There was a time when South Burlington’s Mollie Gribbin was mortal to her Vermont opponents. Two first-place medals were overshadowed by a pair runner-up finishes at the 2010 Division I state track and field championships.
Gribbin, then a sophomore, used the disappointment as motivational fuel.
“That set a fire of, ‘I don’t want to lose to anyone in Vermont again,'” South Burlington coach Dennis Akey said. “She very much wanted to win every state championship.”
Gribbin didn’t falter again against Vermont competition. Wrapping up her senior season this spring, Gribbin won four individual events at states for the second straight year, captured a New England crown and broke her own state records or set new ones in the 100, 200, long jump and triple jump. In winter track, Gribbin’s highlights included four titles at states, four individual state marks and a repeat victory in the 55 dash at New Englands.
But running and jumping to record heights wasn’t Gribbin’s only flash of athleticism. She was also a standout on the SBHS girls soccer team, a striker who led the the grueling Metro Division with 15 goals.
Gribbin’s dominance in track and field and tenacity and scoring ability on the soccer pitch made her this year’s choice as the Burlington Free Press’ girls athlete of the year.
“I always wanted to get better — I still want to get better — and I just can’t believe my season is over,” Gribbin said last week. “I still want to lower some of those times and raise those distances.”
While soccer is a sport she has played her whole life, Gribbin’s lengthy resume in track and field might go down as Vermont’s most impressive.
“She completely dominated Vermont track and field and absolutely changed the sport,” Akey said. “Whether her records stand for five, 10 or 20 years, she will always be the one people will compare to.
“She set a new standard that elevated Vermont track and field as a whole; it’s amazing,” added Akey.
■ She finished with 22 individual state crowns and 11 state records, which include three relays, covering indoor and outdoor track;
■ She broke most of her state records, including the 55 (7.08), 100 (12.10), long jump (19-0) and triple jump (40-9.25), on multiple occasions;
■ She was a four-time New England champion (55 twice, triple jump and 4-by-100);
The records fell so frequently, Akey said, “people got the sense they were watching Michael Phelps.”
One of those people was Joe Gonillo, the head coach at Essex for the last three decades.
“She’s probably one of, or if not, the most talented track and field athlete we’ve seen in this state,” said Gonillo, who mentioned distance studs like MMU’s Erin Sullivan and others who would be in the conversation as Vermont’s best. “Mollie has the total package. You watch her run; it was like poetry in motion.”
The former Independent from Montpelier trained with the track team at South Burlington as a freshman. Moving to South Burlington between the indoor and outdoor seasons of her sophomore year, Gribbin became a full-fledged member of a varsity squad.
The rest is history.
“Now that it’s done, I’ve definitely reflected on it and realizing … wow, it was quite the three years,” said Gribbin, who admitted the transition was tough, “but it was definitely the right decision, I know that.”
Gribbin stewed over the state-meet defeats from 2010 – “I’m one of the most competitive people; it was awful,” she said – but it didn’t waver her confidence.
“I think part of sports is losing and if you’re able to accept it and handle it gracefully, that’s even better,” Gribbin said. “Then you build off that, which is what I did for my junior and senior years.”
Gribbin is bound for Dartmouth College in the fall to continue a track career that Akey says still has room to grow.
“To think what Mollie has accomplished, and to see her get better, she still has more left in the tank,” Akey said. “She still hasn’t reached her full potential, which is remarkable.”