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With six, you get a crown: Oxbow boys win first VPA state indoor track championship

  • Oxbow's Kelly Daigle competes in the shot put at the high school indoor track state championships at the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

  • Thetford's Owen Deffner, left, takes the baton from Tad Darrah at the high school indoor track state championships at the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

  • Runners compete in the 55-meter hurdles at the high school indoor track state championships at the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. Hartford's Gretel Josselyn is in the far left lane and Thetford's Kiran Black is in the second lane from the right.

  • Oxbow's Jarret Rock, left, and Hartford's Abayomi Lowe, second from right, compete in the 55-meter dash at the high school indoor track state championships at the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

  • Thetford's Knute Linehan competes in the long jump at the high school indoor track state championships at the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

  • Hartford's Eleanor Hinckley competes in the high jump at the high school indoor track state championships at the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

  • Thetford's Jason Wolstenholme, right, competes in the 55-meter hurdles during the high school indoor track state championships at the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

  • Runners start the first leg of the boys 4x800 realy during the high school indoor track state championships at the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

  • The high school indoor track state championships were held at the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2019

BURLINGTON — All Oxbow High indoor track and field head coach Emily Willems could do was sigh. Her Olympians had finally made history, doing so under the most unlikely of circumstances.

It’s been a rough season for the O’s, one that included a slew of recent injuries and a spotty regular-season schedule. Oxbow had not competed in a meet since the Dartmouth Relays in early January. It prepared for Saturday’s VPA Division II indoor track and field state championship meet at the University of Vermont’s Gardner-Collins Indoor Track by running laps in the halls. Some of Oxbow’s athletes admitted they debated whether to attend the state meet at all. Why bother with only a half-dozen athletes, when there was little chance to win?

And then everything went right.

Jarret Rock and Timothy Hodges got wins in the long jump (19 feet, 4.25 inches) and 55 hurdles (8.69 seconds), respectively, and the Olympian boys recorded nine top-three results at Saturday’s state meet, edging out second-place Thetford by eight points to win their first indoor state title in school history.

“This is so ironic,” said Willems, who was also named Vermont girls coach of the year. “We had six athletes here. We’ve had a great day, an absolutely fantastic day.”

Added Hodges: “Honestly, this feels pretty great. We’ve had a pretty tough season: not many meets, the practices … It’s just been crazy this season. To see it come up together, especially with half the squad injured. At the end, we just weren’t expecting this.”

Hartford’s girls amassed 105 points in the Division II girls standings but fell short to six-time defending champion Rice by 43 points for its second straight runner-up finish. Hartford junior Kennedy Mullen led the way with D-II wins in the long jump (15-1.75), triple jump (33-8.75) and 600 (1:45.03).

“I know personally, (Oxbow graduate) Izzy Giesing; I trained with her a lot; she’s one of the best runners in the state for girls,” Hodges said. “I trained with her, tried to follow her work ethic. … I think the guys just put in the hard work. Now, we’re here.”

Thetford finished second behind Oxbow in a race that was close until the final two events. Head coach Charlie Buttrey admitted it was a bit of an off day for the Panthers, who own a well-developed distance-running squad thanks in large part to the school’s robust cross country program.

The Panthers just didn’t see Oxbow coming.

In particular, the Panthers weren’t ready for Oxbow freshman Tobin Durham. Durham stole points from Thetford in the 1,500 (finishing second overall in 4:38.42) and the 3,000 (finishing third in 10:16.57). The latter clinched the title for Oxbow, finishing two positions ahead of Thetford’s Ian Spelman (fifth, 10:50.78).

“Oxbow did well beyond what we thought they were going to do,” Buttrey said. “That Tobin guy made all the difference.”

Oxbow’s Rock added to his day with second-place finishes in the 55 (6.92) and the 300 (38.54). Hodges finished second (5-8) in the high jump and second (38-0.75) in the triple jump, Max Klarich took second (18-11.75) in the long jump and Calvin Cook placed third (36-10.5) in the shot put. The O’s also won the 4x200 relay, with Brennan Kimball, Klarich, Hodges and Rock finishing the race in 1:040.26.

“We’ve been heartbroken so many times with the girls, we’ve come so close” Willems said. “We pulled it together. This has been a wonderful day.”

Thetford’s Owen Deffner walked away with distance wins in the 1,500 (4:33.34) and the 3,000 (10:00.93). Knute Linehan won the triple jump (39-3.25) for the Panthers. Tad Darrah took second in the 1,000 (2:54.10) and the 3,000 (10:14.17). Jason Wolstenholme also took second (9.27) in the 55 hurdles.

Hartford senior sprinter Abayomi Lowe won the 55 (6.71) and the 300 (37.28) for the Canes, who finished sixth overall with 32 points. Aaron Mitchell also took third (1:31.62) in the 600.

The Hartford girls, however, did better than coach Mike Perry could have anticipated. Sophomore Eleanor Hinckley won the high jump (4-10) and placed second (7.86) in the 55, and sophomore Gretchen Josslyn finished third (10.22) in the 55 hurdles.

“(Rice) has the numbers, and they have good athletes,” Perry said. “You can’t beat it when you have numbers and good athletes.”

Oxbow’s Kelly Daigle took third (31-4.5) in the shot put, one of three Olympian girls to participate. Thetford’s Layla Hanissian also placed second (3:28.88) in the 1,000.

Perry said he’s excited about what his girls team can do during the spring season. His Hurricanes have put themselves within reach of Rice’s dynasty. His whole team eligible to return next year. The veteran Hartford coach now needs to find a way to get more points.

“Next year will be interesting,” Perry said. “Maybe we can pick up a few (points) where we need them. With the eighth graders coming in, who knows?”

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Boys team scores: Oxbow 94, Thetford 86, Spaulding 85, Fair Haven 46, Verge nnes 45, Hartford 32, Bellows Falls 18, Lake Region 17, Rice 12, Missisquoi 10, Milton 7, Green Mountain 6, Lyndon 6.

Girls team scores: Rice 148, Hartford 105, Missisquoi 43, Lyndon 38, Milton 26, Fair Haven 24, Thetford 24, Oxbow 22, Green Mountain 11, Vergennes 8, Lake Region 6, Bellows Falls 4.

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Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.