The Harwood girls’ cross-country team placed fifth at the New Englands which took place on November 13 at Thetford Academy.  From left to right: Caelyn McDonough, Britta Zetterstrom, Elisa Clerici, Charlie Flint, Celia Wing, Julia Thurston and Ava Thurston.

Ava Thurston third-place individual finish

Harwood girls shocked the New England running community with an astounding fifth-place finish at the elite New England XC Championships held on the muddy 5K trails at Thetford Academy.



In the previous two weeks leading up to the New England’s, Harwood girls had won the Vermont Division 2 championships and the Vermont Meet of Champions.

“We had beaten the Rhode Island state champions (North Kingston) and the New Hampshire state champions (Dover) earlier in the season. We also suffered a one-point loss to the Maine state champions (Bonny Eagle) at the Maine Festival of Champions. I knew going in that we had a good chance for a top-10 finish. However, the Connecticut teams are very strong. I thought that there were at least four CT teams better than us. Also, the scouting report we received stated that the RI and NH teams were vastly improved from when we faced them in mid-September,” John Kerrigan, the team coach said.

“We did not let up in our training after the state meet. Our goal was to tie or surpass the best finish by a Harwood team at the New England’s -- (HU boys finished seventh in 1999 and 2000) For the first time all season our top five girls were healthy. Several had battled back from illness and injuries,” he added.

“Our fifth-place finish was not only the best by any Harwood team but also the best finish by any girls Division 2 team at the New England’s. We were the smallest school from the smallest state. I told the girls it was going to be like David vs. Goliath,” said the coach.


The final statistics showed that:

Ava Thurston finished third overall but first in the team score.

Harwood girls beat all of the teams from Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

“Our girls beat teams from schools with two or three times the enrollment at Harwood. We could call ourselves New England Small School Champions,” but we competed well on the larger stage,” Kerrigan said.

“Our total team time was faster than every other team except eventual winner New Milford, CT,” he pointed out.

New Milford has a school population of 1,600; the second-place team, Bonny Eagle of Standish, Maine, is one of the largest high schools in the state of Maine with 1,100 students. Third-place finisher, Glastonbury, CT, has over 2,000 students. Harwood with less than 500 students placed fifth. I would say that David stood strong and held his ground vs. Goliath!”

“A good measuring stick for a XC team’s performance is the placement of their fifth runner. Our fifth runner, Julia Thurston, beat the fifth runner from both the second- and third-place teams,” said Kerrigan

“I would like to thank the parents, especially those parents of seniors that have supported our team the past four years. Thank you for your attention to the details; concessions, transportation, especially during the COVID epidemic. You allowed us coaches, to just coach,” he added.

Kerrigan also thanked Harwood athletic director Chris Langevin who arranged for a fan bus to travel with 50 of the girls’ classmates to Thetford.


He also thanked his assistant coaches; Tom Cahalan, Andrew Reid, Jacob Pitman and Ryan Kerrigan.

The coaching staff also thanked senior girls Ava Thurston, Britta Zetterstrom and Caelyn McDonough who have accumulated three state championships in the past four years. Thurston won her fourth consecutive Vermont state XC championship

“However, it was her leadership, along with team co-captains Zetterstrom and McDonough, that made our team so successful. Their leadership and caring for all of their teammates are the reason why we have such a great team. Your example has made this a very special season. One that we will never forget.” said members of the coaching staff.

The future looks bright as well for the Harwood girls’ XC team they will return eight of their top 12 runners for the 2022 season.