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Year of the cat: Panthers dominate in VPA D-III track repeat

  • Windsor's Keegan Batchelder stays ahead of the pack with Thetford's Riley Burkins and Max Higgins behind him in the boys 200-meter dash during the VPA Division III track championship in Windsor, Vt., on Saturday, May 29, 2021. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Thetford 4x400-meter relay team Madison Powers, left and Layla Hanissian cheer on teammate Abby Egner (not pictured) who would hand off the baton to Jada Rich waiting on the track during the VPA Division III track championship in Windsor, Vt., on Saturday, May 29, 2021. The Thetford team won the relay and the championship. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thetford's Madelyn Durkee competes in the long jump during the VPA Division III track championship in Windsor, Vt., on Saturday, May 29, 2021. She placed third in the event. Thetford's boys and girls teams both won. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Windsor's Janiah Young takes first place in the 100-meter dash final during the VPA Division III track championship in Windsor, Vt., on Saturday, May 29, 2021. Placing second and fourth are Thetford's Madelyn Durkee and Charlize Brown. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock's Wilbur Abrams III battles it out with Thetford's Ben Mattern during the boy's 3,000-meter race at the VPA Division III track championship in Windsor, Vt., on Saturday, May 29, 2021. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 5/29/2021 10:12:34 PM
Modified: 5/29/2021 10:12:32 PM

WINDSOR — Call it a track-and-field sweep-peat for the girls and the boys of Thetford Academy — with a couple of asterisks and several twists.

After the gap year from heck canceled the 2020 season — thanks, COVID-19 — the Panthers defended their school’s 2019 VPA Division III team titles with room to spare over the runners-up from host Windsor on Saturday: the girls by 120 team points, the boys by 49.

“It would have been horrible to miss another (outdoor) season,” said senior hurdler Carter Banks, who earned 16 of the boys’ team points.

“We were already devastated after we couldn’t do this past indoor season, and it was pretty crazy going into this one. We only knew about two weeks in advance of starting that we would even have it.”

The boys returned to the top of the podium with just three individual wins — all from senior Knute Linehan, with a triple jump of 39 feet, 2.5 inches, a career-best long jump of 21 feet and a high jump of 5-8 — and a stampede of point-scoring finishes in those events and all but one of the other 14.

Meanwhile, the Panther girls, whose predecessors eked out the school’s first-ever outdoor crown by a single point in 2019, ended the suspense early, winning the meet-opening 4x800-meter relay by almost 15 seconds. And before their 4x400 quartet closed the meet with a victory, they scored at least one point in 15 of the 16 other events, paced by sophomore Madelyn Durkee with 32 points spread over four competitions.

“We said to the team before the meet, ‘We need to take care of business,’ and they did,” Thetford co-coach Joel Breakstone said. “They were consistent across the board.”

How consistent? In addition to finishing second to Windsor star Owen Abrahamson in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles races, Banks ran legs of the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays, in each of which the Panthers finished fourth — good for eight more team points.

And while Linehan was adding eight points with a personal-best pole vault of 10-6, fellow senior Max Higgins contributed a total of 28 — finishing second in the long jump and the high jump and third in the 200-meter dash and the triple jump.

Key contributions in multiple boys events also came from junior distance runner Tobin Durham (second to Vergennes star Ben Huston in the 1,500- and 3,000-meter races, third in the 800) and senior sprinter Riley Burkins (second in the 200 and third in the 100 dash).

Thetford’s depth impressed Windsor’s Abrahamson and Ben Gilbert, who with sprinter Keegan Batchelder combined to win seven individual events and keep the Yellowjacket boys in the hunt.

“Neither of us like to be people who come into a competition cocky,” said Abrahamson, who along with sweeping the hurdles pole-vaulted 11-6 to victory and placed second in the javelin, “but we thought we had a good chance.”

Gilbert, winner of the shot put and the discus, added, “We’ve got a fast team in the sprints, but we don’t have a long-distance team.”

The Thetford girls also ran — and jumped and threw — deep enough to more than offset victories by Windsor junior Janiah Young in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the high jump.

Freshman Charlize Brown won the pole vault and finished second to Durkee in the 400 dash, and that duo ran 2-4 behind Young in the 100 dash. Brown and Jada Rich went 2-3 in the 200, while Durkee finished second in the 800-meter run and third in the long jump, a regimen that kept her moving on a chilly morning and afternoon.

“We expected to be in the running (for the team title), but to win by this much … this was fun,” Durkee said.

And it impressed co-coach Emily Silver, particularly the variety of events.

“She wasn’t crazy about doing the 800, especially after doing the 400 and the 100, but she met expectations,” Silver said. “She so gets the do-it-for-the-team thing.”

Joining Durkee with winner’s-circle performances for Thetford were Sam Spelman in the 100 hurdles (with teammate Kiran Black second), Madison Powers first in the 300 hurdles (with Spelman second) and Kayla Busby in the shot put. Black also long-jumped to second, just ahead of Spelman.

“We had a very high volume across the board,” Silver concluded.

Following Thetford and Windsor in the girls team standings was Woodstock in third, paced by senior Novah Conway with performances of second in the high jump and third in the 100 hurdles.

Leading Oxbow to eighth place were freshmen Sophia Hayes with a winning javelin throw of 90-3 and Maisa Cook with the second-place pole vault.

For the fourth-place Woodstock boys, Zed McNaughton ran third in the 1,500-meter race and fourth in the 800.




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