Meet of Champions Attracts Local Harriers

ST. ALBANS  ̶  High school cross country runners from across Vermont gathered at Hard’Ack Ski Area on November 6, for the Meet of Champions. The field of pre-qualified competitors included a cohort of local student-athletes representing Craftsbury Academy and U-32 High School. Cool temperatures led to fast times on the grassy, gently rolling 5k course.

D-II state champion Harwood Union High School edged out Champlain Valley Union High School, 50 to 52 points, to win the varsity girls team competition. Essex (88 points) and U-32 (107 points) placed third and fourth. The Craftsbury Academy girls placed a respectable eighth out of nine scoring teams.

Craftsbury’s Ava Purdy and Anika Leahy pushed each other from start to finish. Purdy finished a nose ahead of Leahy, in 20:55.9. Leahy’s time was 20:56.0. The Charger girls placed 24th and 25th of 66 finishers. Purdy and Leahy also set new personal best 5k marks.

Running against tough competition, Ruth Krebs (22:29), Rachel Bjerke (24:34), and Daisy Roianov (27:53) had 5k finish times for Craftsbury which were close to their personal bests.

Amy Felice of U-32 High School was the fastest varsity girl from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette. She placed tenth, finishing in a new personal best time of 20:08. Felice, who is from Calais, will run with the U-32 girls at the New England Cross Country Championships on November 13.

The Meet of Champions was the season finale for the Craftsbury Academy girls’ team, which placed third in the D-III state championships on October 30. The Chargers were the only D-III school to field a full girls’ squad at the Meet of Champions.

In the boys’ varsity division, Craftsbury Academy’s Cormac Leahy went into the Meet of Champions eager to compete side-by-side with the top D-I and D-II runners in Vermont. Leahy, the D-III champion, got what he wished for and more. He placed fifth of 80 runners and nearly broke through the 16-minute barrier. His time of 16:03 was 25 seconds faster than his 2020 Meet of Champions race on the same course.

Craftsbury’s second man, Charlie Krebs, continued his string of consistently strong performances. He placed 14th in 16:43 and set a new personal best 5k mark. His time at the meet was 31 seconds faster than last year’s effort.

Alex Califano had his highest finish of the year for the Chargers. Califano placed 28th in a new personal best time of 17:17. He eclipsed his finish in the 2020 Meet of Champions by nearly two minutes.

Leo Circosta (17:30) and Alan Moody (17:45) also set new personal best 5k times for Craftsbury. The boys placed 34th and 39th respectively. Matt Califano (17:48) finished 41st to round out the Charger boys. He took more than a minute off his time at the 2020 Meet of Champions.

Division-II champion U-32 High School won the team scoring contest with 33 points. Essex High (94 points) and Bellows Free Academy (97 points) placed second and third. The Craftsbury Academy boys placed fourth with 109 points, moving up from last year’s seventh-place finish. D-I champion St. Johnsbury Academy opted out of competing at this year’s Meet of Champions.

Sargent Burns, from Calais, placed 26th in 17:14. The U-32 junior ran in the Meet of Champions for the first time. Like the Craftsbury boys, his next stop is the New England Championships on November 13 in Thetford.

The Craftsbury boys will finish their historic high school cross-country season on the Woods Trail course, which they have run twice already this season. The Chargers are the first D-III squad to qualify as a team for the New England Championships. The boys’ New England Championship race is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., followed by the girls’ championship race at 12:15 p.m. Spectators are advised to allow extra time before the race starts to park and walk to the meet area at Thetford Academy.

“This will be a sharpening week that is light on mileage,” said Craftsbury Academy head coach Mike Levangie. “Our goal is to stay bouncy and loose. We’ll also keep an eye on the weather; it may be muddy at Thetford. Nasty conditions are better for us and the Vermont teams. The boys are focused on the New England Championships and are already planning ahead for next year.”