Rivendell’s Pelletier Finds a Home Away From Home

Minus a Team, Rivendell’s Pelletier Gets Boost From Oxbow

  • Rivendell Academy's Owen Pelletier competes at the Windsor Invitational on April, 30, 2016 in Windsor, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Rivendell Academy's Owen Pelletier at the Windsor Invitational on April, 30, 2016 in Windsor, Vt. Pelletier trains with Oxbow because of the lack of a team at Rivendell.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bradford, Vt. — The dearth of organized track and field at Rivendell Academy means athletes such as Owen Pelletier must seek outlets elsewhere in order to sufficiently compete. Judging by his results while training with neighboring Oxbow, Pelletier has found plenty of comfort up the road.

Pelletier, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, has eight combined sprinting and jumping victories and 16 podium finishes this season, his second straight practicing and traveling with the Olympians. The reigning Vermont Division IV long jump champion set a record in that event at last month’s Essex Invitational and has also excelled in the 100-meter dash, the 200 and the high jump this season.

When Pelletier is at meets, he dons the green and white of the Raptors. Otherwise, he’s part of an Olympians team that has embraced his presence from the moment he arrived as a freshman.

Pelletier also spends plenty of time at Oxbow in the fall, suiting up as a wide receiver and kicker for the O’s football team. Several of his gridiron teammates double as track brethren, including fellow sprinter/jumper Dylan Griffin and throwers Jake Senecal and Jared Gavin.

“We love having him around both seasons, and I wouldn’t say track is any different (than football),” Senecal said between shot put heaves during Wednesday’s sunny practice. “He rides the bus with us and practices with us — that’s about 90 percent of what it means to be on a team.

“He’s in on all of our inside jokes, all of the little things that make a teammate a teammate, plus just having someone around who’s as good as he is is good for the whole team morale. The color jersey he wears at meets really doesn’t make any difference, to be honest.”

At least part of Pelletier’s success should be attributed to the training he receives with the Olympians. Along with throws and jumps coach Amy Cook, he is constantly working on his launching and landing execution, and he’s been receptive to Olympic-style weightlifting programs administered by Cook.

“(The programs) kind of focus on sheer power, using big weights through motion,” said Cook, a Newbury, Vt.-based veterinarian and Oxbow co-coach with Emily Willems.

“I’m entirely self-taught (in fitness instruction) and have put together about five programs that we do. Owen has been very cooperative and made a lot of progress. I really feel like what we’re seeing from him now is just the tip of the iceberg for him. He’s got a while before reaching his athletic prime.”

Pelletier was surprised with his record-setting long jump of 21 feet, 4 inches four weeks ago at Essex, a lunge that was 1 foot, 8 inches farther than his win at last spring’s state meet and more than 2½ feet beyond his best jump in the previous week’s season opener at Champlain Valley.

Pelletier — who until recently balanced track with playing for a Hartford-based AAU basketball outfit — also tied Richford’s Noah Lamos in the high jump at Essex with a jump of 6-2, one inch less than Lamos’ state mark set last year. Lamos won on a tiebreaker.

“I really didn’t have a very good meet at CVU, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect (in Essex),” Pelletier said. “Then I faulted my first two jumps and didn’t realize (the record-setter) was that good until I looked up and saw it. I was both thrilled and surprised.”

While Pelletier is a solid sprinter — he was second in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes at last year’s state meet and has four combined podium finishes in those events this year — the Orford resident has favored jumping most highly since beginning to explore track in junior high with Thetford Academy’s team.

Pelletier and Cook have taken steps to maximize his approach speed and tweaked his landing, reaching a compromise on how exactly to maneuver after his heels strike the sand.

“She wanted me to move my feet out and land back on my butt, but I feel more natural falling off to the side when my feet are out like that,” Pelletier said. “We kind of met in the middle, and it’s been working out well.”

Pelletier was second in both the 100 and 200 at states last year to then-Rivendell senior Sam Emerson, who trained with Thetford. (Another Raptor, 2015 graduate Christian Parenti, had joined Pelletier with Oxbow last season).

In part because he’s asthmatic, Pelletier hasn’t competed in the 200 at every meet this season, but he plans to pursue the 100, 200, high jump and long jump at states and all but the 200 in the upcoming New England qualifying meet at Essex.

Soon Pelletier will receive extra tutelage and motivation from his older brother, Dylan, another Rivendell product who competed with Oxbow before a four-year sprinting career at the University of New Hampshire.

Having just completed his last final exam Wednesday, Dylan Pelletier will walk in UNH’s commencement ceremony Saturday before coming home to help his brother prepare for the stretch run of the season.

The state meet is June 4 at Green Mountain Union High in Chester, Vt., followed by the New England meet a week later in New Britain, Conn.

“I’m actually really looking forward to getting back and helping him out,” said Dylan Pelletier, who earned five podium finishes in sprinting and relay events for the Wildcats this spring. “I know he’s doing really well, so I can’t wait to be part of that.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.