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On Saturday, October 17, Harwood hosted the annual Harwood Invitational XC race for both middle and high schoolers. The day dawned clear but very cold with the temperature at the 9 a.m. start hovering around 27 degrees making this the coldest race of the season.
The Highlanders got off to a less than a stellar start with several boys false starting and then moving back behind the line just as the gun went off. The boys worked hard to remedy this by pushing the pace to avoid being caught behind slower runners in the woods. Sam Nishi, coming off his finest race of the season at Peoples Academy last week, had the best start of all the boys, quickly moving to the head of the race.
As the boys came out of the first section of woods it was Harwood strongmen Geoffrey Kazlow and Caleb Kessler leading with Stowe runners Sam Puddicombe and Sam Salvas in very close pursuit. As the boys pushed over the first steep climb, Kessler and Kazlow opened a five-second gap over their pursuers from Stowe going back into the woods. Both boys continued to extend their lead on the two Sams from Stowe. Jacob Palmerio and Nishi held onto fifth and sixth place and looked solid as they worked their way back out to the playing field section of the course. Not far behind were the all important fifth and sixth Highlanders. This week it was Sam Robinson and Nathaniel Kuzio.
As the boys came around the soccer field and down the hill into the finishing straight, it was Kessler taking the win in a time of 10:51 with Kazlow only five seconds back at 10:56. Both boys shattered the previous course record of 11:10.
Next across the line were the two Sams from Stowe at 11:13 followed by Rochester's Pavin Parrish (11:15) who put on a blistering sprint to out kick Palmerio (11:16) to the line. Nishi, who was cramping badly, held on grimly to finish in seventh at 11:42. Robinson and Kuzio came home in 11th and 12th places (11:58) just behind two more Stowe runners.
Noah Evans must have enjoyed the cold as he ran one of his best races of the season crossing the line in 14th place. Jack Barnett (12:35) was a little under the weather, but with the encouragement of teammate Ethan Carr (12:36) he made it to the finish for 17th place with Carr in 18th. Ivan Bjornlund (12:51) and Parker Sheinfeld (12:54) pulled each other along for 21st and 22nd place followed by Markus Helmkin, taking 27th spot in 13:45.
The girls were next up at 9:30. It had warmed about two degrees for their start, but both Marika Mayberry and Clio Briggs were well prepared after a good pre-race warm-up. The girls got out to a fine start coming out of the first section of woods in good positions. Briggs worked her way up to a solid 10th on the demanding course and was able to hold it to the finish in a time of 13:57. Mayberry was again having some cramping but hung tough to finish in 20th (16:41). The event was won by Stowe's Colleen McGovern in 12:09 besting the previous course record of 12:25. The Stowe team also won the meet with a score of 19 points over Milton with 36 points.
Middle school awards were given shortly after the conclusion of the girls' race. It seemed like hours as the boys waited anxiously to find out if their unbeaten streak would last another week. As the team results were announced, it was Mt. Abe in third place with 85 points, perpetual bridesmaid Stowe in second with 33 points and Harwood keeping the streak alive taking first place by the closest margin of the season with 23 points.
The final race of the middle school season is the NVAC Mountain Division Championships which will take place at U32 on Saturday, October 24. The racing will begin at 10 a.m. Come cheer on the team at this spectator-friendly course and see if the boys can complete a perfect season.