By David Miles
Ninety runners from seven high schools showed up to participate in the Marble Valley League Cross Country Championships the week before last and Woodstock came home with both team crowns. Coach Tracy Rose commented, “I am not as proud of the win as I am of the hard work, dedication and effort that each and every team member put in today and all season. Winning was just a fringe benefit of all that hard work.”
For the boys it was a repeat title and again it was earned by a very narrow margin over Thetford. The Wasps finished with a team score of 30 to the Panthers’ 35, with Otter Valley much further back in 3rd place with 87 points.
Woodstock placed 3 runners in the top five, while Thetford had the other two, but it was the 10th and 11th place finishes of Charlie Kahn and Harry Linowski (versus 12th and 15th) for the final two Thetford team scorers) that enabled Woodstock to maintain the conference title.
Thetford’s Jimmy LaBelle was the medalist with a time of 17 minutes, 27 seconds, just three seconds better than Jordan Fields, the top finisher for Woodstock. Thetford’s Zach Chatot came in another 7 seconds back, followed by two Wasps, Jeff Tucker in 4th with a time of 17:53 and Josh Bassette in 5th at 18:13.
Fair Haven’s Nick Book and Otter Valley’s Chris Cimmonitte finally brook the Wasp-Panther stranglehold on top 12, coming in at 6th and 7th, but Book’s finish did not impact the team scoring, as Fair Haven did not field a complete team. (Nine of the top dozen finishers were from either Woodstock or Thetford.)
Kahn and Linowski finished only 8 seconds apart (at 19:06 and 19:14 respectively) to claim their 10th and 11th place results and bring the league title back home to Woodstock.
Other Woodstock runners on this day were Griffin Bowell in 16th at 20:05, Dylan Stuntz in 23rd at 20:47, Reid Langona in 26th at 21:06, Sean Ritchie in 32nd at 21:21, Sawyer Mattsson just two second (but three places!) behind Ritchie at 22:23 and in 35th, co-captain Ryan Gannon in 40th at 22:06, Grier Eagan in 58th at 27:32, and Bradley Hinson in 59th at 28:53.
On the girl’s side, the ladies returned to their old form after an off year in the conference meet last year. Woodstock had won four years in a row (2002 – 2005) followed by three second place finishes, before finishing down near the bottom last year. (Last year the Lady Wasps were missing Stephanie Ambrose, one of the team’s top runners, and barely had the minimum of five required to compete as a team.)
Woodstock’s team score of 35 outdistanced Mill River at 55, Thetford at 62, and Springfield with 70. Brooke Davis of Mill River won the race with a time of 20:28, followed by Thetford’s Anna Smith at 21:21, before Woodstock’s superior depth kicked in.
Woodstock took three of the next four spots, with the four runners finishing within 1:01 of each other. Ambrose crossed the finish line in 3rd with a time of 21:35, Christy Harris completed the course in 21:54 to place 4th, and, after another Mill River runner, came Olivia Powell in 6th at 22:36.
Katherine Tucker was 11th in 24:22 and Jocelyn Werle was 17th in 24:47 to complete the Woodstock scoring. The final two Wasp runners on the day were Finn McFarland at 26:02 (18th place) and Brighde Moffatt in 28th with a time of 29:44.
The course was changed from the previous races in Springfield, so the Woodstock harriers were unable to compare their times to earlier in the season. However, Rose feels that “every WUHS athlete had a great race. I think some had better races than others but every single athlete did what they needed to do for Woodstock to get the win.” Even though the personal barometer was unavailable to the runners after the race, Rose was confident that her teams “gave me everything” they had on this day.
Rose went on to say the she feels “lucky” to “have two such teams at the same time.” A lot of their dedication starts with their captains. Bassette and Gannon captain the boys teams, and although Gannon may not often finish among the top five, “He is just a great kid who has so many of the qualities I look for in a captain: commitment, respect, listens and learns, responsibility.”
Ambrose and Powell are the girls’ leaders. Rose noted, “I consider this group to be very cohesive. They work well together as a team and there are no egos. Each athlete wants to do well individually, but they are also really committed to helping the team.”
Rose also wants to ensure that her part-time assistant coach (and her husband) Hank Glass receives credit for the teams’ successes. “The kids and I are extremely lucky” to have him. “His wealth of knowledge as a coach and a sports doctor has helped” us all “immensely.”
Saturday, October 30 both teams will compete in the State Championships at Thetford. There will be strong teams in Division II, like Middlebury and Harwood, teams that have a much deeper pool of runners. (Harwood, the defending D-II champs, for example, have 38 runners on the boys’ team.)
Rose likes her teams’ chances to finish high in the standings in the upcoming state meet, near the top. But she claims, “I feel that no matter how our teams finish in the standings I will be happy for them if they all just race well. I think both boys and girls are the strongest teams we have ever had but I also think they may be even stronger next year with a season together under their belts.” And “In all honesty, I already feel that these teams have done a tremendous job and have accomplished a lot. I have asked a lot of them physically and they have delivered every time.”
By David Miles