput, discus, javelin) and Connor Starr (shotput, discus, javelin).
“It’s sad because this team has become another family for me. I don’t know if I will really be able to say goodbye. I think I’m going to hang around next year and try to help out,” Birlin said.
Nathan Craig (hurdles, long and triple jump); Ben Green (sprints, middle distance); and Thomas Waldon (shotput, discus, javelin) will be the key juniors for the Centaurs.
The sophomores will be well represented with Ethan Aspiras (1,600, 3,200-meter); Tyler Barrett (1,600, 3,200, 800, 400); Eric Phongsa (sprints, hurdles); Jackson Dias (400, 800, 1,600, pole vault); Dylan Ponkala (long jump, high jump, pole vault); Jeremy Romano (shotput, discus, javelin); Noah Salsich (800, 1,600, 3,200) and Adam Schimmelpfennig (sprints, hurdles, pole vault) all expected to contribute.
“It’s a really big team and it’s diverse,” Birlin said. “There are people from every grade. We’re going to have a strong team this year and for the next few years.”
Birlin also realizes that it will not be easy competing against the likes of Norwich Free Academy, E. Lyme and Fitch, but he, like Lusa, likes the idea of less dual meets for the most part.
“We’re going to get to train a little more which is good,” Birlin said. “I like it because you can get stronger, but there are less chances to, if you want to run an 800-meter for example, to run it and gauge how do I run it better next time. In practice, you are not just going to be running 800s; you are going to be doing other workouts.”
The team does have a strong returning group from indoor track and also got a hand from cross-country which is why Lusa feels he has a strong group of distance runners.
“There is a good carry over from indoor and Josh Welch ran a good indoor program so that the athletes have kind of got it engrained, ‘Here’s what the expectations are. Here’s how we act.’ The new kids are kind of looking around and figuring out that this is what we do. It will become a culture and I’m enthused about that,” Lusa said.
Lusa feels the field events should garner some points for the Centaurs and the sprinter/hurdle crew is also pretty deep.
“I think we’re poised to have an excellent season in the ECC and at states, but we will always be going against better opponents. The kids who are looking to advance, will always have people to chase. If we were going against Division IV teams and clobbering them, the kids wouldn’t have to try as hard and they would still be getting the accolades and that’s not good for them either,” Lusa said.
Date   Opponent   Time/ Location
Apr. 9  Fitch  4 p.m. / Away
Apr. 24  NFA  3:45 p.m. / Away
Apr. 26  Ledyard Relays  4 p.m. / Away
Apr. 27  Ledyard Relays   10 a.m. / Away
May 3  Middletown Invit.  4 p.m. / Away
May 4  Middletown Invitati.10 a.m./ Away
May 14  E. Lyme  3:45 p.m. / Home
May 20  ECC Champ.  2:30 p.m. / Away
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director
The Woodstock Academy


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