THETFORD — Buoyed by a win by their top runner and a strong performance by their No. 5 athlete, the Middlebury Union High School boys’ cross-country runners claimed a 39-point win in Saturday’s Division II cross-country race at Thetford Academy.
The Tigers scored 58 points to second-place Missisquoi’s 97, with U-32 (109), Woodstock (110), Harwood (114) and Mount Abraham (185) rounding out the top six.
MUHS junior Stuart Guertin won the race in 17:55, the fifth-best time among all runners in the three divisions. Mount Abe sophomore Malcolm Plunkett, who missed time this season with an injury, placed second in 18:16, and Vergennes sophomore Shep Carter took fifth in 18:26.
The Tigers’ depth paid off. Neil Guertin, Stuart’s twin brother, was sixth in 18:45; junior Will Conlon took eighth in 18:52; sophomore Sawyer Hescock finished 21st in 19:36; and sophomore Max Longchamp, critically, took 22nd in 19:39, his best performance of the fall.
That top-to-bottom strength of a group of underclassmen — all of whom call Cornwall home — made the difference in bringing MUHS its first team trophy in the sport, said first-year head coach Emily Marquart. She was a program assistant who filled in last year for then-ailing longtime coach Noah Hurlburt.
“They just ran exceptionally. Out of our top five, they all ran personal bests except two. Our fifth guy, he ran right with our No. 4 guy, and that was what we needed to win as a team,” Marquart said.
Of course, it helped that Stuart Guertin — who had not won an event all fall — contributed a single point to the team’s total with his first-place result.
“He picked the right race,” Marquart said.
But she was not surprised by Guertin’s effort.
“The last few races he’s just been running great,” Marquart said. “He’s taking a lot of risks and running with a lot of guts. He’s coming into his own.”
The Tiger boys also finished fifth overall among teams in all three divisions, earning the right to run in the New England championship meet that will be held at Thetford on Nov. 13. That feat is another first for the MUHS program, and was a major goal for the boys entering the race.
Marquart said the Tigers were held in suspense when announcements were made, and they thought they had missed out when South Burlington was announced as the sixth-place finisher. Then, the welcome news came.
“Oh my goodness,” Marquart said. “Then we heard we were fifth, and the smiles lasted all night. The guys surpassed their goal.”
The Vergennes boys, led by Carter, finished ninth at 234. Junior David Clancy also fared well, taking 41st in 20:38. Otter Valley finished 13th with 332 points; the Otters were led by junior Chris Cimonette in 45th in 20:56.
In finishing sixth, the Eagles also got a strong effort from senior Isaac Prescott, who finished 23rd in 19:39. All five of the Eagles’ top runners placed in the top 63.
Eagle coach Brent Crum lauded Plunkett for his strong effort.
“Malcolm is an extremely dedicated runner and a talented athlete who had a great performance,” Crum said. “It was a nice effort on his part to bounce back from an injury and run a fast race on the hilly course.”
TIGER GIRLS CLAIM 2ND
Meanwhile, the Tiger girls spent most of the fall trying to catch the defending champion Harwood squad, and Saturday’s championship race proved to be no exception, as the Highlanders placed five runners in the top 12 to prevail with 33 points, with MUHS second at 68.
Harwood’s Jaime Thomas also dethroned defending D-II champion Emily Anderson of MUHS, winning in 21:00. Anderson, a junior, settled for fourth in 21:36.
Tiger Christine Artim, the only senior who placed for the team, took sixth in 22:20. Junior Emma Ryan was 11th in 23:06; junior Elise Biette, 16th in 23:36; and sophomore Nicole Morris, 31st in 25:12.
Marquart said she was not disappointed in the girls’ performance.
“The girls gave it their best shot. They just couldn’t pull it off. They ran the best that they could,” Marquart said. “That’s all you could ask. Harwood just has too many girls.”
Mount Abe was the only other local girls’ team to field a full squad of five runners. Freshman Natalie May led the Eagles by taking 20th in 23:47, just ahead of junior Alia Johnson in 23rd in 24:09.
The four VUHS runners were led by junior Daisy Alexander, who was 21st overall in 23:49, while OV sophomore Courtney Stearns led her contingent by taking 26th overall in 24:18.
The complete results for each school’s runners in the boys’ race were:
1. MUHS: (58) 1. S. Guertin, 17:55; 6. N. Guertin, 18:45; 8. Conlon, 18:52; 21. Hescock, 19:36; 22. Longchamp, 19:39; 34. Malcolm Groves, 20:20; 45. Griffin Wood, 20:45.
6. Mount Abe: (185) 2. Plunkett, 18:16; 23. Prescott, 19:39; 47. Erin Cassels-Brown, 20:46; 50. Kenny Micklas, 21:03; 63. Mark Dickerson, 21:38; 96. Willy Morse, 23:02; 98. Garth Wilson, 23:23.
9. VUHS: (234) 5. Carter, 18:26; 41. Clancy, 20:38; 59. Collin Curler, 21:33; 61. Jon Welch, 21:35; 68. Austin Nary, 21:53; 85. Matteo Palmer, 22:33; 104. Dylan Bresnick, 24:25.
13. OV: (332) 49. Cimonette, 20:56; 64. Nate Mylott, 21:38; 70. George Mitchell, 22:01; 72. Justin McKeighan, 22:02; 77. Bruce Poirier, 22:08; 94. Ryan Kelley, 22:54; 105. David Fernandes, 24:26.
The complete results for each school’s runners in the girls’ race were:
2. MUHS: (68) 4. Anderson, 21:36; 6. Artim, 22:20; 11. Emma Ryan, 23:07; 16. Elise Biette, 23:36; 31. Nicole Morris, 25:12; 51. Jasmine Blodgett, 26:49; 82. Laura Ferguson, 30:00.
12. Mount Abe (260) 20. May, 23:47; 23. Alia Johnson, 24:09; 58. Patience Thompson, 27:03; 74. Emily Friend, 28:41; 85. Gaylen Alexander, 30:54; 86. Wendi Bedard, 30:58; 89. K.C. Cousineau, 34:15.
VUHS: 21. Alexander, 23:49; 64. Hannah Sturtevant, 27:29; 72. Ann Clancy, 27:47; 81. Hannah DeGraaf, 28:56.
OV: 26. Stearns, 24:18; 49. 26:28.