More than two months of training and racing boils down to one day for the state’s cross-country runners.
And that day arrives Saturday.
The Vermont high school state championships are set for a challenging course with a picturesque backdrop on the grounds of Thetford Academy.
The meet begins at 10:30 a.m., the first of six championship races. A look at the three divisions:
The Champlain Valley girls are seeking their 10th title in 11 years while the South Burlington boys, a year after snaring their first crown in program history, are in the favorite’s role again.
Following the graduation of a couple key runners, including last year’s individual state champion Taylor Spillane, the Redhawks reloaded this fall.
Autumn Eastman began the year on fire, running the fastest time at the Essex Invitational since Erin Sullivan. And CVU’s top runner hasn’t slowed since, with course records at Thetford and the NVAC Metro league meet.
Eastman, Sophia Gorman, Abby Keim and Emma Putre have consistently been CVU’s top 4. Haley Harder, a sophomore, has slipped into the top seven.
St. Johnsbury, led by Quinn Bornstein and Robin Vincent, and Essex, with top runners Emma Farrington and Rose Monahan, stand in the way of another CVU coronation.
“We are just trying to prepare for everything we can. We have a history of running pretty well there and we hope that will continue,” CVU coach Scott Bliss said. “If we don’t perform well, (St. Johnsbury and Essex) are certainly in a position to beat us.”
The Rebel boys also dealt with graduation tolls, but coach Geoff Bennett has this year’s squad in arguably a better position than 2012. Seven runners have slipped under 17 minutes this season, a sign of depth not seen for a Vermont boys team in recent memory.
“No secret to what we are doing. Guys are putting a lot of work in over the summer,” Bennett said. “It’s exciting to see what they are capable of and exciting to watch them work hard every day.”
South Burlington’s Sidi Abdoulaye has gone from a JV runner last year to the favorite to win the individual race Saturday. Joining Abdoulaye in the Rebels’ lineup includes Patrick Hickey, James Gregoire, Sean MacDonald, Andy Tuttle, Joseph Staples and Brandon Moran.
Mount Mansfield’s Ben Hegman is also in the running for the top individual spot.
Harwood continues to be the class of this division. The program is seeking a boys and girls sweep for the third straight year and fourth time since 2009.
The Harwood boys are the clear favorites to complete a three-peat and should challenge South Burlington for bragging rights as the top team in the state. Sam Nishi is the lone Vermont boy to crack 16 minutes for a five-kilometer course this season, and Nathanael Kuzio, Geoffrey Kazlow and Nathaniel Kazlow make Harwood’s lineup a formidable one.
The Harwood girls, however, will get a challenge from Woodstock if they plan on seizing a fifth straight crown.
Grace Butler has been Harwood’s top gun, but Ellie Ramsey, Alice Woodruff and Marla Davidson round out one of John Kerrigan’s best teams.
“It’s been a great year, regardless of what happens,” said Kerrigan, the longtime coach who turned 61 today. “There have been a lot of great memories from this year.”
Woodstock’s Carmen Bango seeks a repeat in the girls race while Nishi and U-32’s Sam Merriam will be ones to watch in the boys field.
Runner-up last year, the BFA-Fairfax girls might have the inside track on the Division III crown.
Chace Carpenter, who was first in the small-school division at last week’s league meet, and Nicole Peatman headline Fairfax.
A threat to Fairfax’s chances is Rice Memorial, which was third last year.
On the boys side, Rice and Stowe appear locked in a close battle. Third a year ago, William McGovern is Stowe’s top returning runner. For the Green Knights, Will LaCroix leads a deep squad. The Rice boys last won a cross-country title in 1964.