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A Royal Flush

South Royalton Boys Bag First State Title in Five Years

  • South Royalton’s Michael Dunkle attempts to clear the bar during the final pole vaulting competition at the Vermont Division IV State track meet at Green Mountain Union High in Chester, Vt., yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    South Royalton’s Michael Dunkle attempts to clear the bar during the final pole vaulting competition at the Vermont Division IV State track meet at Green Mountain Union High in Chester, Vt., yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sharon Academy junior Greta Binzen flies through the air during the long jump yesterday in Chester, Vt.  (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Sharon Academy junior Greta Binzen flies through the air during the long jump yesterday in Chester, Vt. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sharon Academy’s Chris Gish finishes ahead of the pack to win the boys’ 1,500-meter run the Vermont Division IV track meet at Green Mountain Union High yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Sharon Academy’s Chris Gish finishes ahead of the pack to win the boys’ 1,500-meter run the Vermont Division IV track meet at Green Mountain Union High yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Royalton’s Michael Dunkle attempts to clear the bar during the final pole vaulting competition at the Vermont Division IV State track meet at Green Mountain Union High in Chester, Vt., yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Sharon Academy junior Greta Binzen flies through the air during the long jump yesterday in Chester, Vt.  (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Sharon Academy’s Chris Gish finishes ahead of the pack to win the boys’ 1,500-meter run the Vermont Division IV track meet at Green Mountain Union High yesterday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Chester, Vt. — The South Royalton School boys track and field team didn’t realize it was the favorite to win yesterday’s Vermont Division IV state championship meet until discovering that last year’s champ, Hazen Union, had auspiciously — and inconspicuously — moved up to D-III.

Suddenly playing the role of frontrunner, the Royals needed no individual glory to fulfill it.

Winning its first title in five years, South Royalton won no events, but scored in 14 of 17 to edge runner-up Chelsea, 90.75-83, at Green Mountain Union High School.

While no Royal received a gold medal, 15 of their 16 athletes scored in at least one event — eight in multiple — as they captured their first title since the Jeff Moreno-led D-III championship team in 2008.

Fifth-year South Royalton coach Rose Kent thought it was a fitting way for her club to win another title.

“I think it says a lot about the team,” she said. “I could have given some of the guys easier days, fewer events, and we might have ended up with an individual title or two, but probably not a team title if we’d played it that way.”

The Royals took four of the top six spots in the pole vault and three of the top four in the javelin, including a surprise, fourth-place heave of 119 feet, 6 inches in the latter from senior Kenny Sypher. He followed classmates Brian Striker (second; 124-06) and Jesse James (third; 120-08).

“That was unexpected, and just shows you how we came together as a team today,” said James, who was also second in the shot put (35-6.6) and sixth in the discus (88-5). “This feels really good, to get this, because the seniors were in eighth grade the last time (the program) won it. So we’ve basically been working for five years for this.”

Junior Michael Dunkle (second; 11-6), juniors Emmett Lovett (fourth; 9-0) and Dylan Orechovesky (fifth; 9-0) and freshman Max Brown (sixth; 8-6) helped South Royalton dominate the pole vault, while senior Riley Post-Kinney was second in the 300-meter hurdles (48.45) and third in the 110 hurdles (19.16).

Senior Chase Garrett was third in the discus, freshman William Wuttke was fifth in the triple jump and senior Dylan Striker was fifth in the shot put while serving as part of the 4x800 relay team that placed fourth for the Royals.

Orechovesky placed sixth in the high jump and was part of South Royalton’s fifth-place 4x100 relay team, while freshman Sam Thornton was sixth in the 300 hurdles and part of the 4x400 relay team that placed third. Ferris Galen, Brian Striker, Dylan Striker, Brown and James were also part of productive relay units that put the Royals over the top.

The Red Devils — who, remarkably, placed second with just four athletes—– did not place in any relay.

“That was really big for us, the relays and the throws,” Kent said.

Competing independently, Rivendell sophomores Sam Emerson (second in the 200 and high jump) and Liam Fleming (second in 3,000; fourth in 1,500) garnered four top-5s.

Ninth-place Whitcomb received contributions from freshmen Harry Allen (third in triple jump) and Spencer Taylor (fourth in discus) and from junior Stephen Davis (fourth in long jump).

Battling both illness and hip tendinitis, Sharon Academy freshman Chris Gish won the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 36.18 seconds before dropping out of the 3,000 after two laps.

Chelsea was led by junior Anthony Spinella, who won the 100 in 11.67 seconds and the long jump (18-8.75) and triple jump (39-2.25). Junior Brandon Poulin (shot put, 800) had two wins.

“We’ve done well all year,” said second-year Red Devils coach Donnie Wilcox, who hopes the program’s numbers will grow in the coming years. “We’ve gone to D-I meets and done well, so I’m not surprised we did well today.”

On the girls’ side, South Royalton placed third despite competing without junior jumper and relay contributor Olivia Phillip (illness). Her older sister, Eliza, was second in the 100 hurdles (17.52) and third in both the high jump (4-06) and shot put (27-10.5). Sophomore Larissa Stride was second in the pole vault (7-6) and fourth in the 300 hurdles, while senior Allison Zug was fourth in the pole vault and ran the final leg of the Royals’ third-place 4x800 relay team. Sophomore Faith Pease, who ran the second leg, was sixth in the 1,500.

“We had a really good meet, especially considering we only had nine girls today,” Zug said.

Whitcomb senior Theresa Claughton won both the 100 and 300 hurdles, her times of 17.29 and 51.07 both better than last year’s winners to establish D-IV records. Claughton was also second in the triple jump (30-8.5).

Rivendell’s Andrea Haehnel won the pole vault with a jump of 8 feet, while the ninth-place Phoenix got third-place finishes from junior Greta Binzen (100 and long jump) as well as the 4x400 relay team of Eliana Ruben, Grace Pfeil, Emma Farrington and Gretta Stack (61.34).

Stack was also sixth in the 400, as was Sharon’s 4x100 relay team.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

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