MONTPELIER – Thirty-four adventurous runners took flight Saturday at the Second Annual Onion River Outdoors Birdland Trail Race. Starting from the Montpelier Recreation Field, the 95 percent single-track course included a mile-plus hill climb amidst forested scenery. Runners ascended 500 feet during the first half of their run, with a maximum grade of 16 percent.
Damian and Jessica Bolduc, from Craftsbury, drove through heavy showers on the way to Montpelier. They were rewarded with a lull in the rain and trails in excellent shape. “The race field was a hearty bunch looking forward to the challenge,” said Damian. “We were quite happy to be among other enthusiasts.”
The top two runners, Justin Magill and Luke Miller, quickly took control of the race. Starting from the back of the back, Damian Bolduc moved into third place on the hill climb. Stowe’s Anna Milkowski was right on his heels. Milkowski ran the Boston Marathon and the Vermont City Marathon this spring. Magill is a rising junior at Norwich University, where he competes in cross country and track and field.
“I powered up the hill and kept my heart rate right where I wanted it,” said Bolduc. “It seemed longer and steeper than anticipated and had a few pitches at the end.”
After cresting the high point, the runners navigated a flowy downhill section with banked turns. When the steeper parts leveled off, Bolduc lengthened his stride and kept his momentum going. A short uphill at the two-mile mark was an unexpected twist.
“After climbing for the first half of the race, and pounding down for half a mile, my quads were quite angry and protested this section,” said Bolduc. “This must have been the case with everyone as I got a gap on those keeping the heat on me.”
The course finished with a sprint around a grassy field. Magill won handily in 24:05. Miller captured second place in 25:00. Bolduc placed third in 26 minutes flat. U-32 High School cross country coach Andrew Tripp edged out Anna Milkowski, 26:23 to 26:24, for fourth place. Rose Modry, from Greensboro, was the second female finisher and sixth overall. Her time was 26:43.
Mack Gardner-Morse, from Calais, was the top finisher in the M60-plus age group. He placed eighth overall, in 27:26. Jessica Bolduc rounded out the finishers from the ten towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette. Her time of 31:11 placed 15th overall and fourth in the F40-59 age group. Bolduc trains on the hills at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, which prepared her for the Birdlands course.
The Birdlands 5k was the sixth of 13 races in the 2023 Central Vermont Runners / Onion River Outdoors Race Series. The race series runs from April through October. Central Vermont Runners Club members compete for points relative to their age group position. The next race in the series is the Bear Swamp Run on July 8 in Middlesex. To register and for more information, visit cvrunners.org.
Califano Twins Win Crowley Races
RUTLAND – Two Craftsbury brothers, Matt and Alex Califano, broke the tapes at the historic Crowley Races on June 11. Alex won the 5k race, while Matt cruised to victory in the 10k.
The event is named after 1932 Olympian Francis Crowley. Crowley attended Rutland High School and was the Vermont state record in the mile and half-mile runs. On April 21, 1928, Crowley won a six-mile foot race from Proctor to Rutland. His time was 34 minutes and seven seconds. The Rutland Herald reported that 1,000 spectators lined State Street and Merchant Row to watch Crowley defeat John Minnoch, a respected marathoner, by ten feet.
The Crowley race went on for many years, then fizzled. Revived in 1976 by Frank’s brother, Joe Crowley, the race continued until 2019. Paused for the pandemic, the Crowley races returned again this year. The distances included a half marathon, 10k run, 5k run, 5k walk and downtown kids’ mile race.
Matt and Alex Califano, age 16, were in top running shape when they entered the Crowley races. A week earlier, on June 3, they competed for Craftsbury Academy at the Vermont Division-IV state track and field championships. Matt and Alex placed first and second, respectively, in the 3000m run.
On May 20, Matt ran the RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon. He finished 113th of 25,416 runners. His time of 1:16:21 for the 13.1-mile race placed first among runners under age 20. His performance qualified Califano for a spot in the 2024 New York City Marathon. The minimum age to run the NYC marathon is 18.
The Crowley 5k race had 34 finishers. Alex Califano won the race in 20:23, more than five minutes ahead of the next runner. Alex would have been a few minutes faster had he not inadvertently gone off course. He ran an extra half mile through downtown Rutland to find his way to the finish line.
In the 10k race, Matt Califano pulled away from the 28-runner field in the first mile. “The 10k was a sizable change from the previous week’s 3k,” said Califano. “It took a great deal of effort to lead from wire to wire. I was unfamiliar with the course and the length of the two steep uphill sections at the one-mile and four-mile marks. I opted to be more conservative in my pacing.”
Matt won the race in 36:51, three minutes ahead of the nearest competitor. His pace for the 6.22-mile race was comparable to Francis Crowley’s winning pace for the six-mile race in 1928.
The Califano twins are volunteering this summer at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, in Quechee. The boys are in training for the fall cross country season. The rising seniors are leaders on the Craftsbury Academy team which is going after its fourth consecutive D-IV state title.
St. Johnsbury Academy Athletes Place at Nationals
PHILADELPHIA – A cohort of St. Johnsbury Academy’s top athletes turned heads at the New Balance National Track and Field Championships. The meet was held June 15-18 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field. Nationally-ranked athletes from middle school through high school participated.
St. Johnsbury’s Andrew Thornton-Sherman and Essex High School’s Kelton Poirier lined up in the fifth heat of the 800m run. This was the third time in four weeks that the duo went head-to-head in the two-lap race. They were among 81 entries spread out in eight heats of the 800.
Poirier, a junior from Essex High School, came from behind to defeat Thornton-Sherman at the New England Qualifying meet on May 27. Their 800m race was a precursor to the New England Championships on June 10, in Bangor, Maine. Poirier once again used a furious kick in the final lap to beat Thornton-Sherman to the finish line. Their one-two finish was the highest among Vermont boys at the New England meet.
At the New England Qualifier on May 27, Poirier set the Vermont state boys 800m record of 1:52.38. The boys had one more shot at the New Balance Nationals to lower the state mark. Thornton-Sherman went out strong in the heat of ten runners. He was in third place at the end of the first lap. The leaders exchanged positions as Thornton-Sherman held on to third place. His effort set a new Vermont state high school record of 1:51.84 for 800 meters.
Thornton-Sherman placed 25th in the boys 800m national championships. Among tenth-graders, Thornton-Sherman’s 800m time was the fastest at the national meet. The sophomore standout also competed on the Hilltoppers 4x800m relay team and 1600m sprint relay team.
In his final high school meet, Charlie Krebs, a senior from Craftsbury, ran on St. Johnsbury’s 4x800m relay team, along with Gerardo Fernandez and Carson Eames. The relay team placed 34th of 66 teams. The team finished in 7:57.84, not far off their state record time of 7:51.35, set on May 20.
The St. Johnsbury 1600m Sprint Medley team won the silver medal for its second-place national finish. Andrew Bugbee and Jason Beardsley ran the 200m legs in the medley. Gerardo Fernandez ran the 400m leg. Thornton-Sherman finished with the 800m anchor leg. The team’s time was 3:25.83.