by Jim Flint
THETFORD – A cohort of young local runners turned heads Sunday at the Vermont state middle school cross country championships. The event was the culmination of a pandemic-impacted fall season which reduced opportunities for interscholastic competition. Undeterred by adversity, the resilient middle schoolers demonstrated their resolve to finish the season strongly.
Separate championship races were held for the middle school boys and girls. To increase physical distance, up to two runners from each team were sent off in starting waves spaced two minutes apart. Chip timing was used to keep track of finish times. The weather was ideal for racing, with cloudy skies, a few pokes of sun, and temperatures in the low 50s F.
Thomas Kehler and Charlie Kehler, from Greensboro, started the race together for the Hazen Union Wildcats. Charlie finished with the second-fastest time among 39 eighth-grade boys. He ran the 2.1-kilometer course in 9:39. Thomas finished in 11:10. He placed fifth out of 48 sixth-grade boys. James Underwood of Woodstock Union had the fastest time among middle school boys. He finished in 9:35.
“Thomas was pumping his arms and lengthening his stride right to the finish,” said Hazen Union’s head coach, Netdahe Stoddard. “You can see it in his eyes as a younger sibling working to keep up with his brother.”
Amelia Circosta, from Greensboro, had the fastest time among local middle school girls. Circosta, who is homeschooled, completed the 2.1-kilometer course in 10:45. She placed second among 44 seventh-grade girls. Anna Moser, from Rutland Town, finished just a second ahead of Circosta. Hazen Union seventh-grader Thea Gilbert, from Stannard, went the distance in 17:35.
Eighth-graders Anika Leahy, Ruth Krebs, and Lillian Allen competed for Craftsbury Academy. Leahy, from Greensboro, transferred from Hazen Union to the Academy this fall. She finished in 11:21 to place third among 48 eighth-grade girls. Ruth Krebs (12:13) and Lillian Allen (14:09) placed 11th and 34th for the Chargers.
“The middle school girls learned what it means to be a team,” said Craftsbury Academy’s head coach, Mike Levangie. “They started to get the feeling of having different responsibilities than individual runners. The girls are ready to move up and have a great high school experience.”
“The kids work so hard and are fabulous people,” added Stoddard. “They want to train and learn about running. They are respectful and treat each other well. I am the happiest coach in the world. Cheers to them!”