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2021 HS cross country preview: Runners finding strides again

  • Abby Egner, far right, expresses enthusiasm for a sticker earned by Thetford cross country runners as they complete training loops on the first day of cross country practice in Thetford, Vt., on Aug. 19, 2021. Running with Egner are teammates, from left, Charlotte Reimanis, Jada Rich and Ava Hayden. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Geoff Hansen

  • Thetford cross country coach Emily Silver talks about the workout routine for the first day of practice in Thetford, Vt., on Aug. 19, 2021. The team opens their season at a meet in Essex, Vt., on September 4. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • From left, brothers Oliver and Harland Ransom and Ben Mattern warm up with their Thetford cross country teammates on the first day of practice in Thetford, Vt., on Aug. 19, 2021. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thetford cross country team manager Madeleine Thexton, right, attaches a smiley-face sticker to Madelyn Durkee's back after completing a training loop on the first day of practice in Thetford, Vt., on Aug. 19, 2021. Durkee finished third in last season's state meet, leading the team to second place in Division III. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 9/2/2021 12:01:43 AM
Modified: 9/2/2021 12:01:50 AM

It’s safe to say the Upper Valley’s cross country teams are breathing a lot easier this fall … and the absence of face masks isn’t the only reason.

Teams didn’t have to wear them in competition last year, but now they’re (hopefully) a thing of the past. So, too (hopefully) is the worry about state meets not coming off; even with COVID-19 restrictions that prevented the usual festival atmospheres, both states completed championships without a hitch.

Hanover provided the high point of 2020, its girls claiming an NHIAA Meet of Champions crown after a near-miss at the D-II state meet. Thetford was its usual outstanding, and White River Valley delivered a revelation of a runner.

What’s next? The starting gun is about to sound.

Hanover

Co-coaches: Eric Picconi (10 years) and Dorcas DenHartog (4).

Last year: Girls were second at states and won the NHIAA Meet of Champions; boys placed third at states and eighth at MOC.

Leagues: NHIAA Division II, Connecticut Valley Conference.

Returnees: Seniors — Spencer May, Luke Holmes, Charlotte Tagupa, Ella Goodney, Kirk Garner. Juniors — Mack Levy, Joy Garner, Lauren Eiler. Sophomores — Will Parker, Sarah Glueck, Caleb Zuckerman, Lily Terry.

Newcomers: Seniors — Miriam Herron, Maya Sandor, Lia Naughton. Sophomores — Noah Branchflower, Lucian Gleiser, Ayla Wager, Noah Glenney, Michael Jia, Andrew Davis, Jack Olmstead, Hyuseo Yi, Jinseo Yi, George Dominiak, Margaret Keefe. Freshmen — Lucy Wilcox, Nicolas Van Citters, Abe Healy, Eliabeth Staats, Owen Welch, Rex Gleason, Claire Reder, Hannah Malin-Stremlau, Zachary Edson, Ryan Faris, Aidan Beyer, Jack Nolin, Alexander Valentino, Andrew Valentino, Wyethe Murray, Nandeesh Jain, Annika Batt.

Analysis: Hanover boasts a combination of talent this year with a core of solid upperclassmen who will be counted on to mentor an eager group of sophomores and freshmen.

Picconi said it is hard to make any predictions for this autumn following the COVID year, but the girls have set a high bar with last year’s win at the Meet of Champions.

“A young group can be like a black box, and you aren’t sure what will take shape, but we coaches are always optimistic,” Picconi said. “We will approach this year with the same focus as past years and hope that everything falls into place at the right moment.”

Hartford

Coaches: Fatimah Shabazz (1) and Dan Rivers (1).

Last year: Girls team won the Southern Vermont League B division championship. Finn Sunde was 50th and Meg MacLaury 25th to lead the Hurricanes at states.

Leagues: VPA Division II, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Kayla Burnham, Bethany Davis, Ethan Michaels, Finn Walther. Juniors — Rylee Burnham, Meg MacLaury, Anthem Philip, Cecilia Wendling, Gavin Farnsworth. Sophomores — Camdon Bradford, Jack Fournier-Stephens, Zachary Johnson.

Newcomers: Freshmen — Sebastian Fraser, Bennett Moreno, Hugh Wendling, Logan White.

Analysis: “The daily hunger in the eyes of the team is my favorite part of practice each day,” said first-year coach Fatimah Shabbazz, who ran track and field at Kentucky State University and later coached there. “We’re a small team with a lot of heart, and that will take us very far this season. Coach Rivers is new to the coaching staff, and together we are simply putting together the pieces to not only prepare our student-athletes for another season but to make sure they continue to grow as great students outside of athletics.”

Lebanon

Coach: Kevin Lozeau (8).

Last year: Boys finished 14th at states; girls were fifth in states and 13th at MOC.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returnees: Seniors — Abbie Baker, Zoe Chinn, Micah Achmoody, Alex Baker, Dylan Budner, Ethan Eshbaugh, Logan Johns, Sam Shipman. Juniors — Ella Gessner, Isabella Hastings, Morgan Kantor, Vickie Ni, Isaac Ager, Carson Jones, Carlos Kennelly, Nicholas Lamontagne, Sam Nichols, Tommy Wolfe.

Newcomers: Juniors — John Bieszczad, Birhanu Harriman. Sophomore — Olivia Cook. Freshmen — Reese Hamilton, Jun Chewning, Max Garland, Palmer Susco, House Zhou.

Analysis: A well-stocked boys team and a girls roster that returns three of its top five runners means the Raiders will again be competitive on the trails this fall.

“The boys return almost all of their varsity runners from last year and, with the addition of dual-sport athlete Birhanu Harriman, they look to significantly improve over last year’s finished at the state meet, with senior co-captains Sam Shipman and Ethan Eshbaugh guiding the influx of young runners,” Lozeau said.

“The girls look to use their experience to make a run at qualifying again for the Meet of Champions. The roster is the smallest it has been in years, but senior captain Zoe Chinn and juniors Isabella Hastings and Ella Gessner look to be strong leaders to help guide the newcomers to a successful season.”

Mascoma

Coach: Tom Warner (8).

Last year: Boys finished sixth at states; senior Alayna Miller was 36th to lead the Mascoma girls, who didn’t post a team score.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Senior — Ella Barrett. Juniors — Elena Trempe, Jack Buffington.

Newcomers: Freshmen — Gunner Currier, Steve DeFelice, Trevor Maheu, Braden Cilbreth, Brody Albanese, Jo Ford.

Analysis: The Royals graduated four of the team’s seven runners last year and look to rebuild with a large freshman class.

“We have graduated some top runners, but have an excellent incoming freshman group which should help us have another top-10 boys finish at the state meet,” Warner said.

Mid Vermont Christian

Coach: Stan Nelson (2)

Last year: MVCS did not have enough runners for a team in the state meet, although Joel Roberts was fourth among the boys and Rachel Horner-Richardson took seventh place in the girls race. Both also competed at the Vermont Meet of Champions, where Horner-Richardson claimed 18th place.

League: VPA Division III.

Returnees: Senior — Rachel Horner-Richardson. Junior — Joel Roberts.

Newcomers: Freshman — Alyssa Roberts.

Analysis: In just the school’s second year with a cross country team, Nelson said he wants to build on the success of his runners last year and continue to establish a program.

Newport

Coach: P.J. Lovely (1).

Last year: Boys sent three runners to states; girls didn’t participate.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Junior — Seth Adams.

Newcomers: Senior — Katrina Pickering. Freshman — Mayah Borcuk. Eighth grade — Aiden Couitt, Connor Clark, Josh Jordan.

Analysis: First-year coach Lovely, the town’s recreation director and high school track coach, inherits a small, young team that he hopes lays the foundation for stronger teams in the years ahead.

“We are hoping to build the program big enough to score in both boys and girls team at the state meet,” Lovely said. “We need to recruit, train and show how running can be a fun lifelong sport.”

Oxbow

Coach: Cassie Saikin (3).

Last year: Participated in state meet but neither team scored points.

League: VPA Division III.

Returnees: Seniors — Samuel Corti, Nora Fahey. Juniors — Hayden Palmer, Aidan Morse, Moses Andrews, Isabelle Chen, Soraya Moreno.

Newcomers: Juniors — Abagail Carson. Freshman — Moses Andrews.

Analysis: Oxbow returns most of the runners from last year, which brings experience to a small team, Saikin said.

“We are excited to participate in more meets than we did last year and are ready to get back to some we didn’t get to do, such as Woods Trail at Thetford,” Saikin said. “Our runners work hard at every practice (and outside of practice also), so I’m expecting to see some PRs as we get going throughout the season.”

Thetford

Co-coaches: Joe Deffner and Emily Silver (19).

Last year: Boys were third at the state meet, going 21-22-25-26 overall; girls were runners-up, as Madelyn Durkee finished a team-best third place.

Leagues: VPA Division III, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Tobin Durham, Ben Acker, Liam Patterson. Juniors — Ariana Cooney, Madelyn Durkee, Abby Egner, Jada Rich, Harland Ransom. Sophomores — Mary Bosco, Charlize Brown, Annie Hesser, Cecilia Luce, Ben Mattern, Cody Sullivan.

Newcomers: Juniors — Charlotte Reimanis, Alessandro Montichio. Sophomore — Jasper Jones. Freshmen — Ava Hayden, Brady Sloop, Connor Gaine, Uly Junker-Boyce, Garrett Spelman, Oliver Ransom, Hugo Billiau.

Analysis: Deffner sees strong potential for both the boys and girls this season with experience and promising newcomers.

“The boys team is young, with an enthusiastic group of ninth graders. They have a strong senior captain in Tobin Durham, who will be helping the coaches to get the most from this team’s enthusiasm,” Deffner said. “The girls team has a strong core of very coachable 10th and 11th graders, captained by Madelyn Durkee. We expect another strong year out of this team.”

White River Valley

Coach: Shannon Palone (4).

Last year: Anita Miller, the Wildcats’ sole girl at states, finished fourth overall. The boys were ninth as a team.

Leagues: VPA Division III. Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Junior — Kaziu Young. Sophomore — Anita Miller.

Newcomers: Freshman — Ashlyn Rhoades. (More may join when school starts.)

Analysis: With just five runners last year, White River is down to three this season but one of those, Miller — who first picked up running as a pandemic quarantine activity — is poised to become one of the state’s best young runners.

“I’d love to see Anita break more (personal) records, and I would like to see Kaziu step up and show his potential,” Palone said, adding that Miller broke records in the 1,500 and 3,000 last spring in track and field. “I want to see her keep honing the craft.”

Windsor

Coach: Kabray Rockwood (6).

Last year: Liam Attwood was the only Yellowjacket at states, finishing 42nd.

Leagues: VPA Division III, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Junior — Liam Attwood.

Newcomers: Freshmen — Hudson Ranney, Sophia Rockwood.

Analysis: The focus this year, coach Kabray Rockwood said, will be on individual goals with only three runners and Attwood the only returnee.

“He is poised to continue his run toward being a top-tier SVL runner,” Rockwood said. “Freshman Hudson Ranney has experience running at the middle school level and looks to continue his success at the high school level. Freshman Sophia Rockwood (who also plays goalie on the soccer team) has middle school running experience and success.”

Woodstock

Coach: Martha Perkins (3).

Last year: Boys were eighth at sates, led by Zed McNaughton’s 16th-place finish to earn a Vermont MOC invitation. Girls took seventh.

Leagues: VPA Division II, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Aidan Reed, Will Duane, Quinn Giordano, Bronwyn Morris, Morgan Myers Adriana Perez. Juniors — Zed McNaughton, Dan Smith. Sophomores — Mac Abrams, Maggie Mello, Mikayla Myers.

Newcomers: Sophomores — Lila Beckwith, Logan Knox. Freshmen — Owen Courcey, Edwin Lynds, James Underwood, Myra McNaughton, Emma Wiederspahn.

Analysis: With the graduation of five runners who been together since middle school (including Riley Shepherd, who finished second at D-II states in 2019 states but sustained an injury in last year’s meet), the Wasps will have a new look but not one without experience. Co-captains Zed McNaughton and Quinn Giordano lead the squad that will include a mix of newcomers like freshman James Underwood.

“All signs point to his positive impact in the scoring varsity team, along with newcomers Dan Smith and Will Duane and veteran Mac Abrams,” Perkins said. “Where newcomers Aidan Reed, Owen Courcey and Edwin Lynds fit into the mix is something the team optimistically anticipates.”

Meanwhile, the girls had a hard time getting five runners to some races last season, but that won’t be a problem this year with 11 athletes signed up. They will be led by co-captains Morgan Myers and Bronwyn Morris.

“Predominantly ninth and 10th graders, the girls team is young, eager, spirited and just plain happy to have training partners and a full racing schedule on the horizon,” Perkins said. “Woodstock is excited to see what this team can do together this season and in the years to come.”




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