Hazen Union Harriers Excel at Hard’Ack

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photo by Netdahe Stoddard
Hazen Union seventh-grader Eliza Bunten (center) made the podium Saturday at the Burlington High School Invitational. Bunten placed a strong fifth, of 56 runners, in the girls middle school race.

by Jim Flint

ST. ALBANS — ­Hazen Union’s cross country team started their 2023 season at Saturday’s Burlington High School Invitational. Due to the demolition of the old Burlington High School, the meet was held at the Hard’Ack Recreation Area in St. Albans.

The majority of runners represented Vermont D-I and D-II schools. Hazen Union competes in D-III. The team entered three varsity runners and three middle school runners. “It was a gamble beginning our season with a big meet,” said Head Coach Netdahe Stoddard. “Everything could go wrong.”

The Wildcat harriers quickly allayed Stoddard’s worries. Senior Cassandra Royer was first up in the varsity girls race. Royer got off to a solid start in the field of 87 competitors. She fought her way from 30th to 26th to 24th-place during the last half of the race. She finished with a personal best 5k time of 21:51. Estella Laird, from Champlain Valley Union High, notched the victory in 18:46.

Hazen Union freshman Daniel Pougnier and sophomore Lewis LaPierre competed in their first boys varsity race. Pougnier completed the course in 22:01 to place 83rd of 107 runners. LaPierre finished 99th in 28:08. Porter Hurteau, from BFA St. Albans, topped the field in 16:03.

Eliza Bunten, earned a podium finish for Hazen Union in the girls middle school race. The seventh-grader placed fifth of 56 competitors. Her time was 14:10. Madison Lacy, from Mater Christi School, won the 2.7k race in 12:42.

Kiah Cloutier, finished 14th of 80 runners in the boys middle school race. The Wildcat eighth-grader covered the 2.7k distance in 12:57. Seventh-grader Aiden Pougnier placed 44th, in 15:12, for Hazen Union. James Langan, from Frederick Tuttle Middle School, was the top finisher in 11:07.

Next up for the Wildcats is the Northern Vermont Athletic Conference meet at St. Johnsbury Academy on September 13. The middle school race starts at 3:30 p.m., followed by the girls varsity race at 4 p.m. The boys varsity race starts at 4:45 p.m.

“Running in the Tuesday Night Trail Races at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center helped prepare our team for tough terrain,” said Coach Stoddard. “There is a desire to push for higher output. The kids are pumped.”