by Jim Flint
THETFORD – Sunshine, low humidity, and mild temperatures created near-perfect conditions for Saturday’s Vermont state cross country championships. Runners vied for individual and team honors on the storied Woods Trail 5k course at Thetford Academy. The varsity girls field numbered 240 runners across three divisions. Another 98 junior varsity girls competed in the Challenge Race.
Runners from towns in the Gazette’s coverage area represented six local high schools. Amy Felice, a U-32 High School junior from Calais, was the top local finisher. She crossed the line in 20:56 to place third in the girls’ D-II championship race. Felice’s teammates Ginger Long (20:38) and Claire Serrano (21:23) placed first and fourth.
With five runners among the top 12 finishers, the Raider girls easily won the D-II state title with 27 points. Middlebury Union High was a distant second with 81 points. “We practiced running together as a pack,” said Felice after the race.
U-32’s strong performance placed the team second only to D-1 champion Champlain Valley Union High in the combined standings across all three divisions. Essex High School, Burlington High School, Mount Mansfield Union High, and St. Johnsbury Academy rounded out the six Vermont girls teams qualifying for the New England Championships. The November 12 event in Ponaganset, R.I., brings together the top high school cross country teams from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
St. Johnsbury Academy finished fifth as a team in the D-I state championship race. The Hilltopper girls placed their fastest five runners in the top half of the field.
Ava Purdy, a junior transfer from Craftsbury Academy, was the third runner for St. Johnsbury. She fought for position with two other runners coming down the final stretch. Her time of 22:50 placed 31st of 81 D-I varsity girls.
Danville High School senior Lilley Anderson was the top local finisher in the D-III championship race. Anderson’s time of 23:39 placed ninth of 79 D-III varsity girls.
Twinfield Union High School was led by Camryn Hoffman’s 16th-place finish in 24:48. Gigi Guerin (28:09) and Hanna Holzl (31:54) placed 41st and 62nd for the Trojan girls.
Craftsbury Academy senior Rachel Bjerke completed four years of high school cross country at the state meet. Bjerke’s time of 25:37 placed 22nd. Verna Stoddard ran the 5k distance for Craftsbury in 36:25.
Finn Burgess was Hazen Union’s top finisher. Burgess had a personal best 5k time of 31:39. Ella Considine completed four years of high school cross country running at the state meet. The Wildcat senior finished in 33:52.
“It’s an honor to coach such a wonderful person and strong and consistent runner as Ella,” said Hazen Union cross country coach Netdahe Stoddard. “Her influence is powerful and always positive, whether encouraging her teammates daily, sacrificing her race to aide an injured competitor when needed, or standing up to bigotry where it pops up. She’s been on the team every year that I’ve been a coach and it won’t be the same without her.”