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On Saturday, September 19, Harwood cross country teams traveled to Burlington to compete at the Burlington Invitational Cross Country Meet. The start and finish at North Beach provided a dramatic backdrop for the runners on a spectacular late summer day.
Harwood boys' and girls' teams were equally stunning in their performances. The Highlanders, a Division 2 team, finished fourth overall in both boys' and girls' races. The field was laden with powerhouse teams from Chittenden County.
"We beat some excellent teams from schools much larger than us today. Finishing ahead of perennial powers like CVU, Burlington and MMU was uplifting. It was a great reward for all the training we have been doing," said Coach Kerrigan.
Harwood varsity girls were led by Jill Mendes (21). She was closely followed by Olivia Nishi (28), Hannah Woodruff (39) and Kelsey Bush (43). First-year runner Mariah Eilers continues to impress her coach and teammates. Mariah finished an amazing 46th in the 111-runner field. Harwood's sixth and seventh runners, Haley Robinson (54) and Jamie Thomas (55), both finished in the top half of the competitive field.
Harwood's JV girls finished fifth. They were led by dual sport standout Sophie Lisaius (10), Kate Stevens (19), Brianna Regan (48), Kayla O'Toole (50), Yana Lotspeich (59) and Chelsea Robinson (74). Harwood placed all scoring members in the top third of the 150-runner field.
Harwood JV boys were not to be outdone by the girls. They finished an impressive fifth in the 18 team field. They were led by Patrick Markley (27), freshman Jacob Pitman (45), Simon Butler (48), Spencer Salinder (50) and freshman Sam Brodeur (52).
It was the Harwood boys' team that had the most stunning performance of the day. Harwood placed their five boys in the top half of the 130-runner field. They were led by Tim Shepard (4), Nick Wisniewski (13), Dylan Thompson (31), Nathan Cutler (34) and Zak Munro (59).
"I was very impressed with Dylan and Nathan today," said Kerrigan. "They are closing the gap with our top runners. We need one more boy up there and we will have the making of a championship team."
Harwood competed in a home meet on Tuesday, September 22. On Saturday, September 26, Coach Kerrigan will split his team. The top seven varsity runners will compete at the prestigious Nike Cross Country Classic in Manchester, NH. The JVs will compete against varsity squads from U-32, Peoples, Montpelier and other Central Vermont schools at the U-32 Invitational.
By John Williams
Coach Kerrigan was worried. A program that prides itself on few injuries was down two of their top girl runners for the Harwood Union Cross Country Invitational race on Tuesday, September 22.
"I told the girls that they had to suck it up and step up to the plate," said Kerrigan. They did just that, winning the invitational with five girls finishing in the top 10 led by sophomore Olivia Nishi.
Nishi of Waitsfield came in a strong third only 8 seconds behind the first-place finisher and 16 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. "This was a big improvement for me. I trained a lot harder this summer and having some experience under my belt helped a lot," said a smiling Nishi, surrounded by teammates giving her large bear hugs at the end of the race.
Nishi, talking to her injured teammates, told them it was strange not to have them there to chase after.
"There's a lot of depth in the girls' team and I'm very proud of them," Coach Kerrigan said. "I didn't think we'd be in this position so early in the year."
Senior Tim Shepard of Fayston sprinted to first place for the boys with a time of 17:32 for the five-kilometer race, securing a first-place finish for the Harwood boys' team. "It was a good race and I like the new course," said a confident Shepard.
"We only have two returning varsity members this year. I didn't think we'd be in this position (contending for the state championship, which they have won twice in the past three years) so early in the year. We have a powerful boys' team; we just need to fill in some gaps," Kerrigan said, reflecting after the race.
The last home race will be Saturday, October 17, at Harwood.