by Jim Flint
ST. ALBANS ̶ Top high school cross country runners from across Vermont gathered at the Hard’Ack Recreation Area on November 4 for the Meet of Champions. The field included a cohort of local student-athletes who qualified based on their finishes at the state championship meet, held the prior Saturday in Thetford. Temperatures in the 50-degree range, with calm winds, led to personal best efforts on the grassy, gently rolling 5k course. For some athletes, the meet was the season finale. Others used the race as a tune-up for the New England championships, scheduled for November 11 in Belfast, Me.
D-I state champion Champlain Valley Union High School won the varsity girls team title with 20 points. CVU was led by Estella Laird who won the race in 18:40. The D-II champion U-32 High School girls finished second with 49 points. Ginger Long (18:56) and Madison Beaudoin (20:15) placed third and ninth for U-32. D-III champion Stowe High School had a breakout effort from ninth-grader Leila Griffith, who finished fourth in 19:02.
Isobel Koger, a U-32 junior from Calais, was the fastest varsity girl from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette. She placed 14th and set a new personal best 5k time of 20:51. U-32 senior Amy Felice, from Calais, finished 16th in a season’s best 5k time of 21:04. Elsie Koger, a U-32 ninth-grader from Calais, placed 24th. She set a new personal best mark of 21:21.
Hazen Union senior Cassandra Royer made the top 20 with an 18th place finish. Royer’s time of 21:10 was just a second off her personal record. She had the third-fastest time among 12th grade girls.
Champlain Valley Union High School edged out Montpelier High School, 47 to 55, to win the boys varsity team competition. D-I champion St. Johnsbury Academy opted out of the Meet of Champions. D-II champion U-32 High School sent its B team to compete. D-III champion Craftsbury was represented by Silas Hunt and Owen McKibben.
Hunt continued his string of solid performances for the Chargers. Running in his final high school meet, Hunt set a new personal best 5k time of 18:09, which was 26 seconds faster than last year at the same meet. He placed 48th of 97 finishers.
While McKibben was the 97th finisher, his 23:20 effort was outstanding. The improving sophomore broke his previous personal best mark of 24:18. During the course of the 2023 season, he lowered his 5k time by more than seven minutes from his first race on September 2.
Two U-32 High School boys from Calais had strong finishes. Tennessee Lamb placed 28th overall. Lamb’s 5k time of 17:27 was a new personal best. Habib Melud broke 20 minutes for the first time. He placed 79th in 19:42.