A Royal Repeat: SoRo Boys Win Second Straight Track Title

  • South Royalton's Connor Lambert, center, competes in the 110-meter finals during the Division IV track and field championship in Chester, Vt., on June 1, 2018. (Rick Russell photograph)

  • Sharon Academy's Novah Conway competes in the 300 meter hurdles finals during the Division IV track and field championship in Chester, Vt., on June 1, 2018. (Rick Russell photograph)

  • Rivendell's Owen Pelletier compete in the long jump during the Division IV track and field championship in Chester, Vt., on June 1, 2018. (Rick Russell photograph)

  • South Royalton's Eric Taylor, left, congratulates teammate Chris McCullough for a great finish in the 4x100 relay during the Division IV track and field championship in Chester, Vt., on June 1, 2018. (Rick Russell photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, June 01, 2018

Chester, Vt. — South Royalton High won’t exist at this time next spring. All the more reason to go out with a bang.

Everything fell into place for the South Royalton boys at the Vermont Principals Association Division IV track and field championships at Green Mountain Union High School on Friday afternoon, the Royals’ final state meet before their school closes due to the state’s Act 46 mandate. Four-event star Connor Lambert won four events — breaking his own D-IV record in the 300-meter hurdles — and SoRo’s 4x100 relay team won a dramatic race by 0.02 seconds, edging out Northfield to win its second straight state title. (Team scores were unavailable at press time.)

“It’s indescribable,” Lambert said. “It’s probably one of the biggest (accomplishments) of my whole high school (career). There’s not much I can think of that feels better than this.”

This one, he admitted, felt harder.

“It felt a little bit easier (last year), because we wanted it more. We hadn’t had a championship in a long time,” Lambert said. “We really wanted it. All our guys were locked in. … This year felt like more like a fight. I felt like I had to fight for it, which is good. I liked it because it makes me have passion.”

The Royals edged Northfield by 36.5 points in the standings, sending the school — soon to join the newly formed White River Unified School District — into history as the top dogs in D-IV. Whitcomb and Chelsea, both of which participated in Friday’s state meet, face similar fates next season, as both schools will shut their doors and require student-athletes to search for new homes.

Athletes from some of the 15 competing teams posed for pictures on the track after the meet was finished. Many of them will be teammates next season.

“The kids were yelling for Connor (Lambert) because this has been his dream,” South Royalton head coach Shannon Palone said. “He started last year saying, ‘You know what? We’re going to win states.’ And then he came in this year saying the same thing.”

South Royalton’s victory materialized in waves.

It started — and ended — with Lambert, SoRo’s senior captain, who has committed to run the decathlon at St. Lawrence University next year. Last year, Lambert won three events — the 110 hurdles, pole vault and javelin — and placed second in the discus throw to help the Royals win its first state title since 2013 by a 67.5-point margin.

He upped the ante as a senior, sweeping all four events he entered. Lambert set a new 300 hurdles record by nearly two seconds at 42.85, a record he set himself in 2017. He also won the 110 hurdles (17.38), the pole vault (11 feet) and the javelin throw (148 feet, 7 inches).

SoRo’s Eric Taylor contributed second places in the 100 (12.06) and 200 (24.48). He was also third (38-10) in the triple jump and fourth (18-1.50) in the long jump. Chris McCullough was third (107-6) in the discus throw and the 100 (12.18), and Sam Fisk was fourth (4:39.67) in the 1,500.

But the Royals’ dramatic turnaround came in the final stage of the 4x100 relay as McCullough — SoRo’s anchor runner — caught up and passed Northfield anchor Trevor Page in the final stretch. South Royalton won the race in 47.83 seconds to Northfield’s 47.85.

It was enough to make Palone believe her team had enough to defend its title.

“I think the boys have always had (that confidence),” Palone said. “They’ve gotten stronger. … It’s not a great big team, if you think about it. It’s a small team. They’ve done a great job.

“One of the things they’ve said is, ‘This is the last time you’re going to wear blue and gold,’ ” she added. “So you might as well leave it all here.”

Lambert is proud of the school that helped him develop and prideful of the fact that he left its track and field program, in its final months of existence, in a better place than he found it.

“I feel like a lot of us have brought the cool back to track and field,” Lambert said. “When I came here, it was like, ‘Track? No one wants to do track.’ Now that I’m here, we’re back-to-back state champions, a lot of us are breaking records. We work really hard.

“I feel like track at South Royalton is in the best place it has been in as long as I can remember.”

Rivendell’s Owen Pelletier has always felt like an outsider at events like the D-IV state meet. He and Max Haehnel are the Raptors’ only representatives, leaving the pair feeling like underdogs. In spite of that, Pelletier has developed into a multi-year force at the D-IV level. Having few teammates wearing the same jersey has never seemed to bother him.

That was no different on Friday. Pelletier — who trains with Oxbow High’s track and field team — swept his four events with victories in the 100 (11.43), high jump (6-0), long jump (21-4.5) and triple jump (42-5), lifting Rivendell into fourth place in the team standings. Haehnel contributed points with a fourth-place finish (9-6) in the pole vault and fifth-place result (36-11) in the triple jump.

Something about jumping has caught Pelletier’s eye. He will continue his track and field career with a focus on long jump and high jump at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington next season.

“I love the feeling of being in the air for so long,” Pelletier said. “Same thing with basketball. Whenever I dunk in basketball, you’re in the air for so long. It kind of feels like you’re flying. That feeling you can’t beat.”

Richford senior Jalyn Collins had a feeling she would walk away from Friday’s meet having broken at least a few records. She did not expect to break four in the same afternoon.

Collins finished her meet having busted girls D-IV marks in the javelin (104-6) and discus (96-6.5) doing the latter twice on Friday. She also won the shot put (29-8.25) and placed third in the pole vault (6-0).

“It feels wonderful,” Collins said. “I don’t even know how to put it into words. I just feel pumped.”

Collins is attending the University of Vermont next spring, but will not be joining its track and field team.

Sharon Academy sophomore Laila Reimanis wasted no time overtaking Whitcomb challenger Alexandra Timmins in the first few laps of the girls 3,000. It was part of her strategy going in: Get an early lead and hold on tight for her first individual title in outdoor track.

The plan worked as Reimanis defeated Timmins by nearly 30 seconds, finishing her race in 11:43.65. The Phoenix athlete was first introduced to distance running during cross country season. The experience seems to have paid off.

“(Distance running) is really hard, but I feel really accomplished afterwards,” Reimanis said. “It’s something cool.”

Sharon’s Novah Conway finished third in the girls 100 (14.03) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (55.32). Dillon Buttner won the boys discus throw (126-0.5) and placed second in the 400 (53.26) for the Phoenix.

For Whitcomb, Timmins took runner-up in the 3,000 in 12:12.85. She was also second (86-1) in the javelin throw and third (5:36.53) in the 1,500. Grace LaFromboise placed sixth (19.73) in the 110 hurdles and sixth (13-3) in the long jump for the Hornets.

Sophomore Kaylyn Scoskie led the South Royalton girls with victories in the pole vault (7-0) and the triple jump (28-5.5). Eliza Mabey also finished fifth (13:40.10) in the 3,000 for the Royals.

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