Art Brown, third-year New Canaan High School girls' track and field coach, enters into the spring campaign optimistic and hopeful for significant progress to be made as the season unfolds.

His squad, which went 7-4 last spring and earned a middle-of-the pack finish in the FCIAC before placing seventh in the Class L state championships, lost some key point-getters to graduation. Still the Rams, retain some strong runners, throwers and jumpers.

Among the graduates who leave big shoes to fill are distance running standout Stephanie Benko (runner-up in the state's Class L championships in the 3,200) and jumping specialists Alexis Najarian and Christina Konstantinovic.

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Brown believes his newcomers will help make the team stronger as they gain more experience and practice time under their belts.

"We should improve as the season goes on. We have a lot of young girls," Brown said.

The New Canaan coach isn't setting win-loss or placement goals. He simply wants to see progress from day one moving forward.

"I want to end the season better that we start," Brown said.

New Canaan has four senior captains to lead a mix of returnees and newcomers. Captains Julie Spindel, Eileen Dinnie, and Katie DiFazio all run the 100 meter dash, 200, 400 and relays. The fourth captain is thrower Sydney Czech.

"I think we have a really talented group. Our goal's always to improve and grow closer as a team, too," Spindel said.

Dinnie took the indoor season off and is excited to return to action.

"I'm really looking forward to it. I'm loving being back on track," she said, pun intended.

Brown sees a wealth of talent, in addition to his captains, throughout the track and field events.

He expects contributions from sprinters Maureen Schott, Grace Gowdy, Hayden Hane and Azadeh Amir-Aslani.

Middle-distance standouts are Liz Gordan, Emily Wood, Jane Reed, Samantha Santoni, Emelia Savini and Alex Naughton.

Distance team members to watch for include Isabelle Hetherington, Emma Rosenstein, Lilly Baer, Corrine Vietorisz, Virginia Farley, Sarah Owen, Liz Perry and Jenna Sachs.

Keanton McAuliffe is a strong triple jumper/ hurdler. In field events, Rams to watch include high jumper Maddy Brust and throwers Tess Decker, Isabelle Herde, Molly Joyce and Casey Pitts.

Benko was a member of last year's state champion 4x800 meter relay team, which included Baer, Hetherington and McAuliffe. Herde was third in the state in the discus throw event last spring.

"I think we have a great team and we have a great foundation to build off of," DiFazio said.

New Canaan started the season with a loss to FCIAC and state powerhouse Darien on April 3.

After almost an entire month's worth of road meets, the Rams finally have a contest at home when Wilton, Bassick and Trinity Catholic visit on April 29.