Craftsbury Boys Run Head-to-Head With D-I Teams

by Jim Flint
photo by Jim Flint | Craftsbury Academy’s boys’ cross-country squad placed fourth of 16 teams at the Randolph Invitational on Sept. 11. Alan Moody (back left), Alex Califano (back center), and Charlie Kehler (back right) ran in a tight pack for the Chargers, who are the defending D-III state champions.

RANDOLPH CENTER ‒ The sport of cross country traces its origins back to 19th century England and a game called “hares and hounds.” Cross country courses typically have short, steep hills, tight turns, and long straightaways. The terrain is often a varied mix of fields, roads, and forest paths. 

The 5k cross country course at Vermont Technical College (VTC) holds true to the spirit of the sport. Runners start in an open field. The course then narrows to a footpath between two rows of trees. 

Sections of the VTC course are paved, which makes spikes unfavorable, so most athletes use racing flats. Midway through the race, runners make a rectangular loop around an apple orchard. The ground is uneven and can be slippery, with four right-angle turns.

The boys’ varsity field for the Randolph Invitational included 215 runners. The thundering herd broke from the starting line at the sound of the horn. The hares ‒ Evan Thornton-Sherman of St. Johnsbury Academy, Matthew Servin of Champlain Valley UHS, and Cormac Leahy of Craftsbury Academy ‒ separated quickly into the lead pack. 

Adversity struck in the orchard. Running at a furious five-minute per mile pace, Leahy slipped on an apple hiding in the grass and twisted his knee. To avoid the possibility of further injury, he took himself out of the race. It was now up to the hounds of Craftsbury Academy to lead the Chargers forward.

“Watching their number-one man on the ground, the rest of the men took control and did the work needed to secure an amazing finish,” said Craftsbury’s head coach Mike Levangie.

Charlie Krebs took on the lead role in the chase pack. The Charger junior continues the process of reconditioning his legs and joints to running. He spent four weeks during July and August backpacking the length of the Long Trail with his sister, brother, and dad. He is also adapting to running in a six-foot frame. 

“My stride is a lot longer now,” said Krebs. “When I was freshman, I could duck under the arms of the taller runners.”

Krebs finished the 5k course in 17:34 to secure 13th place. Charger sophomore Matt Califano was close behind in 15th place. He finished in 17:42.

Charlie Kehler was the third man for Craftsbury. He was also the fastest freshman boy in the race. His 5k time of 17:52 placed 18th and was a personal best.

“I’m enjoying running on a full boys’ team for the first time,” said Kehler. As a middle schooler, he competed for the Hazen Union Wildcats. 

Craftsbury Academy sophomores Alex Califano and Leo Circosta and junior Alan Moody placed 28th, 31st, and 32nd, respectively. Their 5k times were 18:21, 18:34, and 18:35. Junior Linden Stelma-Leonard rounded out the Charger squad with a 60th-place finish, in 20:09. 

Division I powerhouses Bellows Free Academy (50 points) and Champlain Valley UHS (70 points) placed first and second in the team competition. St. Johnsbury Academy placed third with 96 points. The Hilltoppers were led by Evan Thornton-Sherman, who won the boys’ race in 15:41.

The Craftsbury boys’ team placed fourth out of 16 complete squads. The defending D-III state champion Chargers scored 105 points. D-I Rutland High School was fifth with 131 points.

The Craftsbury boys opened their season on September 4 at the Essex Invitational. The varsity boys intentionally ran the first mile as a pack, before spreading out. Cormac Leahy led the Chargers with a ninth-place finish out of 129 runners. His time was 16:52. 

Leahy was followed across the finish line at Essex by teammates Charlie Krebs (22nd, 17:47), Charlie Kehler (38th, 18:18), Alan Moody (57th, 19:06), Leo Circosta (63rd, 19:21), and Linden Stelma-Leonard (104th, 22:14).

“The team has a tough two-week training block in front of them, but they are clearly ready to continue their improvement,” said coach Levangie.