On Tuesday, October 6, the Harwood Union Middle School XC team traveled to U32 to take on Stowe, Enosburg, Lamoille, Randolph and U32. Coming off their win at Thetford the boys were motivated to put up a good result on what will be the course used for the Divisional Championship in several weeks.
Coach Eley felt that the boys would be their own best competition at this race and instructed them to take the lead within the first kilometer. Coming into the first section of woods, the race was led by Caleb Kessler with three Highlanders right behind (Geoffrey Kazlow, Sam Nishi and Jacob Palmerio). Kessler remained on the front opening up a 10-second lead on Kazlow as the boys ran through three kilometers.
At this point in the race Nishi was leading Palmerio and both were now chasing Stowe fast-man Sam Puddicombe who was second at the Harwood home meet. As the boys broke out of the woods Kessler was still firmly in control finishing first with a time 9:07. Kazlow had no challengers for second place finishing in 9:23. Palmerio was running in third neck and neck with Puddicombe.
This was the best finish of the day as Palmerio gutted it out to beat the Stowe runner to line for third in 9:28. Nishi came home in sixth in 9:37. Jack Barnett (11th at 9:57) and Sam Robinson (12th at 9:58) both put in solid races for the team's fifth and sixth placed runners.
A strong quartet of Highlanders finished together in places 17 through 20 led by Nathaniel Kuzio and included Ethan Carr, Noah Evans and a still recovering Parker Gonnet. Rounding out the Harwood finish were Ivan Bjornlund (23rd), Parker Sheinfeld (27th), Quentin Bell (33rd) and Markus Helmken (34th). The boys won the meet with 22 points over Stowe in second place with 55 points.
On the girls' side, Stowe runner Colleen McGovern took first place. Clio Briggs continues to improve with a strong 10th-place showing (12:11). Marika Mayberry also had a good run coming home in 17th place (13:41).
On Saturday, October 10, the team traveled to Morrisville to race in the Peoples Academy Invitational. The boys' team archrival Stowe promised to be the main challenger to the Highlanders at this meet. The Stowe boys had let it be known that some of their best runners, who also play on the soccer team, would be at this race as there was no conflicting game and that as a result they expected to do well. Stowe lined up a large team in the best starting spot. The Harwood boys were assigned the worst starting spot at the far left of the starting line. As a result of the heavy rain on Friday and early Saturday the conditions on the course looked to be muddy for the runners.
At one kilometer into Saturday's race Kessler and Kazlow were at the front with a nine-second gap back to Nishi and Palmerio who were keeping the Stowe runners company. At two kilometers Kessler had opened a small four-second gap on Kazlow with Nishi pulling away from his group. Coming out of the woods Kessler was in the clear and went on to win in a time of 10:24. Kazlow took second 11 seconds back (10:35) followed by Nishi looking very smooth and running his best race of the season for third (10:53). Palmerio, having had to duke it out earlier in the week with Stowe's Puddiecomb, did not give him a chance this week moving out ahead to finish fourth in 11:07.
Pulling in as the Highlander's fifth runner in 12th was Kuzio (11:31), followed by Robinson with another solid run for 14th (11:38). Carr (11:59) and Bjornlund (12:07) came home in 17th and 18th. Bell and Sheinfeld both finished in 12:30 for 25th and 26th places followed closely by an improving Helmken in 30th (13:14). Both Jack Barnett and Parker Gonnet were suffering from injuries that kept them from competing, but both made the trip to cheer their teammates on to victory with the season's best score of 19 points, just four away from a perfect 15. Stowe ran well for second with 45 points followed by U32 with 71 and Peoples with 104.
In the girls' race, both Briggs and Mayberry took the start at Peoples, but under the weather Mayberry was forced to drop out after the first kilometer. Briggs went on to finish 20th in 13:39. The race was once again won by Stowe's McGovern in 11:52.
There are only three meets left in the 2009 season. There is a mid-week race scheduled for October 14 at Harwood. The Harwood Invitational will take place on Saturday, October 17. If you have not been out to see the team race this would be a great day to do so. The Harwood course is very spectator-friendly with lots of vantage points to catch the runners out on course. Racing will start at 9 a.m. for the middle school with the JV and varsity to follow.