by Jim Flint
THETFORD ̶ Nearly 1,300 cross country runners competed in the Woods Trail Invitational on Saturday, October 1. Runners from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette were among the young athletes toeing the starting line in twelve different races.
The locals competed against runners from Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. In the high school division, athletes were seeded into five groups for boys and girls, based on their projected finish time. Seventh and eighth graders competed in the junior high division.
Saint Johnsbury Academy topped the list of 46 varsity boys’ teams at the meet. The Hilltoppers edged out Vermont D-I rival Champlain Valley Union High School, 103 to 113 points. The win was the first ever for the St. J boys at the iconic meet, which has been held annually since 1991.
St. Johnsbury sophomore Andrew Thornton-Sherman led the way with a sixth-place finish in 17:20. Junior Carson Eames (17:25) placed tenth, followed by senior Charlie Krebs (17:40) in 14th place.
Krebs, a transfer from Craftsbury Academy, is steadily regaining lung capacity after a bout with COVID-19 sidelined him during the first three weeks of September. The race was his second of the fall season.
The Saint Johnsbury Academy girls placed ninth of 34 varsity teams. Junior Bennett Cranse was the first Hilltopper across the finish line. She placed 47th in 22:25.
Ava Purdy, a junior transfer from Craftsbury Academy, was the second varsity girl for St. Johnsbury. She placed 59th overall in 22:57. Purdy was coming off a 5k personal best time of 21:28 at the Stowe Invitational on September 24. The Thetford course is one of the most challenging in Vermont.
Amy Felice, a U-32 High School junior from Calais, was the Raiders’ top finisher in the girls’ varsity race. She finished 16th in 21:18. The Raider girls placed 12th of 34 varsity teams.
Tennessee Lamb, a sophomore from East Calais, competed for U-32 High School in the boys’ varsity race. He finished the 5k course in 20:45.
Kehler and Bjerke Lead Craftsbury
Craftsbury Academy brought four varsity boys and two varsity girls to the Woods Trail Meet. Sophomore Charlie Kehler competed in the boys’ varsity Second Seed group. He won his race handily in 17:54. Kehler’s finish time placed 23rd in the combined overall results.
“Charlie is learning to be a leader,” said the Chargers’ head coach Mike Levangie. “He took control in the first mile and never let up, then continued to push through to the finish. A big breakthrough for him.”
Junior Silas Hunt (19:54), senior Alan Moody (20:11), and junior Calvin Cacciamani (21:17) rounded out the Craftsbury finishers in the boys varsity races.
Rachel Bjerke (25:37) and Verna Stoddard (34:50) represented Craftsbury Academy in the girls varsity races. Bjerke placed in the top 50% of finishers.
For Stoddard, Hunt, and Cacciamani, the race was their first time at Thetford. The Craftsbury runners will return to the Woods Trail course for the state championship races on October 29. At the state meet, the Chargers will vie to be one of the six Vermont teams to qualify for the New England Championships on November 12.
On October 8, Coach Levangie plans to bring a full varsity boys team of seven runners to the Ponaganset Covered Bridge Classic. The course in Glocester, Rhode Island is the New England Championships site.
Wildcat Middle Schoolers
Hazen Union brought a group of eighth grade runners to Thetford to race on the 2.7k Woods Trail course. Thomas Kehler led the Wildcat boys with a 20th place finish in 11:00. Manny Fliegelman placed 47th of 164 finishers in the junior high race. His time was 11:50. Daniel Pougnier finished 75th in 12:21.
In the girls junior high race, Carli Abbott place 49th of 128 girls. Her time was 14:01.
“With about 3/4 of a km to go, “Thomas was in 23rd place,” said Hazen Union teacher Marc Considine, who coached the middle schoolers at Thetford. “Thomas caught a few people in the last bit. Both Manny and Daniel looked pretty strong on that last hill and passed several people. Carli ran well, with nearly the same time she got at the U-32 meet.”