THETFORD – At first blush, it’s hard to see how a team approach can yield results in an individual sport like cross-country running, but for proof look no further than the Harwood girls cross country team.
The Highlanders watched U-32 place the first two runners in their state championship battle, but despite that early hole, the well-rounded six-time defending champs made it seven straight wins in the Division II high school cross country championship at Thetford Academy on Saturday.
“It’s always a team effort,” said 39-year coach John Kerrigan, whose team won its 23rd title with him at the reigns. “We have a couple of girls who are injured and we have had girls stepping it up the last couple of weeks and they just did it again today.”
U-32’s Rena Schwartz and teammate Kaylyn Crompton finished 1-2 for the second straight year at the state meet, with Schwartz winning in a time of 19:23.8, 21 seconds ahead of Crompton.
“I’ve raced better,” said Schwartz, a sophomore. “One of these days we are going to beat Harwood. It just didn’t happen today.”
Harwood placed five runners in the top 11 to score 31 points, 24 fewer than the Raiders.
Erin Magill led a wave of Highlanders with a third-place finish, followed closely by teammates Jordan Kulis and Phoebe Sweet. Lily Clark was 10th and Isabel Jamieson was 11th.
Fair Haven’s Halle Coloutti was fourth overall in Division II, but because the Slaters didn’t not field a full squad, her placing did not count in the team competition.
Montpelier finished third in the girls competition, 49 points behind the Highlanders.
In Division II boys, Montpelier’s Matt Hynes took the win in 16:59.8, three second ahead of U-32’s Stephen Locke.
The Solons placed four runners in the top six and it was just enough of a cushion for them to hold off U-32 for the team title.
“It’s feels great,” said Hynes.” It’s something I’ve been working up to all summer. It’s just great to see it all come together.”
Isaac Mears was third for the Solons, Jeremy Hoyne-Grosvenor was fourth, Liam Mears was sixth and Kirby Gordon was 35th.
U-32 had five runners in the top 16, including ninth-place finisher Nathan Smoller.
The Harwood boys finished in third place, 28 points behind the Solons. Noah Eckstein’s fifth-place finish led the Highlanders, who had won the previous four titles.
In Division III, the Oxbow girls ended BFA-Fairfax’s streak of team titles at two, but the Bullets did have the individual winner, junior Katie Brown.
Brown, who was runner up last year, missed much of the season with a concussion.
This was just her fourth race this year.
“It’s been a goal since early in the season, but I’m just glad it happened,” said Brown, who finished in a time of 20:43.7. “I was really pumped at the beginning half of the race, but then in the middle I was like, ‘this is what you are here for and if it’s going to hurt anyways, you might as well make the most of it and finish strong.'”
Oxbow won the team title with relative ease, placing four in the top nine, led by 2014 D-III champ Isabella Giesing, who was second, 21 seconds off the pace. Hannah Giesing was third, Emily Carson was seventh and Leanne Burgess was ninth.
In Division III boys, Stowe’s William McGovern capped a stellar career with the fastest time of the day: 16:47.3.
“I wasn’t expecting to (run so fast). I was really surprised when I crossed the line and saw the time. I hadn’t realized we were running as fast as we were,” said McGovern, who said his team won its fourth straight title after never winning one before his freshman year.
“And now we have won the last four years, which is really the best part,” said McGovern, who finished 14 seconds ahead of defending D-III champ Chris Gish of Sharon.
Riley Fenoff of Danville, Keegan Loughran of Stowe and Bellows Falls’ Cody Tallent rounded out the top five.
Northfield was second in the team competition, 52 points behind the Raiders.
Story Reynolds was ninth for Stowe and Ben Wasser rounded out the scoring for the Raiders with an 11th-place finish.