JonRutlandErinGeisler

Rutland High School’s Erin Geisler crosses the finish line in a first place victory during the girls cross country race held on Tuesday at Northwood Park in Rutland Town.

An old adage asserts that past results do not guarantee future performance.

Despite the wisdom of this saying, the coaches again voted the U-32 boys and Harwood girls in the power rankings this week.

This is a very different Raider boys team, which has new names and is not as deep compared to recent years. But many coaches are giving U-32 the benefit of the doubt. Both the Raiders and No. 2 St. Johnsbury are undefeated this year but they have not raced head-to-head and neither team has run at full strength yet.

The Raiders, minus No. 2 runner Cyrus Hansen, comfortably won their home invitational last week. St. Johnsbury, racing with recent Craftsury transfer Charlie Krebs, dropped a perfect score of 15 points in a dual meet victory.

Third-ranked CVU raced to an impressive four-place finish at the competitive Queensbury Invitational in New York. With Redhawks standout Matt Severin running over 30 seconds faster than any other boy in Vermont, CVU proved that it is certainly a threat for the top spot.

And do not sleep on No. 4 Essex. if Luke Milkus can return from injury to the level he showed last year in both track and cross country, the Hornets may be top dogs at the state meet November. South Burlington and Craftsbury weigh in tied for the No. 5 spot and are both champing at the bit to move up during the upcoming weeks.

The first big regional race of the year is on tap Saturday in the Granite State at the Manchester Invitational. With Vermont’s top-ranked teams slated to run in the Big School race, this could provide the first true glimpse of how these teams actually stack up against each other.

Injury management and minimization, squad depth and a healthy dose of luck are key elements in coaching cross country and often play an outsized role in who wins at any given race. Craftsbury is a prime example of this phenomenon.

The Chargers have yet to run a handful of their top athletes. A tiny school with roughly 31 boys enrolled, Craftsbury is the two-time defending Division III champ and qualified for New England’s last fall.

Seventh-ranked Mount Mansfield is followed by No. 8 Montpelier, No. 9 Middlebury and No. 10 BFA-St. Albans. These four teams are all good, but each will need to either produce a faster pack or have a couple runners raise their game before they can compete with the top-tier teams. The great thing about cross country is that every Saturday provides a blank slate for teams and individuals to rewrite the story. This Saturday the storied Derryfield Park course will give many of these up-and-coming teams a perfect opportunity to turn some heads.

On the individual side, Severin is running away with things. A big question is how low can he go and how will he fare at the regional and perhaps national level. Montpelier’s Avery Smart, Richford’s Jon Viens, Essex’s Luke Miklus, St. Johnsbury’s Andrew Thornton-Sherman, U-32’s Sargent Burns or BFA-St. Albans’ Poerter Hurteau will attempt to find the speed and guts to run with him.

Thornton-Sherman is sure to give it a try after he ran 800 meters in under two minutes last year as a freshman.

The girls power rankings required a little more homework this week, as two meets in two different states highlighted the weekend. The majority of top squads competed at the U-32 Invitational, while CVU, Burlington, Rutland and Essex competing at the Queensbury Invitational. Add in an old-fashioned dual meet at Mills Riverside Park between St. Johnbury and Mount Mansfield and you had lots of early-seson action.

For all of the early-season jostling, CVU remains the constant at the top of the rankings. The Redhawks sit at the top spot for the third week in a row. And unless some new runners surface at other schools, there is unlikely to be a change. CVU came in a respectable fourth at the Queensbury Invitational. Despite being humbled by perennial national powerhouse Saratoga, CVU dominated all of the Vermont teams in attendance.

Alice Kredell and Estella Laird provide a solid 1-2 punch for CVU. And the Redhawks also have some unmatched depth to gain separatation ahead of Vermont’s other teams. It is worth noting again that CVU’s balance goes well beyond the top seven runners who line up in a varsity race.

There was a close race for the No. 2 and 3 spots in this week’s rankings. U-32 maintains its position at No. 2 despite losing a tiebreaker to Harwood at the U-32 Invitational.The Raiders’ top runner Ginger Long did not score points at the event, but she is clearly one of the fastest racers in Vermont. And Amy Felice stepped up to win on her home course at the U-32 Invitational. Despite missing the Burlington Invitational, U-32 showed its potential at the Essex Invitational with a solid performance.

Essex climbed in the rankings from last week and moves up to No. 3. The Hornets were led by Scarlet Stimson, who placed 14th in Queensbury. Her low times will be needed as the front of the U-32 pack may have a slight advantage when the Hornets and Raiders meet in a head-to-head format. Essex was again without its No. 2 runner, leaving some uncertainty about how fast the Hornets could be with a full team.

Harwood and Mount Mansfield round out the top 5. Fourth-ranked Harwood enjoyed a strong showing at U-32, knocking off the Raiders on their home course. A relatively low spread from the No. 1-5 racers aided the Highlanders’ cause. U-32 was short-handed, but various issues have impacted most teams so far and making it to the finish line is half the battle.

Dropping out from the top 5 this week is Burlington. The Seahorses competed at Queensbury but did not field a complete team. Most of the other top 10 teams will be competing at the Manchester Invitational on Saturday. CVU, Essex, Mount Mansfield, BFA-St. Albans, South Burlington, Burlington and Rutland will all square off in the Large School division, while U-32 and Harwood will compete in the Small School race. Given the size of the fields at Manchester, teams with a competitive fifth runner should fair well. The Vermont state championships do not have such numbers and teams built for large races may do as well at our small in-state meets.

On the individual side, CVU’s Alice Kredell showed her stuff vs. a competitive Queensbury team. She fared well against some of Eastern New York’s best runners and was once again the top Vermont finisher. The jury is still out regarding who will be the top challenger to Kredell at the state meet. One of those candidates is Stimson, who finished 14th in Queensbury and was about 30 seconds behind Kredell. Stimson wound up one place ahead of Laird. Queensbury was once again a relatively fast course, while Manchester will provide a steeper challenge given the big uphills and sharp downhills.

At the U-32 Invitational, Felice took top honors over BFA freshman phenom Kaitlyn Lumbra. Middlebury’s Beth McIntosh made a big leap from the first week to also earn a podium finish in Est Montpelier. Mount Mansfield’s Tess Drury handily won her home dual meet last week. It is worth noting that Drury and Stimson are the only seniors in this group of elite athletes. Big race experience and the emotions of running at the championship race for the final time can’t be discounted when everyone lines up at the state meet on Oct. 28. Thetford’s upcoming Woods Trail Run will serve as a preview for the big dance. If history is any indication, Thetford’s famed hill, Morty’s Monster, will most certainly have a say in who is crowned champ.

In southern Vermont, Rutland had some standout performers at the Queensbury Invitational in New York State.

In the boys’ 5000-meter race, RHS’s Sam Kay finished in 32nd, in 17 minutes, 18.70 seconds. The other Rutland top-100 finishers were Karver Butler in 57th and Joshua Kay in 98th.

In the girls’ 5000-meter race, Rutland’s Erin Geisler finished 27th in 20:16.80. Evangeline Taylor was 46th.

Boys Top 10

1.U-32 2. St. Johnsbury 3. CVU 4. Essex 5. South Burlington 5. Craftsbury 7. Mt. Mansfield 8. Montpelier 9. Middlebury 10. BFA-St. Albans

Girls Top 10

1. CVU 2. U-32 3. Essex 4. Harwood 5. Mt. Mansfield 6. South Burlington 7. St. Johnsbury 8. Burlington 9. Middlebury 10. BFA-St. Albans

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