by Jim Flint
STOWE – Stowe High School hosted the Northern Vermont Athletic Conference Mountain Division Cross Country Championships on October 21. Moderate to heavy rain showers soaked the Stowe Events Field, forming numerous puddles and ponds on the mostly flat high school and middle school courses.
Some athletes held back, using the NVAC Championships for a tempo training run. Most ran their races as quickly as possible and got back under cover. The Hazen Union team opted to forego putting up a tent. Their school bus served as the Wildcats’ base camp for the races.
The girls championship race showcased competitors in D-I, D-II, and D-III. Leila Griffith, a ninth-grade sensation from Stowe High School, placed first of 80 varsity girls. Griffith’s time was 20:06. U-32 High School’s Ginger Long (20:59) and Isabel Kroger (21:04) finished second and third.
St. Johnsbury Academy’s Ruth Krebs and Hazen Union’s Cassandra Royer vied for fourth place. In 2017, Royer and Krebs were Hazen Union middle school cross country teammates. Krebs went on to run four years at Craftsbury Academy, while Royer anchored the Hazen girls squad.
Krebs transferred to St. Johnsbury Academy in 2022, taking a year off from cross country. Royer spent the 2022-2023 school year as an exchange student in Germany. On Saturday, they completed the circle, running together again, stride for stride.
After a congested mass start, the girls sorted through the bottlenecks and found each other a half mile into the race. Krebs led the way. Royer followed on Krebs’ heels through the next two miles.
“With a half mile to go in the race, Cassandra closed the gap and surged ahead of Ruth,” said Hazen Union’s coach Netdahe Stoddard.
Royer and Krebs fought for position as they made a 180-degree turn and crossed a floating bridge. With shin-deep water splashing about them, Krebs retook the lead on the curved straightaway to the finish. Krebs won the sprint to the line, edging out Royer 21:09.2 to 21:09.7.
Royer’s 5k effort was a new personal best. Krebs had her second fastest 5k time of the season.
U-32 High School’s Amy Felice placed eighth, in 21:26. Felice, from Calais, ran her season’s best 5k time. St. Johnsbury Academy’s Ava Purdy finished 24th, in 22:45. Purdy, from Greensboro, is a workhorse for the Hilltopper girls. The NVAC meet was her ninth 5k race of the fall season.
Gigi Guerin and August Howe represented Twinfield Union High School. Guerin finished 60th in a new personal best 5k time of 27:30. Howe placed 69th, in 31:43, which was also a new personal record.
The U-32 girls won the NVAC Mountain Division girls team championship with 33 points. St. Johnsbury’s 61 points placed second of the 10 scoring teams.
Andrew Thornton-Sherman led St. Johnsbury Academy in the NVAC Mountain Division boys championship. Thornton-Sherman was the fastest of 83 entries, winning in 15:55. The Hilltopper boys won the team title with 17 points. Montpelier High School was the runner-up with 43 points.
Charlie Kehler paced the Craftsbury Academy Chargers with a sixth-place finish in the race. Kehler ran his second fastest 5k of the season, finishing in 17:11. Tennessee Lamb, from U-32 High School, placed 20th. Lamb, from East Calais, set a new personal best 5k mark of 18:08. Craftsbury’s Silas Hunt finished 28th, in 18:38, his second-fastest 5k of the season.
Hazen Union’s top two varsity boys, Manny Fliegelman (21:03) and Daniel Pougnier (21:10), pushed each other to new personal best 5k times. The freshmen placed 52nd and 54th. Craftsbury’s Soren Stelma-Leonard, also a freshman, finished 55th with a time of 21:15.
Sam Sainz (24:30) was the sole Twinfield runner in the varsity boys race. Lewis LaPierre (26:48) competed for Hazen Union. Owen McKibben (24:41), Theo Alexander (25:46), and Kosmos Gletsos (33:29) rounded out the Craftsbury Academy boys team.
Hazen Union’s Kiah Cloutier finished 13th of 89 boys in the NVAC Mountain Division middle school championship race. Cloutier completed the 2.7k course in 10:39. Colin McIntyre was the top Twinfield finisher in the boys middle school race. McIntyre crossed the line in 11:53 to place 43rd.
Eliza Bunten placed 16th of 69 girls in the NVAC Mountain Division middle school championship race. Bunten covered the 2.7k distance in 12:03. Cora McIntyre was the top Twinfield finisher in the girls middle school race. McIntyre’s time of 13:30 placed 37th.