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Woodstock Will Host VPA Golf Meet

Mid Vermont Christian's Austin Sayers watches his drive off the first tee at Middlebury College's Ralph Myhre Golf Course during last year's Vermont Principals Association Division III boys golf state championship on June 6, 2012. If Sayers and the Eagles qualifying for states again this season, they'll play the tournament at Woodstock Country Club, the first time in at least three decades that Vermont's high school boys golf state champions won't be determined at Middlebury.

Valley News file -- Greg Fennell

Mid Vermont Christian's Austin Sayers watches his drive off the first tee at Middlebury College's Ralph Myhre Golf Course during last year's Vermont Principals Association Division III boys golf state championship on June 6, 2012. If Sayers and the Eagles qualifying for states again this season, they'll play the tournament at Woodstock Country Club, the first time in at least three decades that Vermont's high school boys golf state champions won't be determined at Middlebury. Valley News file -- Greg Fennell

Woodstock — As co-chairmen of the Vermont Principals Association’s golf committee, Pat Merriam and Paul Wheeler like to think outside of the tee box.

Both believe change is a good thing, and they’re marshalling some of it for the upcoming Vermont high school season. After at least three decades at Middlebury College’s Ralph Myhre Golf Course, the VPA is moving the three-division boys state finals to Woodstock Country Club on June 5.

Merriam, the athletic director at Spaulding High School in Barre and the former AD at South Royalton High, would like to “change things up from one year to the next,” he explained this week. Such change could be a simple as updating the parents’ handbook to choosing a new state championship site or instituting fall golf, all of which have become topics for discussion at the committee level.

Woodstock as host is the most noteworthy adjustment to date.

“It’s great,” Woodstock pro and Woodstock High coach Jim Gunnare said in a phone interview yesterday from Sarasota, Fla., where he spends his winters. “Middlebury is a great golf course, but I think it’s going to be a lot more fun for the kids at Woodstock. It’s centrally located, and kids are going to have fun with that course.”

Gunnare brought up the topic of hosting states last June, when Wheeler and Merriam were at Woodstock to participate in a charity event. “Jim indicated he would love to host,” Merriam said. “Paul and I played the course, talked about it as we played and thought the layout was kid-friendly. There are plenty of challenges, but it’s playable for kids who are higher-scoring.”

Last June’s state tourney at Middlebury had its problems. Despite receiving five inches of rain in the week prior to the tournament, golfers were sent off the back tees at states, a move that sent more than half of the field over the century mark on their scorecards as rounds stretched beyond the six-hour mark. A Vermont Golf Association official later took responsibility for a miscommunication in determining the tee locations.

Merriam didn’t blame Middlebury for the slow day, which included a mid-round thunderstorm delay. In fact, he hopes Ralph Myhre will remain in what he plans to be a championship rotation that could include such notable tracks as Jay Peak, Vermont National in South Burlington, the Country Club of Vermont in Waterbury Center and Killington’s Green Mountain National.

“The Division I North sectionals rotate through a six-course rotation,” Merriam said. “I’m not saying that’s the magic number; it could be five, it could be seven. One thing that we have to be real careful about is making sure we’re not ruling anybody out if they are willing to host. I certainly don’t want to say no if venues are opening doors and members are OK with having high school kids there for a couple of days.”

The committee is also bringing the notion of fall golf back into discussion.

Athletic directors petitioned the VPA to move golf to the fall about 12 years ago, according to Merriam, thinking competitors and courses would be at their best after a summer of play. The notion never gained traction, and Merriam has told the committee he doesn’t want to do away with Vermont’s spring high school schedule.

While admitting he has research to do, one idea has Merriam intrigued. In Alabama, the state junior golf association helps high school players acquire a GIHN (Golf Information and Handicap Network) rating, he said. Having such could lead to different types of tournaments should Vermont be able to support some sort of fall golf.

“We have some organizational issues that we’d have to address,” VPA associate executive director Bob Johnson said. “We get mixed results when we talk to courses. Some love the idea that it could be in the fall; other states, like New Hampshire, do it in the fall. There are other courses saying no, they’re not open long enough.”

Count Rivendell coach Justin Bonnett among those thrilled that Woodstock will be playing host. The Raptors have finished no worse that third in five of the last six D-III state tourneys.

“It’s great; it’s right in our back yard,” Bonnett said. “It’s a half-hour drive versus a two-hour drive. How can that be a bad thing? And Division III falls first this year, so a night in a hotel is saved. We just wake up and head out.”

Something’s Fishy Here: The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association is getting hooked on fishing.

The association will hold its first sanctioned bass fishing tournament on May 9 at Lee’s Mills in Moultonborough, the first step toward adding the sport to its growing lineup of activities. The tournament will be a trial event this spring, with the hope of organizing a more formal program in time for the 2013-14 school year.

Kearsarge athletic director Scott Fitzgerald, who sits on the NHIAA’s bass fishing committee, said this week about 30 schools have expressed an interest in participating in the sport, including his own. The registration deadline for May’s tournament is Monday.

Schools may send up to two teams of two anglers if they can provide their own boats; the NHIAA will supply boats to schools without them, but they’ll be limited to one team of two competitors. From there, individual medals will be handed out for the largest total catch (maximum of four fish) and for the largest individual largemouth and smallmouth catches.

The state high school athletic associations in Kentucky and Illinois already have made bass fishing a sanctioned sport. A story in this week’s Boston Globe indicated Missouri will begin polling its members next week about adding it, and the website highschoolfishing.org lists multiple other states that offer championship tournaments.

Ski the East: Two Upper Valley residents racing for the Stratton Mountain School’s Nordic skiing program joined an SMS teammate to earn five top-20 finishes at last weekend’s Eastern High School Championships in Presque Isle, Maine.

Seniors Kate Kerin, of Lyme, and Mollie Hoopes, of Hanover, teamed with SMS sophomore Ana Witkowski, of Victor, N.Y., at the Easterns. Competing for Team New Hampshire, Kerin took 11th place in Saturday’s 7.5-kilometer mass-start classic race; Hoopes, a member of Team Vermont, was 17th, and Witkowski took 19th.

Witkowski cracked the top 10 in Saturday afternoon’s freestyle sprint, taking eighth. Kerin closed the effort for SMS by skiing a leg on New Hampshire’s top mixed-gender, mixed-technique relay team, a group that took fourth place.

Vermont topped Maine to win the team meet, which included top skiers from around New England and New York.

Star Shine: Thetford Academy girls basketball standout Shyann Josler has been selected as the most valuable player in the Capital League for this past season.

A junior, Josler topped the Panthers in scoring at 14.65 points per game and helped TA reach the Vermont Division III semifinals earlier this month. She was joined on the all-league squad by teammates Michaela Pomeroy (first team) and Ella Chapman (honorable mention), who missed the last half of Thetford’s season with a knee injury. Oxbow’s Mikayla Hodge also made the all-league first team, and Randolph contributed Brooke Jacques (second team), Kelsey Jacobs (honorable mention) and Brittney LaFreniere (honorable mention).

Rivendell and Whitcomb both contributed two players to the all-Central Vermont League girls basketball first team that was released earlier this week. The Raptors’ Lacey Stever and Stefanie DeSimone were joined by the Hornets’ Nicole Begin and Ashley Stearns on the 12-player first team.

Whitcomb’s Lindsey LaPerle and Reba Hart joined Rivendell’s Jennifer DeBois on honorable mention lineup, which also included Sharon Academy’s Suzie Moses.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.