by Jim Flint
CRAFTSBURY ̶ Fifth-year head coach Mike Levangie’s Craftsbury Academy boys cross country team began official practices on August 14. By tradition, the dirt-road loop around Big Hosmer Lake was their opening team run of the fall season.
The three-time Vermont D-III state champions hold the same goals as in 2021 and 2022: defend their state team title, win the individual D-III race, and earn a spot among the top six Vermont teams that qualify for the New England Cross Country Championships.
Four members of the 2022 team return to anchor the 2023 Chargers. Charlie Kehler and Matt Califano placed first and second in the 2022 D-III state meet. Alex Califano and Silas Hunt finished eighth and twelfth. The Charger boys graduated seniors Cormac Leahy, Alan Moody, Linden Stelma-Leonard, and Calvin Cacciamani.
Five runners are needed for a team score in a cross country meet. In past years, an exception was made for Vermont’s D-III schools, with the top four runners scoring. This fall, Division III returns to the top-five scoring format. Craftsbury Academy faces a numbers challenge to overcome. Larger schools such as Thetford Academy and Stowe High School have deeper squads.
“There are just 28 boys in the high school this fall at Craftsbury Academy,” said Coach Levangie. “Our team has some recruiting to do during the first week of school. A couple of soccer kids are on the fence about being on the cross country team. We won’t know for another two weeks who will run.”
Coach Levangie expects senior Matt Califano to push junior Charlie Kehler this fall. Seniors Alex Califano and Silas Hunt are lean and strong, ready to challenge the leaders. All four Charger “horsemen” have trained on their own since June.
Hunt and the Califano twins live on hilly dirt roads in Craftsbury. Kehler runs at a higher altitude in the hills of Greensboro. He attended a two-week “Up and Coming” running camp in Colorado this summer. The Califano twins raced up Mount Mansfield on Sunday.
Craftsbury’s season officially begins on Saturday, September 2, at the Essex Invitational. The boys plan to run the race at hard tempo speed. Levangie brought the team to Thetford last week to practice on the iconic Woods Trail Course, where the state meet is held. The team often trains as a pack on the rolling roads of Craftsbury and the ski trails at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.
“As long as we stay healthy, we should be a very good team,” said Coach Levangie. “The challenge is the way we blend, getting bodies out from a team standpoint. Our main four runners are very close. They are more seasoned and can take charge of their own direction. Silas is now a runner, not just an athlete on a team.”
“The Essex meet will give a view of how everyone is looking,” Levangie said. “October 28, the state meet, is the day that matters. We want to compete again at New England’s — to qualify three years in a row.”