LOCAL SPORTS ROUNDUP
RUTLAND -- Mount Anthony Union High School Nordic skier Luke Keenan was bearing down hard on Champlain Valley Union’s Thomas Clayton in the anchor leg of the relay on Tuesday at Mountain Top with a chance to vault the Patriots into a state championship.
Starting with a deficit, the senior tried valiantly to catch Clayton in the downhill portion right at the end of the course, but in the end, Keenan came up 0.6 seconds short as CVU took the crown with a time of 26 minutes, 56.6 seconds to 26:57.2 for the Patriots.
Keenan finished his leg in 6:28, the second fastest to the 6:27 run by Rutland’s Issac Wright.
"I’ve done this for 15 years, I don’t ever recall the title being decided by such a close [margin]," said MAU Nordic ski coach Bruce Smith. "Usually, it’s a victory lap. It came down to who would cross [the line] first. He just couldn’t close the gap ... he ran outstanding."
Keenan was also runner-up to Wright on his home course in the 5K Classic, finishing in 15:47.9, 13 seconds behind the Red Raider. Will Buckley was seventh.
Overall, CVU won with 96 points in the four events with MAU second with 111, the two relays the difference. Mount Mansfield (184) and Essex (213) were a distant third and fourth.
"I knew what I had to do, I was behind coming in and needed to make up time," Keenan said. "I was pushing it trying to make it, but I didn’t have it in me."
Relay mates Nick Altland and Will Buckley both said they were proud of their teammate’s effort in the final run.
"I thought he had it, he was only a couple feet behind," Altland said.
"I couldn’t watch," Buckley said. "I’m bummed we didn’t win, but we all gave it everything we had."
Smith said he was impressed by the fact that the Patriots never quit.
"They could have been complacent, saying ‘second’s great’, but they believed they were in it to the end," Smith said.
The girls team finished third overall, with 179 points. CVU won both relays and had 72, while Mount Mansfield was second at 95. Essex was a distant fourth behind MAU with 287.
The team of Erica Hale, Kinsey Bourdeau, Molly O’Callaghan and Abby Malmborg were third in the relay, finishing in 33:13.9.
Individually, Hale, O’Callaghan and Malmborg were right next to each other in the 5K Classic, finishing 7th, 8th and 9th.
"They were quite excited to place three skiers in the top 10," Smith said. "They all skied really well and did well on a tough course."