Local Runners Excel at NVAC Conference Meet

by Jim Flint

CRAFTSBURY – The Craftsbury Outdoor Center hosted varsity cross country runners from 14 high schools Saturday at the Northern Vermont Athletic Conference Championships. The event format included pandemic restrictions limiting spectators and maintaining physical distance between athletes.

courtesy photo
Craftsbury Academy cross-country athletes (left to right) Camille Bolduc, Orion Cenkl, Alan Moody, and Alex Califano warm up with masks on before Saturday’s NVAC Championships at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. “The pink shorts are just so we stick out and bring attention to our team,” said Cenkl. “We’re getting a lot quicker and Coach Mike says we aren’t allowed to run slow with pink shorts.”

A staggered arrival schedule reduced the number of athletes on-site at any one time. Rather than having mass starts, each team warmed up and ran the 5k course as a unit. A new team was called to the starting line every 15 minutes. Each team departed after their race and cooldown. Athletes were required to wear masks before and after (but not during) their races

Starting times were arranged according to the proximity of the school to the outdoor center. The Craftsbury Academy varsity squad kicked off the event at 8:45 a.m. Cool and misty conditions prevailed, with the thermometer at 37 degrees F. Charger head coach Mike Levangie’s well-trained squad was ready for a morning romp on the familiar ski trails.

Sophomore Cormac Leahy blazed a fast time of 17:43 to lead the Charger boys. Senior Camille Bolduc was the sole Charger girl finisher, conquering the course in 21:45. Among 68 male finishers, Leahy had the third-fastest time. Among 57 female racers, Bolduc was fourth-fastest.

Leahy’s time was eclipsed only by fellow Junior Olympians Evan Thornton-Sherman and Hale Boyden of St. Johnsbury Academy. Their respective times were 17:00 and 17:40. North Country Union High School’s James Cilwik placed fourth in 17:54. Jacob Miller-Arsenault (17:57) and Ollie Hansen (18:02) of U-32 High School rounded out the top six boys.

St. Johnsbury runners Merrick Hemond (21:17) and Isabella Bostic (21:23) were the fastest female finishers. Maggie McGee (21:43) of Lamoille Union High School placed third. U-32 senior May Lamb, from East Calais, finished fifth, in 21:45. Her time was just three-tenths of a second behind Bolduc. U-32’s Amy Felice, from Calais, placed sixth in her first season as a varsity runner. Her time was 22:08.

St. Johnsbury Academy (D-I) edged out U-32 High School (D-II) to win the overall NVAC championship, 33 to 39. The lowest score wins in cross country. Craftsbury Academy (D-III) placed third overall among the eight complete boys’ teams, scoring 83 points. The Charger boys are currently ranked No. 3 in the state among D-III teams.

“The boys will face stiff competition from Rice, BFA Fairfax, and Thetford on October 31 at the State Championships,” said Coach Levangie.

The young Charger boys’ squad is poised to be the Division-III team to beat for at least another two years. Sophomore Charlie Krebs (19:04) placed 17th overall at the NVAC meet. He was followed across the line by Craftsbury freshmen Matthew Califano (19:28, 19th) and Alexander Califano (20:12, 21st). The Junior Olympians transferred to Craftsbury Academy this fall. Sophomores Alan Moody (20:48, 24th) and Orion Cenkl (21:34, 30th) completed the team’s strong performance.

Hazen Union raced four varsity girls at the NVAC championship meet. Cassandra Royer led the Wildcats with a 20th place finish, in 24:25. Danville High School’s top girl, Katie McAlenney, placed 19th, in 24:16. MaryJane McKenzie (30:46, 37th) and Ella Considine (30:47, 39th) rounded out the Wildcat squad. Laci Sandville (30:42) and Zoe Corey (32:22) placed 36th and 44th for Danville.

“The team is enthusiastic and enjoying training and the bit of racing they’re getting to do,” said Hazen Union’s head coach, Netdahe Stoddard. “We have four new sixth- and seventh-grade runners. We are still a small team and injuries needle many of my runners, but all in all, we’re having a great season.”