by Jim Flint
THETFORD – Division I, II, and III high school harriers from across Vermont converged on the fabled Woods Trail course Saturday for the annual state cross country championships. Weather conditions were near perfect with sunny skies, a light breeze, and temperatures in the lower 40s F.
The Craftsbury Academy boys went above and beyond to earn their first Division III state title in school history. Moving up from a strong fourth-place finish in 2019, the squad of freshmen and sophomore runners placed first among twelve Division III teams.
Cormac Leahy led the Craftsbury charge. He ran away from the 93-runner field to win the 5k race. Leahy’s time of 17:16 improved on his second-place finish in 2019 by 13 seconds. Fellow sophomore Charlie Krebs placed second, in 18:13. Krebs moved up from fourth place in 2019.
“Cormac knew it was going to be difficult because he was running mostly alone,” said the Chargers’ head coach, Mike Levangie. “By the end of the first mile, he was 20 to 25 seconds ahead of Charlie, while Charlie had a 10-second lead on the third-place finisher.”
Alexander Califano notched a seventh-place finish for Craftsbury, in 19:11. He and his fraternal twin brother Matt transferred to Craftsbury Academy this fall. The boys attended running camp at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center during the summer of 2019. They and their family fell in love with the Craftsbury area and relocated from New Jersey last summer.
Sophomore Orion Cenkl placed ninth in 19:20. He took 24 seconds off his time from last year. Fellow sophomore Alan Moody (12th, 19:36) took 49 seconds off his 2019 finish time. Freshman Matt Califano (16th, 20:07) and sophomore Linden Stelma-Leonard (49th, 23:26) rounded out the Craftsbury effort.
The team with the lowest point total wins in cross country. In Division III, the positions of the first four runners for each team count toward their combined score. Runners five, six, and seven can influence the results by displacing runners from other teams.
The Craftsbury Academy boys finished first with 15 points. Stowe High School was a distant second with 38 points. Host Thetford Academy placed third with 84 points.
In the combined results of D-I, D-II, and D-III teams, the relative finish positions of the top five runners were totaled for each team. Runners six and seven for each team could displace other runners.
Division II champion U-32, with 36 points, was the top team across the three divisions. Craftsbury Academy placed seventh with 234 points, behind Champlain Valley (94), St. Johnsbury (111), Essex (161), BFA St. Albans (177), and Burlington (204).
Cormac Leahy earned All-Vermont honors. His time of 17:16 was the fourth-fastest finish among 266 varsity runners from across the state. Senior Brady Martisus of Essex (16:24) had the speediest time, followed by junior Evan Thornton-Sherman of St. Johnsbury (16:49) and senior Caleb Nye of Champlain Valley (17:06). Leahy placed just ahead of the D-II state champion, U-32 High School’s Jacob Miller-Arsenault, who completed the 5k course in 17:18.
The Craftsbury boys are slated to compete head-to-head November 7 against the top teams and individual high school runners in Vermont. The Meet of Champions will be held at Hard’ack Ski Area in St. Albans. As with the state meet, spectators are not allowed due to the pandemic.
Coach Levangie emphasized how different this year has been for the Craftsbury cross country team. “What stands out is their commitment, despite the uncertainty of racing during COVID-19 and what the season would look like,” he said. “Internally, they bonded together with a common goal of winning the D-III title. People stepped up and helped each other out. That says a lot about their inner fortitude.”