Jim Flint's Runners Roundup, Sports

Craftsbury Seniors Fly to Finish at Footlocker Meet

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photo by Mike Levangie
Craftsbury Academy seniors Alex Califano, Matt Califano, and Silas Hunt (left to right) completed their high school cross country careers Saturday at the Footlocker Northeast Regional Championships.

BOSTON, Mass. – High school runners from the six New England states, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania raced Saturday at the Footlocker Northeast Regional Championships. Cool and breezy conditions prevailed at historic Franklin Park, with temperatures in the low 30s under sunny skies.

Craftsbury Academy seniors Matt Califano, Alex Califano, and Silas Hunt were among the 59 athletes competing in the Junior-Senior 5k Championship boys race. Another 153 boys raced in the Marty Lewis Championship, which serves as a regional qualifier for the Footlocker National Championships.

The Craftsbury boys experienced their first taste of the Franklin Park course on October 14, at the Catholic Memorial Invitational. The looping 5k course through grassy fields, wooded roads, and over Bear Cage Hill was to their liking. Matt Califano (17:30), Alex Califano (17:33), and Silas Hunt (18:12) set new personal best 5k times at the race.

The trio returned to Franklin Park Saturday for the final cross country race of their high school careers. Matt Califano again led the way, with a 17:31 finish, placing him ninth in the boys Junior-Senior Championship race. Alex Califano took 13th in 17:45. Silas placed 33rd, in 18:54.

The Califano twins transferred to Craftsbury Academy in 2020, as freshmen. The brothers helped the Chargers win their first Vermont D-III state cross country championship during the pandemic-altered season. Craftsbury defended its state title in 2021 and became the first D-III boys team in history to represent Vermont at the New England Cross Country Championships.

Hunt joined the Chargers for the 2022 campaign, helping Craftsbury earn its third state title and second trip to the New England Championships. This fall, Hunt and the Califano twins, junior Charlier Kehler, and sophomore Soren Stelma-Leonard secured the team’s fourth consecutive Vermont D-III state championship.

“We are losing three amazing men as seniors,” said Mike Levangie, Craftsbury Academy’s head cross country coach. Alex and Matt have been integral to our team and culture for four years. We will miss their love of the sport and competitive fire in our group.”

“Silas joined us after beginning his high school career as a soccer player,” Coach Levangie continued. “Over the last year his transformation into a runner has been inspirational. Silas was our team center in many ways this season. Never too high or too low, and always reminding us of the ultimate goal and our process. Silas plans to continue his growth as a runner in college. He has some amazing potential choices before him – we cannot wait to see which team is blessed to have him join their family.”

photo by Morristown Recreation
Maxfield English, from Wolcott, finished second at the Morristown Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. The 5k race was English’s ninth “top-five” finish during a nine-week race streak that began September 30.

Top Times at Turkey Trot for English and Emers

MORRISVILLE – Maxfield English, from Wolcott, and Ellen Emers, an East Hardwick native, placed second in the men’s and women’s divisions at the Morristown Turkey Trot. Held on Thanksgiving morning, the 5k run-walk attracted 85 finishers. The temperature was around freezing, with snow on the ground.

English teaches design and technology at Hazen Union High School. The race was his ninth consecutive week of top-five finishes in local races. He completed the course in 18:22, edging out ultramarathoner Jeremy Huckins (18:58) to win the M40-49 age group.

The race was nostalgic for English, who grew up in Morrisville and ran cross country at Peoples Academy. “I started slowly, caught three runners by 1k, and just tried to hold them off,” said English. “I underdressed, and it cost me some time, but who can complain this time of year – just a great community event all around.”

Emers is a special education instructor in the Winooski School District. She finished ninth overall in 21:35. A 2015 Hazen Union graduate, Emers competed for the Wildcats in cross country and track and field. She earned her Bachelor’s degree and Masters degree from St. Michael’s College, where she was a member of the cross country and Nordic skiing teams.

Clare Salerno finished ahead of Emers, in 21:12, to win the women’s division. Salerno competed in cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field at Wellesley College, graduating in 2018. As a collegian, she had a personal best 5k time of 19:36 on the outdoor oval.

Charlie Alekson blitzed the course in 16:22 to win the men’s division. Alekson graduated from Stowe High School in 2020, where he competed in cross country, alpine skiing, and baseball. A senior at Union College, in Schenectady, N.Y., he has blossomed as a NCAA D-III college athlete.

photo by Dorothy Hill
The Caspian Lake Thanksgiving Day run/walk/bike enjoyed a record turnout this year, with 32 participants gathering at the Tolman Corner ball field in Greensboro. Hosted by Victoria Hill Physical Therapy & Wellness, the community event collected food donations for the Hardwick Area Food Pantry.

Alekson competes in cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field for the Dutchmen. Alekson ran a personal best 5k time of 14:47 at the Liberty League Outdoor Track and Field Championships, in May. On November 11, he placed 39th of 173 runners at the NCAA D-III Mideast Region Cross Country Championships.

George Kominos, from Wolcott, was the top finisher in the M60+ age group. Kominos, 67, covered the 5k course in 23:53. Verna Stoddard, from Craftsbury, rounded out the finishers from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette. She placed 36th, in 28:50. Stoddard competed in cross country and track and field at Craftsbury Academy, graduating in June 2023.

Smyers Third in Age Group at Manchester Road Race

MANCHESTER, Conn. –Donna Smyers and Eric Ryea, from Adamant, traveled to Smyers’ family home in Connecticut last week. Before enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, they competed in the 87th Manchester Road Race. This was Smyers 32nd time running the 4.75-mile course. Ryea has completed the iconic race 21 times.

The event began in 1927. Until 1974, only men were allowed to compete. This year marked the 51st consecutive time that two Connecticut women, Janet Romayko and Beth Shluger, finished the storied race – 50 years officially and one year (1973) unofficially. Romayko and Shluger grew up in Manchester, still compete in their 70s, and are trail blazers for women in sports.

Sunshine and temperatures in the low 50s created ideal conditions for the 9,590 finishers. Morgan Beadlescomb, from Boston, was the top finisher in 21:12. He completed the course at an average pace of 4:28 per mile.

After breaking the tape, Beadlescomb found his girlfriend, Lexi Hager, on a church lawn near the course. Getting down on one knee, he revealed an engagement ring. Hager happily accepted the surprise marriage proposal.

Weini Kelati, from Johnson City, Tenn., won the women’s division for the second consecutive year. Her 23:21 finish (18th overall) was 18 seconds faster than last year. She averaged 4:55 per mile. Andrew Crompton, from Barre, was the top Vermont finisher. The former U-32 High School standout placed 17th, just ahead of Kelati, in 23:20.

Coming into the race, Smyers, 66, had to overcome a stubborn cough that hung on for three weeks. She paced at 8:02 per mile, finishing in 38:08. Smyers placed third of 127 entries in the F65-69 age group.

“I had a tough time, coughing a lot during the first mile or so, but after I got half way up the hill, the cough subsided enough for me to push more on the last three miles,” said Smyers. “I was 1:12 slower than last year, but surprisingly ended up in the exact same spot in my age group.”

Ryea, 70, walked the Manchester race with his sister-in-law last year. He ran most of the race this year, taking 20 minutes off his time. Ryea finished in 53:29. His effort placed 40th of 102 entries in the M70-74 age group.

“Running 11:15 pace with almost zero training is amazing to me, but Eric has been walking a lot,” said Smyers. “He practiced running parts of his walks a half dozen times in the last few weeks.”

Montpelier’s Tim Noonan, 67, has run the Manchester Road Race upwards of 40 times. This year’s race came less than three weeks after Noonan completed the New York City Marathon. Averaging 7:56 per mile, he finished in 37:37. Noonan placed 13th of 236 entries in the M65-69 age group.

Noonan, Smyers, and Ryea plan to be in the Manchester Road Race for the long run. “I would love to make it to 50 races; if I don’t miss any more, I’ll be 84,” said Smyers.

courtesy photo
The Halo Foundation presents the Santa Run/Walk and Festival on December 10 in Orleans. The event is a benefit fundraiser to support Orleans County residents dealing with cancer.

Local Runners Place High in Race Series

MONTPELIER – Four runners from the greater Hardwick area won their age groups in the 2023 Central Vermont Runners / Onion River Outdoors Race Series. The annual race series consists of 13 road races and trail races. CVR members in good standing accumulate up to 100 points for each race, with a maximum of 600 points. Point scores are relative to finish position within an age group. The best six races for each participant count toward their total point score.

Twinfield Union High School sophomore Gigi Guerin won the F10-19 age group with 100 points. Donna Smyers, from Adamant, topped the F60-69 age group with 600 points. In a close contest, Elizabeth McCarthy, from Walden, edged out Merrill Creagh, 587 points to 580 points, to win the F70-79 age group. Tim Hogeboom, from Walden, won the M70-79 age group with 600 points. Hogeboom notched age group wins at seven races during the 2023 race series.

The 2024 CVR/ORO Race Series begins with the New Year’s Eve Race in Montpelier. For details, visit cvrunners.org.

Halo Foundation Sponsors 5k Run/Walk for Cancer

ORLEANS – The Halo Foundation presents its annual Santa Festival on Sunday, Dec. 10. The foundation supports Orleans County residents who are dealing with cancer. A Santa Run, complete with Santa suits, kicks off the festival at 11 a.m. 100% of the event proceeds go back to the community.

Admission to the festival is included with each race registration. The entry fee to run or walk is $15 for children ages 12 and under; $25 for teens and adults. Santa suits and Santa hats are provided for runners and walkers. Participants will have a slice of pizza and beverage waiting for them at the end of the run, along with a crushed candy cane ice cream cone.

Family members not entered in the race may participate in the Santa festival for a $5 fee. The festival includes Santa’s workshop, with cookie decorating, ornament making, and face painting. Adults and children can write a letter to Santa and send it through the magical North Pole mailbox. Santa and Mrs. Claus will fly in from the North Pole to hear the children’s wishes.

The Santa run has a limit of 300 participants. Online registration is available through December 8 at RUNREG.COM/HALOSSANTA. Registration and bib pickup are at the Orleans Fire Station at 102 Main Street. Day-of-race registration is available from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. if space remains.

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