WESTFORD – Saturday’s Westford Turkey Trot exemplified the community spirit of small town Vermont races. Started around 1990, the event is held annually at the Westford School on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Adding to the sense of tradition, organizers line the school gym/cafeteria walls with posters and results from previous iterations of the race. Runners chart their year to year progress, reconnect with old friends, and relive past performances.
A record field turned out this year, with 87 runners in the 10k race and 150 runners and walkers in the 3k race. With athletes and spectators lining both sides of the school driveway to cheer, the 100-yard Tot Trot kicked off the event. Each child received a chocolate turkey pop prize after crossing the finish line.
Participants in the 3k and 5k race started together. The most enthusiastic youngsters jockeyed for position in the front row. As the kids sprinted from the starting line, older runners navigated through the mass of churning arms and legs.
Maxfield English, from Wolcott, started strategically from the far-left side. Rose Modry, from Greensboro, lined up in the center of the pack, along with Jessica Bolduc and Damian Bolduc, from Craftsbury. The weather was overcast, with temperatures in the 30s and sprinkles that turned to snow. Gusty winds and slick dirt roads added to the challenge.
“The fast pack moved out quickly,” said English. “I was not entirely sure if they were running the 3k or 10k since we all started together.”
English was like an older buck running in a herd of spike horns. After returning from an initial out-and-back to the Westford Village green, the 3k runners turned off to their finish line. The 10k runners headed for the hills. English caught two of the six teen boys ahead of him, wished them luck, and pushed on.
“After that, I was alone,” he said. “The few glimpses I got of the leaders became increasingly infrequent.
I liked the course, being all dirt, and some nice sentinel maples on sections. Running with the young crew made me smile that the next generation is alive and strong.”
English, who teaches technology education at Hazen Union, finished fifth in 36:50. His time was three seconds off his last Westford 10k race, in 2016, when he edged out Binney Mitchell to win the contest. English topped the M40-49 age group and was the fastest finisher over age 20. The Turkey Trot was his eighth top-five finish in eight weeks.
Saturday was Rose Modry’s first Westford Turkey Trot. She was familiar with parts of the course, after running the Kaynor’s Sap Run 10k on April 1. Modry was the fifth female finisher. Her time of 47:06 won the F40-49 age group.
“I love the camaraderie of the running community,” said Modry. “It was great to have my friend Lindsay Simpson and my son Fox cheering at the finish – and Maxfield, too – cheering on his cool-down. Lindsay and I raced together at Middlebury College and then taught together at Hazen Union after college.”
Damian Bolduc, placed 20th in the 10k race. His 46:28 effort was third fastest in the M40-49 age group. Jessica Bolduc finished 14th in the 3k race. Her time was 13:07. She was the third female finisher and won the F40-49 age group.
Hunt Finishes Fifth at Fallen Leaves
MONTPELIER – Silas Hunt, from Craftsbury, put his cross country training to the test Saturday at the third and final Fallen Leaves 5k race. The Craftsbury Academy senior joined a group of fast flyers competing on the flat course.
The 61-runner field included two former University of Vermont athletes, John Benner (2020) and Kasey Gelfand (2021). Denner ran a 4:05 indoor mile during his final collegiate season. Gelfand notched a 15:06 personal best 5k time on the indoor oval during his senior year.
Benner ran away from the field. Averaging 4:46 per mile, his 5k time of 14:48 shattered the Fallen Leaves course record by nearly a minute. Nick Kidder, a Spaulding High School junior, was the runner-up in a personal best time of 16:28. Montpelier High School senior Samuel Brondkye placed third in 16:48 followed by Gelfand in 17 minutes flat.
Hunt’s goal was to see how quickly he could turn his legs over and set a new personal best 5k mark. He succeeded in his quest, breaking the 18-minute barrier for the first time. His time of 17:49 placed fifth overall. The race was a tune-up for Hunt. He is scheduled to compete in the Footlocker Northeast Regional Championship on Saturday in Boston.
“I did not know what to expect at the starting line, as I saw people from all ages, places, and paces around me,” said Hunt. “When the race started, I quickly moved toward the front and settled in. I maintained a consistent pace and felt strong. I know, from the fact that I was not sprawled on the ground after my race, that I can plan on running faster. I am excited to see what comes of the Foot Locker race at Franklin Park, as this is my final cross-country race of 2023.”
Addie Hedges, from Montpelier, edged out Clare Salerno, from Morrisville, and Meaghan Alba, from Burlington, to win the women’s division in 20:30. Hedges’ 5k time was a new personal best. Salerno and Alba finished in respective times of 20:36 and 20:38. Theresa Noonan, from Montpelier, and Dylan Broderick, from Middlesex placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in 20:59 and 21:00.
Finishers from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette included Andy Frakes, from Marshfield, Habib Melud, from East Calais, Michael Giamusso, from Adamant, and Brian Burns and Mack Gardner-Morse, both from Calais. Frakes won the M30-39 age group in 18:57. Melud, a U-32 High School junior, finished in 19:53. Giamusso’s time of 21:38 placed third in the M50-59 age group.
Burns placed second in the M40-49 age group. His 20:39 effort was 16 seconds faster than his finish at the first Fallen Leaves Series race on November 4. Burns returned to racing this month after recovering from hip replacement surgery.
“My hip/lower back is sore after these efforts but usually bounces back,” said Burns. “I’m going to try to run easy through the winter and do more strengthening. I don’t think I could run under 20:15 right now, but I’ll get there!”
Gardner-Morse placed second in the M60-69 age group with a 22:31 effort. Jeff Shedd, 60, from Burlington won the age group. Racing on a pair of Hoka running shoes with 620 miles on them, Shedd clocked a remarkable time of 18:54. He was the fastest finisher above the age of 26.
“I could never run a sub-19-minute 5k through my 40’s and 50’s, but finally accomplished my goal,” said Shedd. “No traction whatsoever, so I was slipping and sliding a bit.”
Gordon MacFarland, 75, from Burlington, and Bob Murphy, 83, from Barre, also had notable efforts. MacFarland paced at 7:55 per mile to finish in 24:34. Murphy was the most senior finisher. He averaged 9:31 per mile enroute to winning the M80-89 age group in 29:32.
Parrish Encounters Big Buck at National Championships
LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. – As reported in last week’s Hardwick Gazette, Ethan Parrish placed 15th for Paul Smith’s College at the USCAA Cross Country National Championships on November 12. Parrish was among a trio of freshmen who led the Bobcats to a third-place finish among nine teams.
USCAA is the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, an association of 80 small colleges. USCAA offers national championship competitions at a level below NCAA D-III.
Parrish, from Adamant, graduated from Twinfield Union High School, where he competed in cross country. His mom, Lisa McCarthy, serves as principal at Woodbury Elementary and at Lakeview Elementary.
Parrish’s college cross country coach, Jim Tucker, has mentored Paul Smith’s students for several decades. In an email received after last week’s Hardwick Gazette deadline, Tucker shared the story of Parrish’s USCAA Nationals race, held in a small town 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
“At nationals, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ethan,” said Tucker. “This would likely be his highest caliber event, and it was difficult for me to gauge if he was getting mentally ready. Once the gun was fired, and I saw that Ethan was in about 18th place a kilometer into the race, I knew he was where he should be.”
“The next time I saw him, he blurted out a polysyllable, but I could only make out that something had just taken place a few seconds before and surely got his attention. Athletes who followed within the next 30 seconds didn’t seem to be unusually fazed, so I was puzzled. My initial thought was that maybe an athlete had collapsed, but the following athletes did not seem to have witnessed anything.”
When queried, Parrish shared what happened:
“I was running right behind a runner from Vermont Tech Randolph when I heard a crash,” said Parrish. “I looked over to see the biggest deer I have ever seen, an 8 to 10-point buck and well over 200 pounds. It seemed to be going away from the trail but I still shouted ‘watch out!’ to my fellow Vermont runner. Then out of the blue the deer switched directions and jumped maybe five to seven feet in front of the Vermont Tech runner, almost smashing right into him. That definitely made the race more interesting.”
Norman Benoit, was the Vermont Tech runner ahead of Parrish.
“I was startled more by the runner behind me that was warning me,” said Benoit. “The buck was pretty fast, but I could tell that it wanted no business on the course.”
At the next sightings of Ethan, I could see that he was focused on the race at hand, said Coach Tucker. I knew he was close to the top 14, but I had not tried to stress the value of finishing among the top 14 to earn All American status as a freshman.
He was among a stacked pack of runners, most from SUNY-ESF, the perennial USCAA National Champions. Ethan finished 15th and was again our No. 2 finisher. He has visions and aspirations of splitting up the pack from SUNY- ESF a year from now.”