Sports Year in Review

by Ken Brown

NORTHEAST KINGDOM – State Championships, near misses, and the emergence of several high school student athletes dominated the headlines in 2022, in what was a fantastic year for the fan in local sports.

Winter Sports

Hazen Union big man Tyler Rivard capped off a breakout junior campaign on the hardwood with a game for the ages at the Barre Auditorium, powering the Wildcats to the Division III boys’ basketball state championship in March. Rivard scored a game-high 21 points and pulled down 22 rebounds in the title game as the Wildcats survived a defensive battle 37-34 against top-seeded Winooski. Head coach Aaron Hill broke through for his sixth state title at Hazen after leading his teams to four consecutive Final Four appearances. It was the eighth state championship in boys’ basketball in school history.

It was Hazen Union’s first season in the rugged Capital League after years of dominance in the Mountain. Hill earned Coach of the Year honors after another 19 win season with the Wildcats, giving him more than 370 career coaching victories in his young career. Rivard was one of only five players to earn First Team Capital League honors after leading Hazen in scoring, as well as smashing the school’s single season rebound record. Senior captain Carter Hill was selected to the VBCA Senior All-Star roster and was also the recipient of the Tristan Southworth Memorial Scholarship, given to a senior each year that represents their school and community with distinction. Southworth was a three-sport star at Hazen, graduating in 2007. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his bravery in service to his country after losing his life in the line of duty in Afghanistan in 2010.

Hill was part of a committee made up of community members, Hazen Union administrators and staff, and members of surrounding communities to bring back the tradition of the ringing of the Hardwick Community Bell after big road wins. The actual bell was donated by the town of Greensboro with the influence of residents Kim Greaves, Brett Stanciu, and Jeannie Eisner and refurbished by Rich Mathez, Bob Griffiths, and Mike Roussell. The bell now sits in a tower (designed by architect Patrick Kane) outside of Hazen’s gymnasium and has been deemed ‘Finn’s Bell’ in memory of Hazen Union star athlete and student body president Finn Rooney, who had a dream of restoring the bell’s tradition. Rooney tragically lost his life in 2020.

Twinfield-Cabot freshman Kerrick Medose joined Hazen’s Xavier Hill and Rivard as Vermont Dream Dozen Selections. Lady Cat super sophomore Caitlyn Davison was also a Dream Dozen selection after leading the Hazen Union girls’ basketball team to a surprising quarterfinal run in the Division IV playoffs. Davison also earned Mountain League First Team honors for her efforts.

Spring Sports

The Craftsbury Academy (CA) track and field team staked their claim as an elite program in the state of Vermont this past spring as the boys’ team claimed their first division IV team title as well as bringing home several individual state titles on the girls’ side. In the final event of the day at States in Manchester, the 4X400m relay team of Alan Moody, Alex Califano, Matthew Califano, and Charlie Krebs secured a second place finish to secure their first state championship with a team total of 111, edging Green Mountain Union by six points. Linden Stelma-Leonard joined Moody and both Califano brothers to take home the state title in the 4X800m event, dominating runner-up Northfield by over 17 seconds.

Earlier in April, the relay team of Matthew Califano, Cormac Leahy, Charlie Krebs, and Charlie Kehler shattered the ten year old state record in the 4X800m by over five seconds. Noah Mckibben also won his first individual state title in the 300m hurdles, giving him five individual wins in what was a stellar senior campaign. Cormac Leahy also finished off his strong season in the distance events with an individual state title in the 3000m event.

Ida Eames, Rachel Bjerke, Sadie Skorstad, and Anika Leahy won their first individual state championship in the 4X400m relay event, besting runner-up Arlington by nearly eight seconds and breaking the Division IV state record in the process. Leahy also capped off an impressive freshman campaign with an individual title in the 800m event. It was a storybook beginning for first year head coach Abby Schaible and coaching staff, Mike LeVangie and Susan Dunklee.

Hazen Union head baseball coach Spencer Howard led his Wildcat program to a school record 15-win season that ended in the Division III state title game at Centennial Field in June. The top seeded Wildcats fell to defending state champion Peoples Academy 9-0. Hazen Union’s attempt to win their first state championship on the diamond since 1982 came up one game short, but Howard will return an experienced roster poised to bring home the hardware in 2023.

Junior slugger Tyler Rivard earned First Team honors in Hazen’s inaugural season in the Division II-heavy Capital League. Rivard led Hazen in nearly every offensive category with a .434 batting average on 23 hits, 18 RBI, 31 stolen bases, 25 runs scored, and 16 walks. He also won three games and saved two more on the mound for the Wildcats. Junior ace Lyle Rooney earned Second Team honors for Hazen, posting a 2.10 earned run average over 53 innings pitched and twirled his second career no-hitter.

Craftsbury Academy’s (CA) Ade Gillespie and Sophia Augsberger were Mountin League Second Team selections after leading the Lady Charger softball team to their first playoff victory in nearly two decades. Head coach Ashley Gravel led her CA squad to a 19-6 win over Twinfield-Cabot in the first round of the Division IV playoffs, only three years removed from being a club team.

Hazen Union’s Lyle Rooney and Andrew Menard led the Green Mountain Wild Babe Ruth team to a Vermont State Championship this past summer at Norwich University. Rooney was part of a combined no-hit performance over St. Johnsbury in the first round and Menard twirled a complete game shutout over the same team to send the Wild to the title game. Rooney was the winning pitcher with five strong innings, to claim the state title over Mt. Mansfield 8-5. The team was coached by first year Hazen Union athletic director Jared Cushing, who tragically lost his life this past fall at 21 years old.

Fall Sports

The Twinfield-Cabot boys’ soccer team headlined the fall sports season as they made it to their second consecutive Division IV Final Four, matching the school record they set in 2021 with another 11 win season. The Trojan defense allowed only a single goal throughout their playoff run in what was another heartbreaking 1-0 loss to top-seeded Rivendell Academy in the semifinals. Head coach Peter Stratman has turned Twinfield-Cabot into a divisional powerhouse in his four seasons at the helm, compiling an impressive 39-17-1 record over that span. He was named Mountain League Coach of the Year for his efforts and will return a talented roster next season that may finally get him to that state championship match that has eluded him.

Meles Gouge followed up a sensational sophomore season with an equally impressive 2022 campaign that earned him a second consecutive All-State selection. Gouge also earned Mountain League First Team honors. Joining Gouge as a First Team selection was goalkeeper Neil Alexander. Alexander cemented his reputation as one of the best keepers in the division this past fall with nine shutouts.

Hazen’s Tyler Rivard capped off a stellar senior season in net for the Wildcats with an All-State and Capital League First Team selection. Rivard kept his squad in countless games this season in the highly competitive Capital League.

Caitlyn Davison also had a strong performance on the pitch for Hazen Union this past fall, earning All-State and Mountain League First team honors. Davison was a force offensively and defensively for an up and coming Lady Cat squad that played its best soccer of the season down the stretch. Junior captain Sadie Skorstad earned her first Mountain League First Team selection for Craftsbury Academy after an impressive season that showcased her athleticism and versatility. Hazen Union’s Alexis Christensen ended a stellar high school career with a First Team selection and some big time goals down the stretch. Ginger Klarich and Aydyn Paige were bright spots for a Twinfield-Cabot girls’ squad that was decimated by injuries and transfers and their consistent and solid play also earned them Mountain League First Team honors.

Many of these outstanding student athletes will return to the court, diamond, and pitch in 2023 with a chance to put their names and teams in their school’s record books.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your families.