Local Runners Quick on Quarry Trails

photo by Barb Flint
Ben Taska, Sarah Taska, and their daughter Hazel attended the Barre Heritage Festival Trail Race on July 30. Ben and Sarah lived in Craftsbury and Woodbury before moving to Barre last year. Ben won the 5k event as Sarah and Hazel cheered him on.

WEBSTERVILLE ̶ Familiar faces were among the top finishers at the Barre Heritage Festival Trail Race on July 30. Held at the Millstone Trails, the 5k course looped through the abandoned granite quarries of the Barre Town Forest.

For Ben Taska, formerly from Craftsbury and Woodbury, the race was close to home. He and his wife Sarah bought a house in Barre last year and moved to the Granite City. Their daughter Hazel was born in October.

Sarah and Hazel cheered Ben on. He started the race in third place behind Nicholas Kidder, 16, from Williamstown, and Charlie Lang, 21, from Norwich. Taska passed Lang after climbing the first hill. He settled in behind Kidder on the first mile of double-track trail.

Kidder is a promising young runner who placed third in the Bear Swamp Race on July 9. Kidder was determined to keep the lead in the single-track middle part of the course. When he lost a little momentum on the hills, Taska looked for an opening. He attempted to pass Kidder on the left, then on the right. Kidder fought off both attempts.

Taska was a four-year letterman in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track and field at Bates College. He graduated in 2011. Conserving energy, Taska waited for the course to open back up to double track. He pounced past Kidder and flew down the final hill, crossing the finish line in 20:30.

photo by Barb Flint
Mack Gardner-Morse (right), from Calais, and Gazette sports writer Jim Flint (left), from West Rutland, placed first and second in the M60-69 age group at the Barre Heritage Festival 5k. Gardner-Morse was scraped but uninjured after taking a hard fall on the final downhill.

Lang edged out Kidder, 20:43 to 20:51, to earn runner-up honors. Kidder placed third. Last year’s winner, Seth Jackson, finished fourth in 21:52.

Mack Gardner-Morse, 61, from Calais, was the fastest finisher from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette. Despite a hard fall on the final downhill, Gardner-Morse placed seventh of 63 finishers. His time of 24:52 was 23 seconds faster than his 2021 time on the course.

Shawn Gardner, 59, is from Dallas, Texas. He and his wife spend part of their summer in Calais. Gardner finished in 23:59, less than a minute ahead of his older brother Mack Gardner-Morse.

Kim Caldwell, 32, from Northfield, was the speediest female runner. She placed eleventh overall in 26:15. Donna Smyers, 64, of Adamant was the top woman finisher from towns covered by the Gazette. Smyers won the F60-69 age group and placed 24th overall, in 31:49.

Tim Hogeboom, 71, from Walden, joined Gardner and Gardner-Morse in winning their respective age groups. Hogeboom placed 21st overall, in 30:33. His finish time was 31 seconds faster than last year.

Richard Wiswall, 64, of Plainfield rounded out the finishers from towns covered by the Gazette. Wiswall finished 54 seconds faster than last year, in 30:03.

photo by Barb Flint
Richard Wiswall (right) of Plainfield passed Ted Barnett of Williamstown on the final downhill of the Barre Heritage Festival 5k. Wiswall placed third in the M60-69 age group.

Wiswall and his family plan to host the Cate Farm Tomato Trot 5k race on August 13. The run around their farm starts at 4 p.m. Each finisher will receive a pound of vine-ripened tomatoes. Anyone who beats Wiswall’s time receives two pounds. The registration fee is $5. Pre-registration is required at cvrunners.org.

Smyers Wins National Age Group Triathlon

MILWAUKEE – Donna Smyers of Adamant reached the podium twice at the USA National Triathlon Age Group Championships on August 6-7. Smyers, 64, will turn 65 in September. Based on her birth year, she moved up to the F65-69 age group for the championship event.

Smyers last went to the National Age Group Championships in 2019, in Cleveland. Competing in the Olympic triathlon, she placed third of 74 elite athletes in the F60-64 age group. The championships were put on hold in 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic.

Sharon Johnson of Andover, Mass., placed fourth in the F60-64 age group at the 2019 championships. Fast forwarding three years, she and Smyers faced off again on August 6 in Milwaukee.

photo by Barb Flint
Donna Smyers, from Adamant, won the F60-69 age group at the July 30 race on the Millstone Trails. On July 31, Smyers was the top female finisher for all ages at the Colchester Sprint Triathlon. Smyers went on to win the F65-69 Olympic Triathlon age group at the USA Triathlon National Championships held August 6 in Milwaukee.

The Olympic triathlon is a 1500m swim, 40k bike, and 10k run. Smyers completed the swim in 28:48. She came out of the water with a 90-second edge over Johnson. Averaging 21.64 miles per hour cycling, Smyers added another two and a half minutes to the gap over Johnson.

Smyers brought home the F65-69 age group victory with a 50:03 final leg in the 10k run. Including transitions, her winning triathlon time was 2:32:24. Johnson earned runner-up honors with a 2:38:33 finish.

“I think I took the best line in the swim, which set me up well,” said Smyers. “My bike felt great and then I just ran scared hoping not to get passed. It was very hot, and that works to my advantage.”

Smyers placed 285th of the 828 women who completed the Olympic Triathlon. She earned her fifth USA Triathlon age group national championship title. But Smyers was not yet finished; the Sprint Triathlon age group national championship event was scheduled for August 7.

The potential for hazardous weather conditions on Sunday caused organizers to shorten the Sprint Triathlon to a Super Sprint Triathlon. The segments included a 385m swim, 10.7k bike, and 2.5k run.

“The start waves were compressed with four people starting every five seconds,” said Smyers.” Everything went amazingly smoothly considering the last-minute change of course.”

Johnson picked up a one-minute lead over Smyers on the swim. She added 12 seconds to her margin on the bike segment. The two athletes were even on the run. Johnson won the F65-69 age group in 40:45. Smyers took second in the Super Sprint Triathlon in a time of 41:53.

“My swim and bike were not quite as good as Saturday and Sharon Johnson’s were very good,” said Smyers. “We race each other often. It always depends who’s healthiest and who shows up and if either of us has a problem in the swim or a mechanical issue on the bike.”

Smyers has competed in triathlon since 1985. She was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2018. She qualified in June for the full Ironman world championship triathlon, scheduled for October in Hawaii.

Miller and English Top Tuesday Trails

CRAFTSBURY – The Tuesday Night Trail Series returned to the Outdoor Center on August 2 after a sojourn the prior week to Hardwick Trails. Temperatures were in the mid-70s for the evening races.

Maxfield English, from Wolcott, and Kaitlynn Miller, from Craftsbury, won their first Tuesday trail races of the 2022 season. English edged out Matt Saunders, 24:47 to 25:16 for the men’s division victory. In the women’s division, Miller (26:41) finished 28 seconds ahead of runner-up Hallie Grossman (27:09).

Race series leaders Ollie Burruss and Susan Dunklee took a week off from running. This allowed Adrian Owens, Kaitlyn Miller, and Hallie Grossman to gain some ground on the leaders. The runners’ best ten races will count when the final points are tabulated on August 23. Owens, who is always tough on the trails, placed sixth at the August 2 race. He finished between Miller and Grossman, in 27:05.

Emma Podolin (27:18), from Stannard, placed third in the women’s division. Mike Gibson (25:52), from Craftsbury, was third in the men’s division.

Eliza Bunten (19:07) and Will Bunten (19:10) finished first and second in the 3k trail race. Ollie Burruss (38:01) and Damian Bolduc (42:37) were the top two finishers in the 10k mountain bike race.

The Trail Race Series continues each Tuesday evening through August 23. Mountain bikers and runners start at 5:45 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., respectively. For race locations, visit www.craftsbury.com.