Page leads MAU boys; Patriot girls take first
BENNINGTON — On his first pass over the big hill next to the Willow Park pavilion, Mount Anthony's Evan Page had a pair of Stratton Mountain School racers on his shoulder, looking to pounce if the senior stumbled.
On the next pass heading toward the finish, Page was stoic as ever and the bright green SMS jerseys were nowhere to be found.
"There was a lot of encouragement from everyone," Page said. "There's a part of the course where [the SMS runners] were right behind me and then you go down and back up another hill. Most people want to use that hill to rest and I had my dad right there [cheering me on], so I flew down that hill to extend the lead."
Page won the race in 17 minutes, 31 seconds, a half-minute better than his closest competitor.
"I think Evan had it in his head, he wasn't taking any prisoners here today, he was going to win this race," said Mount Anthony coach Jim Dulin. "Coming up the hills, he kept putting distance on the SMS guys. As a coach, when those [others] are close, it can be a worry, but he just kept them behind him."
Page's time was about 15 seconds off the Willow Park course record, set by Marc Brandmeyer.
"Most people forget about the other hill on the other side of the trees," Page said. "There's a nice downhill, you relax and then turn the corner and there's another hill, just as big."
Anthony Mazzola was second for the Patriots and sixth overall in a time of 19:48, with Noah Payne third in 19:55. The boys finished the scoring with a ninth place finish from Cooper Mason and a 10th place run by Asa Burrows-Crane.
"Our team had really good grouping and stuck together at the beginning," Mazzola said. "It's always good to see familiar uniforms, to see your team next to you. It's a different mentality."
Mazzola said he and Payne talked before going up the myriad hills.
"We knew we had to push it to get the best finish we could," Mazzola said. "We even talked to the SMS guys a little bit, they were funny. We bond over how hard [this sport] is. There's still rivalries in cross-country, but it's more individual."
Dulin said he was pleased with the boys' performance.
"They went out and took nine of the 10 ribbons [only the Marble Valley League teams count for individual accolades]," Dulin said. "They had a goal today and they achieved it."
As a team, Stratton Mountain also had five runners in the top 10, including second through fifth overall. They scored 22 points as a team, followed closely by the Patriots' 31. Burr and Burton was third as a team with 90 points.
On the girls side, Mount Anthony and Burr and Burton both had a handful of top 10 runs, including Sarah Umphlett second and Maggie Payne in third, but it was the finish from Savannah Robson in 13th, the fifth overall scorer for MAU, that propelled the Patriots to a 23-33 victory over the Bulldogs.
Natalie Jelley was fifth overall, followed by Lauren Johnson in eighth and Robson in 13th. Chayla Greenslet and Sophia Kipp were back-to-back in 14th and 15th and the spread between 13th and 15th was only 10 seconds.
"The last three girls [in scoring] did really well today, they clinched it for us," Payne said.
"Lauren had a great race and Savannah helped clinch it," Dulin said. "That last part of the race was hard-fought. I told the front girls they needed to congratulate the others because they did it for us. It was the back of the pack that won it."
After Stratton's Ana Lehmann crossed the line in 20 minutes, 24 seconds, Umphlett was next, 34 seconds behind in 20:58. Payne had a strong race as well, completing the course in 21:40.
Near-perfect weather conditions — about 65 degrees and cloudy skies — made for good times from all the runners.
"The weather was a lot different than last year," Umphlett said. "It has been hot for the past two years, and yeah, the humidity was up there a little bit, but it makes it easier trying to breathe during the race."
Payne said while she's competitive, she stays within herself, not going too fast or slow.
"I'm try to keep my position and not kill myself because it's a team thing and I'm looking for the best score," Payne said.
Burr and Burton's Emma Tschaikowsky was the top Bulldog finisher in sixth with a time of 23:05, but they had a strong grouping, with Maggie Brown seventh in 23:19. Olivia Day was ninth, Brennan Harris and Sophia Granger was 11th to round out the scoring.
The Patriots look to have another strong race next week, when they host a second Marble Valley League event at Willow Park on Tuesday.
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