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Harwood boys led by a spectacular effort of their skating relay team had a come-from-behind victory to capture second place at the Vermont Division 2 Championships held at Mt. Top Nordic Ski Center in Chittenden on February 21 and 22.
The Nordic competition was a two-day event. Both classical and skating scores were combined. The classical competition took place at Breadloaf Touring Center on the Middlebury College campus. After the Classical race Harwood was third -- 17 points behind BFA-Fairfax.
In the individual skating race at Mt. Top the Harwood boys beat Fairfax by eight points. This set up a dramatic winner-take-all race in the boys' skating relay. A victory over Fairfax in the relay would give Harwood Vermont Division 2 runners-up honors.
The coaches from Harwood and Fairfax applied different strategies in the relay. Fairfax sent their best skier out first. Harwood veteran coach John Kerrigan saved his big gun, senior Neil Smeltzer, for the anchor. Harwood's scrambler Colton Crowley and second-leg skier Caleb Kernan kept it close with the top two skiers from Fairfax. The third leg was dramatic. Harwood's Tim Shepard overtook the Fairfax skier on an icy downhill. Neal Smeltzer increased the margin over the anchor for Fairfax by a whopping 20 seconds to capture second place in the relay and second in the state.
This was the fifth time Harwood Nordic skiers have been runners up at the state meet. Harwood Nordic skiers have earned five state titles. This was the 24th runners up title for Coach John Kerrigan. Kerrigan-coached Harwood teams have captured 23 Vermont state titles in cross country running, Nordic skiing and track and field.
"The second place was as thrilling as many of the state championships we have won. This is a special team. Both boys' and girls' members are motivated and fun to work with. I look forward to coming out to practice every day. "
Other highlights for the Nordic team at the state meet:
Julienne Vergura, Classical, 6th; Freestyle, 9th; Annie Mendes, Classical, 15th, Freestyle, 13th; Neal Smeltzer, Classical, 9th; Freestyle, 10th.
In addition Tim Shepard was named to the New England Junior 2 team (14/15-year-olds).