Harwood girls won the Mountain Division cross country championships on Saturday, October 24. The Harwood girls were the fastest runners on the rain-soaked and muddy trails at U-32 High School in East Montpelier. Twelve teams competed for the coveted title this year. This was the Harwood girls' first league championship since 1990.
Harwood girls packed runners between places 5 and 14 to solidify the victory. The Highlanders were led by Jill Mendes' fifth-place finish. Mendes was closely followed by teammates Olivia Nishi (7), Jamie Thomas (8), Laurel Whitney (12), Hannah Woodruff (13) and Kelsey Bush (14). Injury-plagued Mariah Eilers ran to a 29th-place finish in the 70-runner field.
"We have been fighting off nagging injuries and the flu. So it was real nice to get this victory," said Harwood Coach John Kerrigan. Harwood beat Division 1 North Country for the first time this season to win the Northern Vermont Championship.
The two-time defending champion Highlanders tried desperately to make it three in a row but fell a little short of the "threepeat." Harwood boys ran as a pack to finish second in the Mountain Division. They were led by Tim Shepard (2) who battled Hayden Bunnell from Division 1 St. Johnsbury for the lead the entire race. Shepard was followed by Nick Wisniewski (6), Nathan Cutler (13), Geordy Aitken (14), Dylan Thompson (19), Zach Munro (25) and Patrick Meany (31).
"Nick is getting stronger with each race. His narrow victory over Sam Brigham from Montpelier was huge for us today," said Kerrigan. "All of the boys are peaking at the right time; things are looking good for States next week. Hopefully, we can remain healthy."
Things look solid for the future as well. Harwood JV teams also captured the team titles. Patrick Markley (1) may have earned himself a spot on varsity with his overwhelming 25-second margin of victory in the JV race. Markley was followed by Cameron Hancock (5), Spencer Salinder (6), Jacob Pitman (8), Sam Brodeur (9), Tucker Sargent (11) and Ameen Batah (13) to seal the victory for the boys.
Harwood JV girls swept the first four places. Haley Robinson (1) turned some heads with her very solid victory over teammate Sophie Lisaius (2). They were followed by Kate Stevens (3) and Yana Lotspeich (4). Kayla O'Toole (7), Brianna Regan (9) and Chelsea Robinson (10) helped to give Harwood girls their second straight shutout, a feat rarely accomplished in cross country.
Both teams will be in the hunt for the team title at the Vermont State meet at Thetford Academy on Saturday, October 31. Harwood boys will be trying for a "threepeat," while the girls, will be looking for their first state championship since 2000.
The girls' race is at 12:15 p.m. and the boys' race at 2:15 p.m.