New Canaan High School's girls indoor track and field team is loaded with underclassmen.

Coming off an 11th-place finish in the FCIAC Championships a year ago, the Rams didn't lose too many key point-getters to graduation, but among the losses was a biggie, Stephanie Benko, who won the 3200 meter race in the Class L state championships.

"She was a major loss," coach Art Brown said.

There are many returnees back in the fold, but the Rams gain much of their depth from a large contingent of freshmen who make up roughly one quarter of the roster. Brown expects a similar campaign to what he had last year.

"I think we'll be in the middle of the pack again and I expect the league to be really strong again," said Brown, noting that Darien, Ridgefield, Staples and Danbury are among the best of the FCIAC schools. "It's a real tough league."

Darien was second in Class L, and Greenwich was runner-up in LL a year ago.

"Our goal, as the season goes along, is to improve as a team and as individuals," Brown said. "I'm really looking forward to it. I think we have a lot of young kids who are really going to improve as the season goes along."

"I'm really excited," captain Lana DelVecchio said. "We're hoping we can get more girls qualifying early in the season so we can focus on improving our times."

Other captains are Julie Spindel, Brooke Decker and Molly Joyce. Emily Wood, Alex Naughton and Eliza Heatherington combined with Benko to capture the 4x800 meter state championship in last year's spring outdoor season. Wood, Naughton and Heatherington are all back and Brown said it is possible that Liz Gordan could slide into Benko's slot on the relay team.

Other key team members whom Brown will look to for key points come postseason are junior runner Maureen Schott, who participates in the 50 and 300 meter runs, sophomore Grace Freyer (300), and other strong mid-distance runners Allie Bel Bruno, Chris Donovan, Hannah Neeleman, Samantha Santoni, Azadeh Amir-Aslani, Katie DiFazio and Grace Gowdy.

Distance runners include Isabel Heatherington, Virginia Farley, DelVecchio, Lily Baer, Sarah Endres and Bea Tobey, all of whom are expected to be contributors in the mile run.

"Our mile group looks pretty strong," Brown said.

Then there are the two-milers, and the Rams also boast plenty of talent there. Jenna Sachs, Liz Perry, Corinne Vitorisz, Caroline Ostrand and Decker are among the girls whom Brown expects to perform well in the two-mile runs.

In the field events, Beth Kelley is a strong pole vaulter and shot-put competitors Isabelle Herde, Sydney Czech, Joyce and Casey Pitts all bring back experience. Schott is also a long jumper, and freshman high jumper Maddy Brust adds depth and provides a new face to the field competitors.

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