Harwood girls had to shuffle the cards a bit but ended the season with an unprecedented sixth straight Vermont State Division 2 title. Harwood packed runners in positions three through nine to dominate the team scoring at the meet which took place at Thetford over the weekend.
"Our chances for a double triple did not look good earlier in the week. One girl was home sick on Monday; one went home early with a fever on Tuesday another went home early on Wednesday. They were dropping like flies. Fortunately, the team illness had run its course by Friday night. We were close to 100 percent by Saturday morning; however, some were still feeling the residual affects of the 24-hour bug," said coach John Kerrigan.
"As a result we had some positional changes. Our number two runner came in as our fifth. Our number three came in as our number six. However, our sixth runner finished as our fourth runner. Our number three finished as our number two. Our number five finished as our number three," he added.
Assistant coach Tom Strasser said, "We just reshuffled the deck."
"One of the signs of great teams in any sport is teamwork. Some of our older girls did not have their usual solid races, so the younger girls stepped it up. It was a real team effort. Our first four girls today were all freshmen running in their first-ever state meet," said Kerrigan.
Harwood girls were led by Erin Magill in third place and Phoebe Sweet in fourth place. Their efforts qualified them as individuals for the New England Championships. The frosh duo was followed by Jordy Kulis in fifth place, Isabel Jamieson in eighth place, also freshmen. Anneka Williams placed 9th, Charlotte Boyden was 11th and Lily Clark came in 15th.
"To have all seven runners in the top 15 showed tremendous depth. I was especially proud of Lily today; she fought hard even though she was very ill at the beginning of the week. She passed three U-32 girls in the last one-half mile to help give us a 13 point victory." We lost 13 senior girls from our 2013 team and one of our top returning runners (Sophie Dasaro) moved to Colorado late in the summer. We were in a rough spot the beginning of the season. No other Vermont Division 2 cross- country team has ever won six titles in a row, at least not until today," said the very happy coach.
Harwood boys entered the state championship gunning for Montpelier. The Solons edged the Highlanders by two points on their home course on October 18.
"We were dialed in on the green andwhite singlet's of Montpelier. We were so focused on the Montpelier runners we let some of the U-32 runners slip by. I even thought, U-32 is having a good day, great they will help us to victory. Little did I know how close it really was," Kerrigan said. In the end it was a finishing kick by Harwood's fifth man, Colin Fennelly, that gave Harwood the narrow victory. Colin passed four Woodstock runners, a Milton runner and a U-32 runner in the last quarter mile! He came off Morty's (the largest hill on the course) and hit full stride.
Harwood boys were once again led by the domination of Sam Nishi. Sam had the fastest time of the day, across all divisions.
At the beginning of the meet, coach Kerrigan decided to dedicate the race to their other senior co-captain, Jacob Palmerio, who has two younger brothers on the team.
Coach Kerrigan said, "We are all running as brothers today. Those that bleed in battle with me today will forever be my brothers," from the 101st Airborne – Band of Brothers.
Jacob Palmerio in 11th position led his brothers and teammates after Nishi's stunning individual victory. He was closely followed by Morgan Baughman in 13th place, Anthony Palmerio in 19th place, Colin Fennelly in 20th place, Kyle Dash in 29th place and Nathan Palmerio in 33rd place.
The victory gave Harwood boys' their fourth straight title and their seventh in the last eight years! This was the 22nd Vermont state title for Harwood in cross-country. It was Kerrigan's 41st state title across all sports. " I now have won for every year of teaching," said Kerrigan.
Both Harwood boys' and girls' teams qualified for the prestigious New England Cross-Country Championships. They will take place on November 8 in Manchester, Connecticut.
"I am so proud of all the runners today. The ones at the front, middle and back of the pack, they all pushed each other all year. What a great way to end the year," Kerrigan said.