by Jim Flint
THETFORD – Unseasonably warm temperatures in the low 70s challenged runners Saturday as the high school athletes took on the storied Woods Trail 5k course at Thetford Academy. The varsity races included 235 girls and 250 boys across three divisions. Another 83 girls and 167 boys competed in the junior varsity Challenge Races.
Athletes from towns in the Gazette’s coverage area represented Hazen Union, Craftsbury Academy, Twinfield, U-32 High School, and St. Johnsbury Academy. The Craftsbury boys (see separate story) and Stowe High School girls won D-III championships. U-32’s girls and boys teams swept the D-II state crowns. The St. Johnsbury Academy boys and Champlain Valley Union High School girls captured D-I state titles.
Royer and Pougnier lead Wildcats
Hazen Union senior Cassandra Royer was the top local finisher in the D-III girls race. Royer started conservatively in the middle of the pack. Steadily moving up, Royer placed fifth, in 22:50. Royer improved on her 13th place finishes at the 2020 and 2021 state championships. She qualified to compete as an individual in the Meet of Champions on November 4.
Hazen Union ninth-grader Chloe Dyer competed in her first state girls meet, finishing the hilly course in 37:09. Daniel Pougnier completed his freshman season at the state meet with a 31st place finish in the boys D-III race. Pougnier covered the 5k course in 22:12. Fellow frosh Manny Fliegelman fought off a cramp to place 50th, in 23:42. Lewis LaPierre rounded out the Wildcat trio with a 29:36 finish.
Calais Girls Secure D-II Championship for U-32
Amy Felice, Isobel Koger, and Elsie Koger, all from Calais, helped the U-32 High School girls repeat as D-II state champions. Felice, a senior, led the way (22:46) with a ninth-place finish behind Raider teammates Ginger Long (first/20:33) and Madison Beaudoin (eighth/22:44).
The Koger sisters rounded out U-32’s top five scorers. Isobel, a sophomore, placed 13th in 23:22. Elsie, a ninth grader, was 22nd in 23:55.
“Getting our legs up the hills was challenging with the heat,” said Isobel.
“Our team is way ahead of where we were,” said Felice, who sprinted past Harwood Union’s Celia Wing in the final straightaway.
The 2023 campaign was Felice’s most challenging of her four years of high school cross country. An injury prevented her from running for much of the summer. She biked miles to keep fit. Her first cross country race of the season was on September 23.
“Amy never gives less than 100%, even when no one is looking,” said Meg Allison, head coach for the U-32 girls team. “The other girls look up to her. She is a fighter who does not give up.”
In the combined standings, the U-32 girls placed fourth behind D-I teams from Champlain Valley Union High School, Essex, and South Burlington. D-III champion Stowe High School and D-II’s Harwood Union High School rounded out the top six Vermont girls varsity teams qualifying for the New England Championships. The November 11 meet in Belfast, Maine brings together the top high school cross country teams from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Krebs and Purdy Pace Hilltopper Girls
Ruth Krebs, a junior from Craftsbury, and Ava Purdy, a senior from Greensboro, ran for St. Johnsbury Academy in the Division I girls state championship. Krebs’ 23:04 effort placed 23rd. Purdy finished 49th in 25:40. The St. Johnsbury girls placed fifth of 13 D-I squads. Champlain Valley Union High School dominated the girls D-I race with a perfect score of 15 points.
The Hilltopper girls placed eighth of 31 teams in the combined standings. Their effort qualified St. Johnsbury to compete in the Vermont Meet of Champions on November 4.
Twinfield Harriers Complete Fall Campaign
Twinfield Union High School finished the 2023 season with four runners participating in the state D-III championship races. Senior Sam Sainz completed his fourth year of cross country for the Trojans. He placed 66th in the D-III boys race, finishing in 26:14.
Ninth-graders Deacan Macomber (33:49) and Zane Henry (34:20) went the distance in finishing their first boys state championship race. Senior August Howe finished the girls race in 35:51.