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RIPTON — Mount Anthony Nordic made it crystal clear Tuesday as to who the king of the mountain is in Vermont.

As MAU closed in on its second straight state championship, the team added a bit of “Patriots pride” in the closing seconds of the Vermont Nordic state championship classic relay race.

As Pete McKenna made the final turn of the race, there wasn’t an opponent in sight. So as the MAU senior was just yards away from the finish line, he grabbed a MAU Nordic team flag from a teammate and basked in the Patriots’ second consecutive state championship with the MAU faithful cheering him on.

“That’s a very, very special moment,” the Mount Anthony senior said after the race. “We’ve worked so hard throughout all our years together. It’s so great to be on this team.”

It was the finishing touch in what was a dominant showing for the Patriots — who also swept the individual classical podium — finishing the two day state championship with a team score of 58, well ahead of runner-up Mount Mansfield (108).

Mount Anthony’s Luke Rizio once again proved he’s the fastest skier in the state with his second straight individual title. Rizio (14:04.8) zoomed past the competition as a light snowfall fell on a brisk and windy February afternoon, finishing 58 seconds ahead of the next fastest racer, McKenna (15:02.7). Fellow Patriot Finn Payne rounded out the podium with his third place finish, crossing the finish line in 15:04.3.

The manner in which MAU won made the victory that much sweeter for the boys of Bennington.

“It’s great to sweep the podium, and it’s going to be great to be up there with some of my best friends,” Rizio said moments after the relay race.

It was Rizio’s first championship representing MAU. Last year, he skied as an independent for Twin Valley High School, though he trained with MAU daily. Being a part of the Patriots’ puzzle this time around makes the victory extra special for the MAU junior.

“It’s a whole new world,” Rizio said. “It’s one thing to win on your own, and you celebrate kind of on your own. It’s a whole other thing to race for a team and win for a team. It’s more than just racing for yourself.”

Riley Thurber (15:22.2) rounded out MAU scorers with his sixth place finish, giving MAU 12 team points and extending its day 1 lead.

Silas Rella-Neill didn’t place for MAU, yet he still finished as the 10th fastest Division I competitor with his time of 15:40.9.

The Patriots followed up that impressive individual showing by winning the team relay (27:29.0), more than a full minute ahead of second place Mount Mansfield (28:34.7).

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Despite holding a comfortable 18 point lead heading into day two, MAU coach Rob Short said the team was unsatisfied with the result and came into Rikert Nordic Center ready to finish the job on Tuesday.

“We had great results last week, but they weren’t happy with it,” Short said. “They wanted more and they came out today and took care of business and made sure they got the results they wanted.”

GIRLSThe Patriots set out to reach the podium before their season began, and they did just that by finishing runner-up in Division I with their team score of 125. Burlington, who held a 46 point lead entering the day, maintained that advantage to capture the state championship, finishing with 58 points.

Freshman Tanis White (18:17.4) paced all Patriots, just missing out on the podium with her fourth place finish. Her sister Eden (19:09.0) was the next MAU competitor to cross the finish line, grabbing eighth.

Tanis said she wanted to perform well for her teammates.

“I love the group of girls that I get to ski with,” she said. “I did not feel any personal pressure, just wanted to make them proud and really try my hardest to be a team player.”

Elyse Altland (11th, 19:27.3) and Roey Rella-Neill (13th, 19:45.6) rounded out the scorers for the Bennington school.

Emily Tibbetts (21:210.2) finished just outside the top-20, in 23rd, after getting back to the state around 11 p.m. Monday night from a vacation. Tibbetts, who also swam this winter, garnered the respect from her head coach after a strong day on the mountain.

“That was an impressive feat on her part,” Short said.

MAU clinched its second place finish by taking second in the team relay 35:46.1, about a minute and a half off the winning pace set by the state champion Burlington Seahorses (33:49.8).

The Patriots began the season hoping to place inside the top three. They accomplished that goal with a solid showing in second. Short believed MAU had the talent necessary to slot into that runner-up position all winter long.

“My personal goal, that they didn’t really know about, was second all year,” Short said. “But I let them steer their goals and they definitely did better than what they were hoping for. It’s definitely looking promising going forward.”

A championship parade will take place around the four corners of downtown Bennington Wednesday at 4 p.m. Community members are encouraged to come celebrate the team’s championship win.

Michael Mawson can be reached on Twitter @Mawson_Sports or via email at

Sports Reporter

Michael Mawson is the sports editor for Vermont News & Media. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Hampshire in 2019. Michael was the sports editor of UNH’s student newspaper where he covered NCAA Division I athletics.


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