By Jenna Duncan, intern/GMVS correspondent
At the 20th annual co-ed cross-country invitational on Saturday, September 8, the Harwood Union High School women's cross-country running team huddled in an excited group and cheered, "Whose house is this? Our house!" With the day's stellar results, the women's and men's teams both showed that it was certainly their house.
Even the 85-degree heat couldn't stop the team from running fast and thoroughly enjoying the event. Even when rain began to set in, the girls chose to do a rain dance rather than complain. After the rain dance seemed to hold off the drizzling for another few minutes, the girls began to think about the race.
Kelsey Bush believed that the girls were off to a good start with a home course advantage. "I think we know where to save energy and where to speed it up," Kelsey said. Teammate Annie Mendes agreed, "The other girls will go fast right from the beginning. They're going to lose it on the first mile." Mendes knew the course even better than she let on.
Soon after the girls' pep talk she came running through with a fantastic second place finish. Zari Sadri seemed to know just what to expect from her team pre-race. "We have a really strong girls' team this year. I'm anxious to see how the U-32 and Harwood girls' rivalry plays out. It should be a close race," Sadri said with a knowing smile to the rest of the team.
Though the girls said that the event was unusually small due to a new division between D1 and D2 racing, there wasn't any shortage of excited fans. The girls enjoyed all the support as their friends screamed loudly around every turn though the difficult course. They agreed that if there is any advantage to being at home, it is mainly the advantage of more support from their family and friends. The screams, the girls said, are more motivation to push through the hills and heat.
The athletes weren't the only ones happy with the day's results. Coach John Kerrigan said, "The team ran very well together. They finished within 30 seconds of each other. It could change every meet in terms of who is second place and who is sixth."
With many teams competing from all over northern Vermont, Kerrigan was happy that the race allowed athletes a better chance for good results. He said, "I'm happy with the new race format with the division of D1 and D2 races. It gives more schools a chance to do well in their own division. A lot of the smaller schools used to be slightly intimidated by the larger teams."
There was no need for the Harwood boys to feel intimidated in the least. With 6 boys in the top 15 and 4 in the top 10, the boys couldn't have been happier. A few of the boys did believe that the course was one of the most difficult they have ever raced. Eamon Welter, who came in second place, said, "I felt it getting pretty rough towards the end. It's a hard course, it goes up and down so many hills, 'The Killer' is especially challenging." (The team has given every difficult hill a special name.) However difficult 'The Killer' may have been, it didn't wipe the smiles from the boys' faces as they rested in the Harwood XC tent eager to see their great results become official.