by Jim Flint
EAST MONTPELIER – The U-32 High School boys cross country team dominated its home invitational meet on Saturday. The defending New England Champions totaled 30 points to top 15 other scoring teams. Middlebury Union High (66 points) and BFA St. Albans (70 points) placed a distant second and third.
John Viens of Richford won the boys varsity race in 17:14. He was followed by runner-up Porter Hurteau of BFA Fairfax, who finished in 17:30.
Sargent Burns led the way for the Raider boys. Burns, a senior from Calais, placed third of 119 varsity boys. He crossed the finish line a few paces ahead of U-32 teammate Wilder Brown. Their times were 17:35 and 17:37.
The U-32 girls battled with Harwood Union High for the team title, just as they did in last year’s D-II state championship at Thetford. The Raiders and Highlanders tied at both meets based on their five-person team tallies.
At the 2021 D-II state championship, the U-32 girls won the tie-breaker based on the finish position of the No. 6 racer. At the U-32 invitational, Harwood’s No. 6 racer broke the scoring tie for the first five runners.
U-32 junior Amy Felice, from Calais, won the girls varsity race in 20:27. Felice outdistanced BFA St. Albans’ Kaitlyn Lumbra (20:30) and Middlebury Union’s Beth McIntosh (20:31) to top the 95-runner field.
Craftsbury Academy entered four runners in the boys varsity division. Sophomore Charlie Kehler was the top Charger, finishing 11th in 18:05. Senior Alan Moody placed 16th in 18:45. Junior Silas Hunt continued to show his strength as a runner. He placed 27th in 19:43. Senior Linden Stelma-Leonard rounded out the Craftsbury boys squad with a 23:13 5k effort.
Charger senior Rachel Bjerke finished in 25:45 to place 48th in the girls varsity race. Competing in her first cross country meet, junior Verna Stoddard completed the rolling 5k course in 34:27.
“We have a lot of work to do before we will be the team we are capable of becoming,” said Craftsbury’s fourth-year head coach Mike Levangie. “We continue in a strength-based phase of training and are excited for the upcoming weeks.”
Like Craftsbury, Hazen Union brought a small squad of runners to the U-32 Invitational. Seventh-year head coach Netdahe Stoddard lost about half of last year’s squad due to graduation, transfers, and the overseas exchange program. Ever optimistic, Coach Stoddard is excited about this years’ team and its influx of new runners.
Wildcat junior Tobias Benson had a breakout day at U-32, notching a new 5k personal best time of 27:35. Fellow junior Gabriel Aubuchon competed in his first cross country meet, finishing in 30:01.
“Tobias is on quite a trajectory,” Stoddard said. “He always has something to offer at practice. We want to see what Tobias can do. He is starting off better than where he ended up last year.”
Ninth-grader Finn Burgess and senior Ella Considine paced the girls varsity race together, finishing in 33:16 for the Wildcat girls.
Eighth-graders Manny Fliegelman, Daniel Pougnier, and Bryce Laraway ran for Hazen Union in the 1.7-mile middle school boys race. Fliegelman placed 22nd of 121 runners. His time was 10:04. Pougnier and Laraway had respective times of 10:53 and 11:10.
Hazen Union eighth-grader Carli Abbott placed 65th of 103 runners in the girls middle school contest. Her time was 13:54. Kilie Burnor, a Wildcat seventh-grader, finished in 15:47.
The Wildcat harriers head to Stowe High School for a meet on Saturday, Sept. 24. Craftsbury will compete at the Choiniere Family Farm Meet in Richford. U-32 High School travels to the Manchester, New Hampshire Invitational on Sunday, Sept. 25.
The St. Johnsbury Academy cross country team will also be at Manchester on Sunday. For Charlie Krebs of Craftsbury, the meet will be his first race wearing Hilltopper green.
Krebs transferred from Craftsbury Academy to St. Johnsbury Academy for his senior year. A bout of COVID-19 during the first two weeks of school postponed the start of his fall cross country season.
On Sept. 10, the St. Johnsbury Academy boys (without Krebs) narrowly defeated Champlain Valley Union High School to win the Burlington Invitational. Krebs will likely strengthen the Hilltopper harriers’ prospects of repeating as Vermont D-I state champions.