Wildcat Harriers Ready for First Meet

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photo by Jim Flint
Hazen Union senior Cassandra Royer is back in Hardwick after a year spent in Germany as an exchange student. Royer competes for the Wildcats in cross country and track and field.

by Jim Flint

HARDWICK – Hazen Union cross country coach Netdahe Stoddard is full of optimism for the 2023 Wildcat cross country team. Stoddard has a roster of nine varsity runners and a handful of middle schoolers. The younger and older runners practice together.

The Wildcats launch their 2023 campaign Saturday at the Burlington High School (BHS) Invitational. Due to construction at the BHS site, the meet is held at the Hard’ack Recreation Area in St. Albans. The afternoon schedule includes girls and boys races for Junior High School, Junior Varsity, and Varsity divisions.

Several Wildcat cross country runners tuned up for the fall season by running in the Tuesday Night Trail Races at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. At the 5k trail race on August 22, Hazen Union rising senior Cassandra Royer finished 12 seconds behind Rose Modry, of Greensboro.

Royer was in good company. Modry competed in cross country at Middlebury College. As a young teacher in the fall of 2003, Modry (then Rose Nash) started the cross country program at Hazen Union High School.

photo by Jim Flint
Tobias Benson is the most experienced runner on the Hazen Union boys team. Benson took several minutes off his 5k time during his sophomore and junior cross country seasons.

Royer started running for Hazen Union in fifth grade. During her ninth-grade and tenth-grade varsity seasons, she placed 13th in D-III at the Vermont state championship meets. She spent her junior year in Germany. As an exchange student, she swam, biked, ran, and cross-trained to keep fit.

“My hope is that Cassandra can pull out and run with the fastest girls in the state,” said Coach Stoddard. “She is strong and can sustain her output.”

Ninth-grader Chloe Dyer is new to cross country. “Chloe is just getting into her stride,” said Stoddard. Lucille Dimarco and Madison Larabee are also listed on the varsity girls roster.

Seventh-grader Eliza Bunten is a newcomer on the Hazen Union Middle School team. She has been running with her family all summer. Bunten was the fastest finisher in the 3k Tuesday Night Trail Race on August 22.

Tobias Benson and Gabriel Aubuchon are seniors on the Hazen Union boys squad. Benson has two years of cross country under his belt. As a sophomore, his personal best 5k time was 30:23. He improved his 5k time to 26:12 as a junior. Aubuchon is starting his second year of cross country. He had a personal best time of 30:01 last year.

Freshmen runners Daniel Pougnier and Manny Fliegelman competed in several meets as middle schoolers. Fliegelman is signed up for cross country and soccer this fall.

Sophomore Lewis Lapierre, eighth-grader Kiah Cloutier, and seventh-grader Alden Pougnier are new to the Hazen cross country team. Cloutier was the fastest boy to finish the 3k Tuesday Night Trail Race on August 22.

Stoddard is starting his eighth year as the Wildcats’ head coach. “My hopes for the team are that they all cultivate a happy and positive relationship with running. Competitive kids will have as much push as they want.”

The Hazen Union team has 10 races on the calendar this year, including a home meet on October 18 with Danville, Twinfield, and Peoples Academy. The meet at Hardwick Trails includes a 3k middle school race and a challenging 5k high school race.

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