BENNINGTON -- After a month of competing at Dartmouth University for indoor track meets, the Mount Anthony Union High School track team will head to Norwich University this Saturday for the first of three straight Vermont competitions, highlighted by the Vermont Indoor Track Championships on Feb. 8.
"There is a shift [in focus] because you are with a whole different group of athletes," said MAU coach Kathleen Newton. "We haven't seen any of the bigger schools yet. It will definitely be different to compete. The kids have been looking at the competition online, but now they are competing against them."
Heading into this weekend the Patriots have participated in five meets, the last being the Dartmouth Relays last weekend, a meet which featured teams from as far north as Canada to as far south as Rhode Island. Only the girls 4x200-meter relay team placed at the event, but with the size of the competition Newton said the meet was about more than a podium place.
"We weren't looking at it as a team-coring meet," Newton said. "It was a long day, but we [Newton and coach Bob Kurtzner] thought they did very well. [They all] went in with a seed time and all performed much higher than their seed placing."
The 4x200 girls' team placed fourth, with the group of Taylor Gruber, Raheemah Madany, Chelsea Corrow and Leniesha Williams running a 1 minute, 51.74 second relay. The time was one second slower than the team's showing the week before (1:50.93), but Newton noted that most teams struggled in the race.
"All those kids had been waiting around all day. Some teams had bad handoffs, one team dropped the baton," Newton said. "The girls didn't run their best times. Their handoffs were OK, they weren't as good as they have been."
Even with the slight drop, the 4x200 team is still the team to beat in Vermont this season and the indoor record of 1:49.13 is within sight for the foursome.
The four are also top competitors in individual events for the Patriots.
Williams and Madany make up a deadly one-two punch in the 55 sprint, with Williams taking home first in three meets this season while also shaving 0.12 seconds off her time in the process. Madany has been right behind Williams, finishing second or third in every meet except last week. Williams finished 9th at the Relays (7.54), while Madany was 10th and set a personal record at 7.56.
The two will also figure into the 300-meter race, along with Gruber and Grace Page.
Gruber will also compete in the high jump. Already this season, Gruber tied the MAU high jump record when she cleared 4 feet, 10 inches in the team's home meet at Williams College.
Page will be the team's strongest runner in the 600, and she also brings up the anchor leg on the team's 4x400 team of Asuka Kosaki, Hayley Richmond and Abbie Whitman.
The Patriots also have a strong shot put crew, with Firdous Madany, Taylor Haynes, and Brittany Brochu all pushing each other this season.
"At first it was [Haynes] that was throwing the best, then all of a sudden it was [Firdous]," Newton said. "Brittany, as well. Those three girls are throwing with the top of the state."
For the boys, there aren't quite as many names but the team has a handful of athletes who are strong across multiple events.
Andrew Brandmeyer leads the way for the Patriots and is running very strong in the 1000. Brandmeyer's 2:40.99 was a PR of about eight seconds according to Newton, and the senior also makes up part of an all-senior 4x400 team with Andy and Ben Seward and Brad Myers that ran a 3.37.68 at the Dartmouth Relays.
All four can run in the middle distances for MAU, with Brandmeyer also able to compete in the 600 while Ben Seward and Myers run in the 300 and Andy Seward runs in the 600.
Andy Barlow is another runner for MAU who can run In the middle distances.
The team will also have a strong 4x800 group, with Brandmeyer, Matt Strano, Andy Seward and P.J. Seward. According to Newton, the group only got one race in this year, the meet at Williams, because Dartmouth meets do not offer the race.
Nathaniel Durfee has had a breakout season in the 55 hurdles for the Patriots, and is also the team's top triple jumper and another of the team's 300 runners.
"When [Durfee] first started we had no idea where we were going to put him," Newton said. "Last year, he started working out with Jon Polen (last year's indoor winner) and now he will definitely be up there in the state."
In field events, Ben Seward is the team's leading long jumper, while Ben Hulett leads the team in the shot put.
And while Newton noted how she wanted the team to participate in the next two meets at Norwich to get ready for the track conditions, she also added that the team has to be careful to not burn itself out.
"You can't keep hammering kids week after week," Newton said. "Their times will start diminishing. They will be doing different things. That will give them race experience, but also have them back off for a little bit...we can't keep peaking."
Saturday's meet, scheduled for doors open at 9 a.m., will also be the first Vermont meet where Mount Anthony is competing with two divisions.
"I think it is awesome that the [indoor track] program has grown so much," Newton said. "It is going to be a good thing to see [the two divisions]."