by Jim Flint
THETFORD – Anticipation is in the air for Saturday’s Vermont state cross country championships at the storied Woods Trail Course. Talented runners from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette are ready to help their teams compete for state divisional titles. The athletes will also vie for a shot at qualifying individually, or as a team, for the New England Championships.
The St. Johnsbury Academy (D-I) boys are favored to defend their title. The D-II boys championship looks to be a close contest between defending champion U-32 High School and archrival Montpelier High School. U-32 edged Montpelier by two points last year to win the D-II title. Montpelier has a higher team ranking than U-32 going into this year’s D-II state meet.
Craftsbury Academy faces competition as the Charger boys seek a fourth consecutive D-III state title. A rule change, adopted this year by the Vermont Principals Association, switched the D-III team scoring from counting the first four runners to the first five runners. Scoring the first five runners is the standard for cross country. Runners six and seven for a team can serve as displacers in team competition.
Thetford Academy and Stowe High School are set to challenge the Chargers’ dominance. Thetford currently has the top three ranked runners in D-III, ahead of fourth-ranked Charlie Kehler of Craftsbury. Kehler captured the 2022 D-III individual championship. Thetford, Craftsbury, and Stowe each have three ranked runners among the top ten in D-III.
Champlain Valley Union High School (D-I) and U-32 High School (D-II) are the favorites to repeat as girls state champions. The D-III girls championship promises to be a closer contest this year between defending champion Thetford Academy and last year’s runner-up, Stowe High School.
The combined results for the three divisions will determine the top six boys and six girls teams qualifying for the New England Championships on November 11. This is where the competition becomes more intense. In addition to the top six teams, the top 25 individual runners will also qualify for the championship meet in Belfast, Maine.
For the boys, St. Johnsbury, Champlain Valley, Montpelier, Essex, U-32, and BFA St. Albans are currently the top six ranked Vermont teams, in order, across the three divisions. Taggart Schrader, from Plainfield, and Tennessee Lamb, from East Calais, run for the U-32 boys varsity team.
Champlain Valley, Essex, U-32, South Burlington, Harwood Union, and St. Johnsbury Academy are the comparable top six ranked teams for the Vermont girls. The St. Johnsbury Hilltoppers are led by Ruth Krebs, a transfer from Craftsbury. Amy Felice, from Calais, runs for U-32.
The action kicks off with the boys Division-III championship race at 10:30 a.m. followed by the D-I and D-II boys races at 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The girls D-III, D-I, and D-II races follow in the same order beginning at noon. The event concludes with the Boys Challenge Race at 1:30 p.m. followed by the Girls Challenge Race at 2:15. Spectators are encouraged to arrive before 10 a.m. to secure parking.