2023 VTHSXC Vermont State Championship Preview
Some general information that could impact all of the races especially as the day goes on. The high temperature is forecast at 71 degrees which will feel much warmer because of the weather we have been having. This is just something to keep an eye on throughout the day.
Girls Preview(previews done in actual race order)
The D2 championship goes through U-32 so once again they are the favorites followed closely by their long time rival Harwood. The question for U-32 is if their squad is 100% healthy. Even if they are not at full strength they should have the depth to remain the favorite in this race but as has been seen in the past anything can happen in rivalry races like this. This one could come down to each team's 3-5 runners and which group is able to move forward throughout the race. It is close enough at these positions between the 2 teams to make this race interesting.
Middlebury, Woodstock and Burr and Burton should battle it out for the remaining spots in the top 5. Middlebury holds the edge through their top 3 on paper so this one once again could be decided but these teams 3-5 runners. Can any of these three teams have a couple of runners in those spots have a banner day and push their team higher up in the team standings? That will be one to watch!
Ginger Long of U-32 should be the clear individual favorite. Her 5k personal best for the season is almost 1 minute faster than the next D2 girl. Ginger has proven over the last couple of years that she is the cream of the crop D2 and after her this is quite a gap to the next 2 challenging for top 5 honors.
Celia Wing Harwood and Mary Harrington Middlebury are the next 2 in line after Long. Wing did not compete at the Thetford Invitational but Harrington finished 16th in 21:28. Wing has made a large jump this year after finishing 26th last year in the D2 state meet and she will be looking to cap off her stellar year with a top 3 finish. Harrington finished 6th last year and is trying to improve on that finish and crack the top 3 herself.
After those two there is a gaggle of runners who will be pushing for top 10 honors. Heidi Haraldson and Julia Thurston Harwood, Izzy Cellini Woodstock, Beth McIntosh Middlebury, Isobel Kroger and Madison Beaudoin U-32 and Madelyn Harris and Emily Harris Burr and Burton are all runners that should be in a tight battle to make the top 10.
It is important to point out the huge rule change this year for D3 cross country. For many years D3 only scored their top 4 runners but this year there was a change made to score each team's top 5. This definitely could have an impact on the team race in D3. This looks like a 2 team battle between Stowe and Thetford Academy for the D3 title. At the Thetford Invitational Stowe beat Thetford but the race was a much bigger race than the D3 race is going to be so that could skew the scoring pretty significantly to benefit Stowe and their top 3. Thetford Academy has had a month since the Invitational and it is their home course so this one is probably too close to call.
Bellows Falls and Rice are also in a tight battle for what most likely should be the 3rd and 4th spots. Bellows Falls did not run a team at Thetford Invitational so there is no head to head data available on the Thetford course but based on season long results this one should be a close race. BFA Fairfax sits just outside these two but could challenge for a top four result if things go right for them.
The top three contenders in the D3 individual race are Ava Hayden Thetford Academy, Leila Griffith Stowe and Anita Miller and Anya Young of White River Valley. If the Thetford Invitational results show us anything it is that this could be a tight race. Hayden finished 12th at Thetford Invite in 21:14 but she was followed closely by Griffith in 14th 21:20 and Young in 18th place 21:43. Anita Miller didn’t race at Thetford but she is the defending D3 champion so she is clearly in the mix after running 20:42 at last year's state meet. They seem to be the clear favorites with the next closest looking like Desi Broadley from Bellows Falls.
The Division One race is really a couple of races in one. The first race is about CVU. How many runners can they get inside the top 10? Can they get their entire top 7 in the top 10? How low can they get their team score to be? The one question that is not included here is who the overwhelming favorite is. That clearly is CVU who has dominated the entire season up to this point and looks to put a bow on their state domination this Saturday. CVU should win the D1 team race but there is another race behind them for which team will finish 2nd and this is where it is interesting.
Essex and South Burlington have been battling it out all season. Essex has the tighter pack but So Burlington has the higher placing #1 runner and the other runners are in the vicinity of the Essex pack. That is what makes this an interesting race. Can So Burlington get the rest of their top 5 close enough to the tight pack that Essex runs to be able to take the 2nd spot. This is a battle to watch and should be an entertaining one.
St Johnsbury and Burlington look to be just outside of this duo but on any given day who knows what might happen. St Johnsbury just ran a very good race at the NVAC Mountain championship race finishing just behind U-32. Can they carry over that performance onto the Thetford Academy course and push their way past into the top three? Burlington continues to be the never ending question mark. Who will be racing for them? Can the 3-5 finish high enough to push them into the top 3? This is a team that can finish in a New England qualifying position or could finish almost outside of the top 10. It will most likely depend on who is racing for them this Saturday.
The individual race should come down to the two big guns for CVU Alice Kredell and Estella Laird but strange things do happen at State Meets sometimes! Alice K and Estella L have shown that they are the top two runners in the state all season and have done it week in and week out. One thing in their advantage is that they have a dominant top 7 group of runners so they don’t need to be extra conservative to make sure that nothing happens to their team race result. They have plenty of teammates who can cover for them if there is any issue. This should allow them to run loose and put out their best performance. Estella won the Thetford Invitational in 19:47 and Alice followed her in 3rd place in 20:13. They have basically swapped positions throughout the season and that has shown how powerful a 1a and 1b they are. On any given day it could be either one of them at the top.
Teammate Lydia Donahue has been lurking just behind this duo and given the right situation could be a factor and should at least be in a position to finish in the top 5. Lydia was 4th only 6 seconds behind Alice at the Thetford Invitational and has shown that on any given day she could be in the mix. Gillian Fairfax of Burlington and Amelia Dion, if racing, should also be factors in the individual race. Gillian has state meet experience and finished 5th last year at the state meet. Amelia has been one of the few other runners in D1 to be able to break up the CVU top 5 so she should be pushing into that top group also.
Rutland’s Erin Geisler has the 6th fastest 5k time according to Athletic.net and she has past state meet experience also so she should be prepared to try and improve on last year's 6th place finish. Other runners that should be in the mix for top 5 or top 10 finishes include BFA St Albans sophomore Kaitlyn Lumbra, CVU runners Audrey Neilson, Charlotte Crum, Noe Jenni and Annalise Wood and South Burlington senior Paige Poirier.
Boys Preview(previews done in actual race order)
The Capitol City shootout is the story of this race and perhaps the closest and most anticipated race of the day. Last year U32 nipped Montpelier by two points and a lengthy photo finish review was required before the Raiders were awarded their 7th consecutive state title. These boys know each other well, often training together, they have raced head to head four times this year and split the results. WIth nothing to separate these teams this one might come down to a tie breaker or the 5-7 individual runners from other D2 schools who might mingle in among the top 15 runners. A glorified dual meet? Both teams have been ranked top 4 in the state all year and are likely to easily pull each other to New England’s (top 6 all divisions) berths where they will renew the “battle for the 05602” in Belfast,ME. Middlebury looks to be the best of the rest, followed by Lamoille and Harwood but it will require a huge surprise if any of these teams threaten the Solons or Raiders.
Cyrus Hansen is the slight favorite over teammate Taggart Schader. Look for these two to set a hot pace as everyone else jockey’s for 3rd. Look for the MHS posse of Jay Borland, Sam Brondyke, Ezra Merrill- Triplett, Noah Rivera and Luke Murphy to give chase as a pack. Baxter Harrington (Midd), Owen Knapp (Fair Haven) and Mason Porter (Lamoille) will also be in the mix for the top 10.
A new rule (unpopular with many coaches) will see five runners scoring in D3 this year. This disadvantages tiny multiple time defending champs Craftsbury compared to significantly larger rivals Stowe and Thetford Academy. Leaving that aside, the racing between these three should be very close on Saturday with home course Thetford led by their very strong top three looking like slight favorites. Like the D2 race this one will likely await the 5th runners before the dust settles on the team battle.
TA’s Ben Mattern looks like the class of the field but he should be pushed hard by teammate Brady Sloop. These two know each other and the course like the back of their hands so this could be a barn burner. Don't sleep on three sport stud Charlie Kehler of Craftsbury, Stowe’s Enzo Delena or TA’s super frosh Sebastian Perdrizet. All these guys plus CA’s Califano twins will be extra motivated given the “every point matters” team battle.
St. Johnsbury has been the top dog in D1 and statewide all season. This may be the best Highlander team ever and among the best three VT boys teams over the past decade or more. Fresh off a 4th place at the prestigious Manhattan Invitational, it will be a major surprise if any team can really scare St. Jay on Saturday. If a threat does emerge it will likely come from CVU who has held the #3 ranking statewide all season and a long history of peaking at States. The Redhawks have a team that would win D1 in many/most years but to do so this year they will have to top a truly special Highlanders squad. Essex has a strong pack and BFA is finding depth at just the right time of year. Look for all four of these teams to book their tickets to New England’s.
St. Jay teammates Thornton-Sherman and Johnson are the only two D1 guys to break 16 this fall. Porter Hurteau BFA St Albans, Emmett Johnson and Carson Eames St Johnsbury, Dan Knight and Owen Deale CVU are other names who look to finish in the low single digits. Thetford is a very hard, hilly, slow course and therefore not the usual playground for a 1:51 800 speed merchant like Andrew Thronton-Sherman but the St. Jay junior should still be considered the favorite. Why? He won three weeks ago on the very same course and against all the same runners and because you should never bet against a Thronton-Sherman when the chips are down.