Coming off a big win at the Burlington Invitational, Harwood hosted its first home meet of the season on Tuesday, September 22, and looking to beat Harwood this week were teams from Stowe, Peoples Academy, U-32, Hazen and Enosburg Falls. Despite a very strong challenge from the Stowe boys with 34 points, Harwood proved up to the challenge with a final tally of 24 points at the September 26 meet.
Caleb Kessler and Geoffrey Kazlow worked together and emerged from the first woods section in first and second place. They were chased by boys from Stowe and Peoples in third and fourth, respectively. Kessler went on to finish first, his second win of the season, with Kazlow taking third just behind Stowe runner Sam Puddicombe in a tight sprint finish.
Seventh-graders Jacob Palmerio (4th) and Sam Nishi (5th) are improving each week and finished just behind Kazlow. The all important "fifth man" this week was Jack Barnett (12th) followed by Nathaniel Kuzio (13th). A four strong group of Harwood runners Ethan Carr, Noah Evans, Ivan Bjonlund, and Parker Sheinfeld occupied places 16th through 19th. Rounding out Harwood's win were Parker Gonnet (23rd) and Marcus Helmken (26th).
Representing the girls, Clio Briggs ran a strong race to take 14th place and Marika Mayberry came home in 22nd place. Both girls are getting stronger and are looking to improve further as the season progresses.
On Saturday, September 26, the team traveled to the U32 Invitational. Much like the course at Harwood this is a great course for spectators because with a little effort you can see the racers at many different places. One hundred ten boys took the start with 10 teams vying for the win with several teams squaring off against Harwood for the first time this season. The favorite team coming into the race was the Fred H. Tuttle Middle School who had not lost a meet in the last two seasons and was hoping to keep that streak alive with a win at U32. Also in the hunt for the win were the powerful Essex Middle School team as well as two-time runner up to Harwood this season, the Stowe Middle School.
The start at this race is somewhat less crucial as the boys run a long way on grassy fields before entering the woods. Despite this fact the start proved very fast. Andy Cassarino of Rutland, the winner of last week's Burlington Invitational, went straight to the front once again and, employing the "out of sight out of mind" strategy, stayed there to take first place. Behind the Rutland runner there was a tight group of six boys fighting for second place. Kazlow and Kessler both made the selection and were in this group with several runners from FH Tuttle, Essex and Shelburne. At 1k to go Kessler and Kazlow were uncharacteristically dangling off the back of this group. Just behind this small group were Palmerio and Nishi looking to move up.
As the boys moved out of the woods and up the deceptively tough grassy climb to the finish, Kessler had moved to third and Kazlow to fifth. With 150 meters to go Kessler sprinted into second place where he stayed. Kazlow came home nine seconds later for seventh place followed by Palmerio, 18 more seconds back for eighth. Sam Nishi was 14th followed by Tanner McGrath of the Green Mountain Valley School in 15th out for his first XC race this season. Harwood showed its depth and had a new "fifth man" this race with Sam Robinson coming home in 16th place just two seconds behind Nishi. Knowing that sixth- and seventh-place finishers would be tiebreakers, Kuzio (32nd) and Evans (39th) pushed hard to pick up the fewest points. Also finishing strong for Harwood were Sheinfield (43rd), Gonnet (45th), Barnett (51st) and Helmkin (62nd).
The final outcome for the team competition was too close to call as FH Tuttle had 3 runners in the top 10. When the team results were tallied Harwood came out on top with a score of 39 points upsetting FH Tuttle with 59 points and Essex with 76 points. For the girls, Marika Mayberry had her best result of the season putting in a strong effort to take 10th place.
Coach Eley was very happy with the team's results this week. He commented that the runners are improving with each meet and really getting a feel for how hard they can push themselves. The team's next race is the Thetford Woods Run which takes place on Saturday, October 3, and typically has over 200 racers with strong teams from Vermont and New Hampshire participating. This event will be the boys' biggest challenge this season and all are looking to run their best race in an effort to make it four in a row.