The objective for the young New Canaan High School outdoor girls' track and field team members is to improve as the season unfolds. The Rams know that with decreased times in running events and increased distances in throws and jumps, success will come.

"Our goal is the same every year: To see overall improvement throughout the team," coach Art Brown said. "We have a very young team. It's the type of team I think will really progress as the season goes on."

The Rams were 7-4 last year and placed seventh in the FCIAC championships. The team was sixth in the Class L state championships last spring. This year's winter indoor track team, which includes many of the same athletes competing this spring, was ninth in the state finals.

Darien, Greenwich, Staples, Wilton, Danbury and Fairfield Warde are all tough teams from the always-competitive FCIAC. The Rams expect those rivals to make for a challenging year, but there are high hopes for individual success in several events.

Among the key losses is graduate Melanie Escalante, fifth in the 400 meter dash in the spring state finals in her senior year, and fellow graduate Caroline Murray, who captured the 1600 title a year ago. Murray was also runner-up in the 3,200, but senior captain Stephanie Benko, who was third in that event last year, returns to lead the distance group. Benko is a middle and long distance runner.

Alexis Najarian, now a senior captain, was eighth in the high jump in last year's state championships. In the state discus finals, Rebecca Evensen, now a senior, was seventh last year.

"I'm really excited because it's my last season," said Najarian, who also competes in the triple jump and 100 hurdles. "I'm really excited for the championship season."

Najarian is optimistic that many of her teammates will qualify for the conference and state championships.

The other two captains are Christina Konstantinovic (hurdles, long and triple jump, and middle distance) and Rebecca Evensen (distance and shot-put).

New to the team is sophomore Azadah Amir-Aslani, whom Brown says is a strong all-around athlete and will compete in the triple jump and middle distance events.

Other middle distance runners whom Brown expects good things from are sophomores Liz Gordon, Isabel Hetherington, Keaton McAuliffe and Emily Wood, along with junior Katie DiFazio.

Sprinters include juniors Eileen Dinnie and Julie Spindel. The distance group includes a strong sophomore, Elizabeth Perry.

Throwers Sydney Czech and Isabel Herde, both juniors, along with senior Rebecca Wensen, are expected to be contributors. High jumpers include sophomores Alex Naughton and Maureen Schott, along with junior Jackie McCurdy.

The team's top pole vaulters are seniors Emily Lamdin and Abby Wasden, sophomores Sarah Kelley and Allie Bel Bruno, and freshman Beth Kelley.

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