by Jim Flint
HARDWICK – In this final issue of the year, the Gazette salutes runners who tirelessly pound out the miles on area roads, trails, and tracks. Despite race cancellations due to the pandemic, the perseverance of local runners kept the thrill of individual and collective accomplishment alive. Here are the 2020 honorees:
Titan on the Track
St. Johnsbury Academy’s Evan Thornton-Sherman tore up the indoor track circuit with personal best performances. On January 4, the Hilltopper sophomore ran a 3000-meter race in 9:17.66. Thornton-Sherman’s time of 9:18.22 was a new personal best. At the prestigious Dartmouth Relays on Jan. 11, Thornton-Sherman finished second in the two-mile run. The 9:32.90 effort shattered his previous personal best two-mile time of 10:06.95 and set a new St. Johnsbury Academy record.
Riley Fenoff, from Danville, excelled at collegiate indoor track events ranging from 800 meters to 5,000 meters. Competing for Franklin Pierce University, the sophomore standout set new personal best marks for the 1,000m run (2:42.42), the mile (4:18.54), the 3,000m (8:43.72), and the 5,000m (15:13.24). Fenoff placed first in the 5,000m run at the Panther Invitational on February 8.
Elinor Purrier accomplished a historic feat at the New York City Armory on February 8. The 2014 graduate of Richford High School, who grew up on a dairy farm in Montgomery, stunned the world at the 113th Millrose Games. Winning the Wanamaker Mile in a time of 4:16.85, she shattered the American women’s indoor record. On the world stage, this was the second-fastest mile ever run by a woman indoors.
Heidi Caldwell of Craftsbury celebrated her 28th birthday on February 29 with a stellar finish at the USA Track and Field 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. Coming into the race seeded 197th among a field of 450 qualifying women, Caldwell conquered the hilly 26.2-mile course to place 89th of 390 women finishers. Her finish time was two hours, 43 minutes, and 23 seconds.
Slip Slidin’ Away
Erin Magoon of Craftsbury was the first female runner to cross the finish line on February 15 at the Slip Slidin’ Away 5k in Hyde Park. Braving temperatures barely above zero, a field of 13 hardy runners turned out for the annual out-and-back race. Magoon placed third overall in 24:07 to win the women’s crown for the third time.
Donna Smyers of Adamant completed all 17 virtual races put on by Central Vermont Runners (CVR) during the summer and fall of 2020. The 63-year-old triathlete also coordinated the Suffrage Scramble, a virtual 5k race involving 411 participants during Primary Week in August. The race was held in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, ratified on August 18, 1920, which granted women the right to vote. A total of $6,800 was raised through the event to support the Rutland Chapter of the NAACP.
Elizabeth McCarthy and Tim Hogeboom of Walden completed 14 of 17 virtual CVR races during the summer and fall. At the Lucky Leprechaun 5k, held in St. Johnsbury on March 14, McCarthy was the second female finisher. For her efforts, she won a quart of maple syrup and a gift-wrapped roll of toilet paper. Hogeboom tied for fourth place in the virtual Montpelier Mile. His time was 7:24.
The unsinkable Candace Smith-Brown, from East Calais, proved that the pandemic was no match for the veteran Boston Marathoner. After the Patriots Day race was canceled, Smith-Brown, 59, took on the challenge of running the Boston Marathon virtually. With support from her daughters and granddaughters, she completed an out-and-back marathon on the Montpelier and Wells River Rail Trail on September 5. She finished the 26.2-mile route in five hours, 45 minutes and 40 seconds, her fastest marathon time ever.
On October 24, Mark Howard of Marshfield, April Farnham of Plainfield, and Ira Wheeler of Danville took on the challenge of completing the Bayley-Hazen Military Road on foot in a day. The adventurous trio started in Wells River at 4:56 a.m. Tired and happy, they reached Hazen’s Notch in Westfield at 9:30 p.m. Howard’s GPS watch recorded 7,600 feet of elevation gain along the historic route, which was carved out of the wilderness in 1779.
Mighty Middle Schoolers
The pandemic limited cross country races for local fifth- to eighth-graders, but not their enthusiasm. Several competed at the state championship meet at Thetford on November 1. Amelia Circosta, a homeschooler from Greensboro, placed second among 44 seventh-grade girls. Charlie Kehler, a Hazen Wildcat from Greensboro, finished with the second-fastest time among 39 eighth-grade boys. His brother,Thomas Kehler, placed fifth out of 48 sixth-grade boys. Craftsbury Academy’s Anika Leahy, from Greensboro, finished third among 48 eighth-grade girls. Fellow Charger Ruth Krebs, from Craftsbury, placed 11th among eighth-grade girls.
The Hazen Union High School girls finished fourth of nine varsity teams at the Vermont D-III Cross Country Championships at Thetford on October 31. Ninth-grader Cassandra Royer led the Wildcats with a 13th place finish out of 67 runners. Junior Jessica Royer claimed 15th place. Sophomores Ella Considine and MaryJane McKenzie rounded out the strong performance for Hazen Union. During the summer of 2020, the four Wildcat runners completed the entire 273-mile Long Trail, hiking up to 14 hours a day.
May Lamb of East Calais and Camille Bolduc of Craftsbury completed stellar high school cross country careers on October 31 at the state championships in Thetford. The seniors were among 209 varsity girls competing across three divisions. Lamb placed third in the D-II championship race. She led the U-32 High School girls to a state title. Camille Bolduc of Craftsbury Academy placed fifth in the D-III championship race. At the Meet of Champions on November 7, Lamb and Bolduc placed 11th and 14th respectively out of 76 varsity girls from all three divisions.
The Craftsbury Academy boys’ cross country team earned their first D-III state title in school history on October 31 in Thetford. Moving up from a strong fourth-place finish in 2019, the intrepid squad of freshmen and sophomore runners placed first among twelve D-III teams. Cormac Leahy led the Craftsbury charge. He ran away from the 93-runner field to win the D-III race. Teammates Charlie Krebs (second), Alexander Califano (seventh), Orion Cenkl (ninth), and Alan Moody (twelth) rounded out the top five Charger boys. Leahy went on to place second in the state of Vermont at the Meet of Champions on November 7.
Congratulations to dedicated local runners of all ages and abilities who run for health, fun, and well-being. The 2021 running season kicks off with the Central Vermont Runners virtual New Year’s Eve 5k, on December 31 to January 2, in downtown Montpelier. Visit cvrunners.org for details. Happy trails!