Chargers Cruise on Championship Course

photo by Victoria VonHessert
Charlie Kehler led the Craftsbury Academy boys to an eighth-place team finish Saturday at the Ponaganset Covered Bridge Classic. Kehler placed 18
th of 102 runners in the Varsity One Race. He broke the 17-minute barrier for the first time in a 5k race, finishing the hilly course in 16:38.

by Jim Flint

NORTH SCITUATE, R.I. – Craftsbury Academy’s boys cross country team traveled to the Ocean State on Friday with head coach Mike Levangie. The team arrived just in time for a late afternoon shakeout run on Ponaganset High School’s 5k course, followed by dinner and an early-to-bed night.

The six-hour road trip brought the Craftsbury boys to the Ponaganset Covered Bridge Classic. The Chargers competed with athletes from 21 high schools, mostly from Rhode Island. The meet gets its name from a handcrafted covered bridge that runners cross twice during the race.

Seven Chargers lined up Saturday morning for the Varsity One Race. The top-seeded group included 102 fleet-footed high school boys. The runners started in an open field. After the first half-mile, they segued to a two-mile gravel trail through woods. The athletes emerged back onto a grassy field for the final kilometer of the race.

Mile one was flat. Mile two featured a short steep hill and gradual downhill. Mile three included a grinder climb to the 2-1/2-mile mark, followed by a quick descent to the final flat section of the course.

Coach Levangie encouraged the Craftsbury boys to be patient for the first mile, putting themselves in position to move up during the last two-thirds of the race.

After winning the Varsity No. 2 race the week before at Thetford, Charlie Kehler was ready to take on the Varsity No. 1 race at Ponaganset. Coming out of the woods, the sophomore galloped with a fast group of sub-17-minute 5k racers. Kehler propelled himself forward from the back to the middle of the pack. With 200 meters left in the race, he rounded the hair-pin turn and headed for the football field finish.

“Charlie is doing a good job of maturing as a racer,” said Coach Levangie. “He got nipped at the line but was in full flight. He is still learning what he is capable of at his fitness level and how to extract performance when there is more in the tank.”

Kehler finished 18th and set a new personal record of 16:38 for the 5k distance. His previous PR was 17:26 set on October 9, 2021, at the Peoples Academy Invitational. Alexander Califano and Matt Califano placed 44th and 45th for Craftsbury. The twins’ respective times were 17:30.2 and 17:30.9; both were personal records.

Silas Hunt (18:37), Calvin Cacciamani (20:21), and Linden Stelma-Leonard (21:14) rounded out the Chargers’ strong team performance. Hunt and Cacciamani, who also play soccer for Craftsbury Academy, notched personal record 5k times at Ponaganset. Stelma-Leonard had a season’s best 5k time.

“Silas, Calvin, and Lenny raced above their current fitness levels,” said Coach Levangie. “They are learning how to race effectively when people around you are faster.”

The Ponaganset Covered Bridge Classic was a preview of the 2022 New England Cross Country Championships venue. The Charger boys have set their sights on being one of the top six Vermont teams to qualify for the New England championship meet on November 12. The meet will include the top high school boys and girls cross country teams from Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, and Rhode Island.