Two thousand eleven was literally a “banner year” for Newtown sports. Over the course of the past 12 months we’ve raised championship flags honoring local teams and individuals. Whatever the sport, whatever the season, wherever and whenever the games were played, our young athletes achieved much success on their chosen field or court of play this past year.
In February, the girls’ basketball won the South-West Conference Championship led by all-everything sparkplug/point guard and tourney Most Valuable Player Riley Wurtz. The Newtown girls got tenacious play from juniors Jess Lynch and Bridget Power to stage a furious second half rally to fend off Lauralton Hall for conference bragging rights, 41-32.
Newtown became "LaxTown" in May as both the NHS boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams went undefeated in SWC play – and each team won its respective conference tournament as well.
The Nighthawk girls’ lax machine rolled on, as All-SWC/All-State/All-American Kait Brophy teamed with fellow seniors and captains Meaghan Carney, Katie Canavan and Kelly O'Connor to bring home the program's 7th straight SWC crown.
In the championship game, Joel Barlow provided all the competition the Newtown girls could handle, keeping it close to the bitter end. Senior Emma Kingsley played brilliantly in the win, and Brophy was named the MVP of the game. Youth was also served, as freshman Cassie Ekstrom and Anna Northrop played key roles on defense and showed that the ride could continue on for this incredible program.
Playing in their third SWC title game in four years, the 2011 boys’ lacrosse squad rode senior midfielder Colby Summerlin's seven goals to a 12-7 dismantling of the New Fairfield Rebels. Senior defender Max Nacewicz and goalie Brandon Body were impenetrable on defense, and sophomore Dan Hebert showed a glimpse of the future with an all-around excellent performance.
Along with Nacewicz and Summerlin, senior midfielder Will Northrop and attackman Lewis Thompson capped of their high school careers on top of the SWC with All-Conference and All-state recognition.
Also in May, then-junior Abbey Doski won her third straight SWC championship in girls’ high school golf. Doski played the regular season as a member of the Newtown boys’ team and contributed in every match. Doski then represented Newtown as an individual golfer in the SWC girl’s tourney, adding her third trophy in convincing fashion by shooting a final round 80, four shots clear of the closest golfer in the field. With the upcoming spring season still in front of her, Doski was named the Connecticut Section PGA Junior Golf Association's Player of the Year for 2011.
Later that month, NHS boys’ tennis player Rob Beier captured the first individual conference title for the Nighthawks in 10 years. After dropping the first set to Pomperaug senior Andrew Oravecz by 3-6, Beier crushed his opponent 6-0, 6-0 to take the championship. The match marked the third meeting of the year between the two players, and Beier’s sweep of his rival completed an undefeated conference season for the talented junior.
To say that John Wlasuk had a good June would be the understatement of 2011. The Nighthawk senior thrower was selected as the 2010-11 Gatorade Connecticut Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year. Wlasuk was also the Connecticut Post MVP for indoor and outdoor track.
He won the shot put at the SWC championship (56.8.25) as well as the Class LL (59-8), State Open (58-0) and New England (57-11) meets. He also won the discus throw in the SWC (171-6), Class LL (168-2), State Open (177-0) and New England (179-10) tournaments. In the javelin, Wlasuk won the SWC meet (189-7), finished second in Class LL (176-5) and was fifth at the State Open (178-2).
Over the summer, The Newtown Hawks U12 girls’ softball team won the Babe Ruth Softball State Championship in July. The Hawks came out of the loser's bracket and needed to beat Stamford twice to take the title, responding with 10-1 and 3-1 wins to earn the title.
On the boys' Babe Ruth baseball side, Newtown had two 11 year old squads take home big championships. The Thunder, Newtown’s entry into the 50/70 foot field division, won the state title led by State MVP Connor Barrett. The Inferno, playing on the 46/60 foot field, won the state tournament as well as the New England regional tournament behind MVP Patrick Godino and Slugger Joe Palanzo
As the fall 2011 season got underway for Newtown High School, Nighthawk junior boys’ cross-country runner Jake Feinstein won the boys SWC title, covering the 3.1-mile course at Bethel High in 16:32.35. Feinstein also took second in the State Class LL meet, finishing in 16:10.
November also saw the Newtown Youth football 8th grade team roll to the Connecticut State Championship of the American Youth Football organization. The ‘Hawks beat Norwalk 24-20 (at Norwalk) for the League
Championship. The team then beat previously undefeated Torrington, 25-6 for the state crown.
Newtown’s offense overwhelmed the opposition in that game, running a season high 55 plays and gaining 362 yards. Jared Pearson racked up 232 yards rushing from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns. Michael Doyle snagged an interception and both Nick Samuelson and Chance McMahon each had a sack as the Newtown defense held Torrington to just 183 yards from scrimmage.
The Newtown High School football team played and won a momentous game against Bunnell in early November that vaulted them into the SWC
Championship game. Senior running back Lou Fenaroli scored the tying touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game and then notched the game winner on a 19-yard blast after a Bunnell fumble.
Junior Dan Hebert racked up 242 total yards from scrimmage and sophomore quarterback Drew Tarantino completed 21-of-27 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns. The Nighthawks ultimately fell short in the SWC title game, but the Bunnell victory will long reverberate throughout Nighthawk football history and was widely viewed as the SWC’s “Game of the Year.”
The NHS girls’ volleyball team finished off the year in grand style with its second straight SWC title. Newtown hadn't dropped a single game during regular season conference play, but Joel Barlow gave them all they could handle in the championship match. The Falcons took Newtown to five games, but the Nighthawks prevailed in the end by scores of 23-25, 25-13,
23-25, 25-22, and 15-9.
Eleven days later the girls added the state hardware to their trophy case, beating Southington in three straight games to earn the Class LL title. Senior hitter Emma Herring was named the MVP of the championship, but the win was truly a team effort. The senior-laden squad included irreplaceable performances by multi-sport stars Riley Wurtz, Jess Lynch, Abby Doski and sophomore Cassie Ekstrom as well as senior Alyssa Finkenstadt.
Finally, The Newtown High School swimmers deserve special recognition for their efforts this past year. The girls actually began their trial by fire in the fall of 2010, as the ongoing and delayed high school construction project uprooted them from their home pool. Their “adopted” venue in Oxford was prone to breakdowns and the girls had to scramble to find places to swim, even holding senior night at the pool of bitter rival turned benevolent neighbor Masuk High School. The girls came into the fall of 2011 reborn and refocused. With a completely refurbished facility and several talented freshmen, the Nighthawks took second place finish in the highly competitive SWC.
Congratulations to all those athletes and teams – both mentioned and
unmentioned here. To anybody who extended themself, entered the arena and made the effort to compete in 2011, in some way you've made us all proud. Because in sports, it's not just winning - it's the taking part that truly matters.
Let's keep it up.