ADDISON COUNTY — At about 10 a.m. this Saturday, runners from Middlebury, Mount Abraham and Vergennes union high schools will toe the line at a cross-country meet at Keenan Farm in Charlotte, while soccer players from Vergennes and Mount Abe will kick off at two different sites.
Three hours later, the new cooperative Mount Abe and VUHS football program will debut, as will the other local elevens.
And another academic year of local high school sports will have officially begun, although no doubt those athletes who have spent long hours preparing this summer and then going through two-a-day practices feel like it has already started.
Last fall, Tiger sophomore Emily Anderson, now a junior, brought home the only local trophy, racing to the Division II girls’ cross-country crown.
The most successful teams proved to be Otter Valley field hockey, which steamrolled through the regular season before a stunning first-round D-II upset, and MUHS football, which despite its youth and low numbers reached the semifinals in its first year in D-II.
This fall, athletes in team sports will be looking to reverse a trend. This past spring, for the second straight academic year only the last local team standing won a state championship: In 2010 it was Eagle baseball, and in 2009 OV softball did the trick.
The first teams to take the first steps on that path will do so literally as well as figuratively. Tiger, Eagle and Commodore runners will begin a busy eight-day stretch at Keenan Farm this Saturday at 10 a.m., when Champlain Valley will host relay races with three runners on each relay team, three teams per school. All three of those cross-county squads are also set to compete at an event hosted by South Burlington on Sept. 7 before all face a major early season test at the Essex Invitational on Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, the OV harriers will open on Sept. 7, when they will travel to Arlington.
The VUHS boys’ soccer team begins its second season under Coach Kevin Hayes this Saturday at 10 a.m., when the Commodores host Green Mountain Valley School.
Coach Doc Seubert’s Tiger boys host Fair Haven on Sept. 7, when also Coach Mike Corey’s Eagle group visits D-I power CVU. Then all four of those teams come together again for the Tigers’ annual J.P. Carrara Tournament on Sept. 9. The Eagles and Commodores meet on one field at 4:30 p.m. that day, while the Tigers and the Gumbies vie on the other. Fucile Field will host the consolation and the final at noon and 2 p.m., respectively, on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Second-year coach Mark Quenneville’s Otter boys open at Arlington’s tournament on Sept. 8 vs. Springfield at 5 p.m. The consolation and final of that event are set for Sept. 10 at 5 and 7 p.m., respectively. OV does not host a game until Sept. 18, when Hartford visits.
Also this Saturday, second-year coach Dustin Corrigan’s Mount Abe girls’ soccer team makes its debut, with a mid-morning game at BFA-Fairfax.
By the end of the next week, the three other local teams will also see action. New coach David Brown’s Otters host Mount Anthony at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, and on Sept. 10 Coach Jen Clark’s Tigers travel to take on Harwood and Coach Dwight Irish’s Commodores head up Route 7 to Colchester.
Also on Sept. 10 and 11, the Otters once again play in Black River’s annual four-team tourney. On Sept. 14, the Tigers will host the Commodores.
The big football news this offseason came when both the Mount Abe and VUHS boards approved the state’s first co-operative football program. The joint team remains under Mount Abe management and coaching and will play in Bristol while wearing Eagle purple. Meanwhile, two dozen VUHS athletes swelled the program’s ranks to a total of 56, giving the program hope it can bounce back from a tough 2009 season.
Perennial power Windsor will provide a tough early test this coming Saturday, when the Yellowjackets will visit at 1 p.m. to provide the joint team its first competition.
The other local teams both open on the road. Coach Dennis Smith’s Tigers hope to build on their successful first season in D-II, and play at Lyndon at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Coach Dennis Perry’s Otters lost some vital cogs, but also return talented athletes; the Otters open at Spaulding at the same hour.
In 2009, first-year coach Gary Hodder’s Otter stickers dominated their D-II competition and more than held their own against D-I foes before their stunning playoff ouster. Many starters graduated, but key players also return. The Otters are first out of the gate — they will visit Burr & Burton on Wednesday, Sept. 8, before hosting Springfield that Friday.
Addison County’s two teams open play against each other: Coach Mary Stetson’s Eagles host Coach Kelley Higgins’ Tigers at 4 p.m. on Sept. 8.
The Eagles, who are looking to bounce back from a down year, will then travel to meet Colchester on Sept. 10. The Tigers, who hovered around .500 last year, will host South Burlington at 4 p.m. on Sept. 10.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.