by Jim Flint
HARDWICK/CRAFTSBURY – The roads and trails of Hardwick and Craftsbury are alive again with the rhythmic beat of young runners’ footsteps. The promising group of high school and middle school athletes turned out in mid-August for the first practices of the fall cross country season. Returning coaches are Netdahe Stoddard for Hazen Union and Mike Levangie for Craftsbury Academy.
Stoddard and Levangie are well known in Vermont for their skills in developing passionate young runners. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, both teams strengthened their rosters during the 2020 season. The Craftsbury Academy boys’ team won its first-ever Division-III state title.
Coach Stoddard hopes that the Wildcats will “have a blast, get injured as little as possible, and start-continue a lifelong loving relationship with running.” Coach Levangie hopes that the Chargers will “travel to races in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts this season to test their growth against the best teams in New England.”
Craftsbury Charger Boys
Cormac Leahy ran for Hazen Union as a middle schooler, from sixth to eighth grade. Nurtured under Stoddard’s wing, Leahy was the boys’ 2018 middle school state champion. Midway through his 2019 freshman season, Leahy transferred to Craftsbury Academy. He went on to finish second at the Division III state meet. In 2020, under Coach Levangie’s guidance, Leahy was the Division-III boys’ champion.
Joining Leahy on the Chargers boys’ team are a talented group of juniors and sophomores, along with two incoming freshmen transfer students.
Junior Charlie Krebs was the D-III runner-up to Leahy at the 2020 state meet. After spending four weeks hiking the 273-mile Long Trail during July and August, Krebs is sure to be a scrappy mountain goat pushing his Craftsbury teammates to new heights.
Alan Moody, Linden Stelma-Leonard, and Aiden Moffatt complete the core of experienced eleventh-grade boys. Moody finished 12th at the 2020 D-III state meet.
Sophomore twins Alex and Matt Califano placed ninth and 16th respectively in last year’s D-III state meet. Tenth grader Dillon Cox is a newcomer to the team.
Freshmen Charlie Kehler and Leo Circosta add depth to the Craftsbury boys’ squad. Kehler transferred to the Academy from Hazen Union, where he competed for four years on the Wildcats’ middle school team. He finished second at the 2020 Vermont Middle School state championship race. Circosta is new to competing in cross country, but is not new to running. A home-schooled student from Greensboro, Circosta has trained at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center for several years.
Craftsbury Charger Girls
Coach Levangie is looking forward to fielding a complete girls’ varsity team for the first time. Junior Rachel Bjerke is the sole varsity veteran on the Craftsbury girls’ team. Bjerke brings two years of cross-country running experience to the young Craftsbury team.
Junior Sadie Skorstad, sophomore Ava Purdy, and sophomore Daisy Roianov are new to cross-country. Skorstad and Purdy competed in multiple events on the Chargers’ track and field team last spring. Roianov is a transfer student who competed in multiple events on the 2020 Hazen Union track and field team.
Ninth-grader Ruth Krebs is a veteran of four middle school cross country seasons. She got her start in 2017 as a Craftsbury Academy fifth-grader running for Coach Stoddard at Hazen Union.
Craftsbury Academy started its own middle school cross-country team in 2018; Krebs was a charter member. She finished 24th in the 2020 Vermont middle school state championship race. Hiking the Long Trail this past summer is likely to provide Krebs with extra strength to conquer the hills.
Ninth-grader Anika Leahy is poised to lead the talented Charger girls in their pursuit of a state Division III title. From 2017 to 2019, Leahy competed for Hazen Union on Coach Stoddard’s middle school team. In 2020, she transferred to Craftsbury Academy and ran on Coach Levangie’s middle school team. Leahy placed seventh in the 2020 Vermont middle school state championship meet.
The Chargers open the 2021 varsity season at the Essex Invitational on September 4.
Hazen Union Wildcats
Seven varsity runners and four middle schoolers turned out for this year’s cross-country team. Coach Stoddard hopes to add a few more runners to the ranks as the season progresses.
Jessica Royer and Carter Hill are the senior leaders for the girls’ and boys’ varsity squads. Royer is in her sixth year as a Wildcat runner. She placed 33rd in the 2020 D-III state championship race. Hill is a newcomer to the Hazen Union cross-country team. He is well known as a standout player on the Wildcats’ basketball team.
Junior Ella Considine is also in her sixth year running for the Wildcat girls. Considine placed 44th in last year’s D-III state championship meet. She is joined by junior newcomer Marta Mas.
Cassandra Royer, Khamden Luangrath, and Tobias Benson are the team’s sophomores. Royer is in her fifth year of cross country running and is often the first Wildcat girl across the finish line. She placed 13th among D-III varsity girls at the 2020 state championship meet. Luangrath and Benson are first-timers for the Wildcat boys’ varsity team.
Seventh-grader Thomas Kehler returns to anchor the Hazen Union Middle School cross country team. As a sixth-grader, Kehler placed 31st in the 2020 Vermont middle school state championship race. Eighth-graders Finn Burgess and Damian Morrison, along with seventh-grader Manny Fliegelman, are newcomers on the Hazen Union squad.
“The kids seem pumped and ready to go,” said Coach Stoddard. The Wildcats plan to open their season at the Essex Invitational on September 4, followed by the U-32 meet on September 7.