Athletic News

SJA's Alex Lawson Wins Freestyle Title

Senior Alexandra Lawson won the Vermont Division I 5K freestyle title.

From the Caledonian-Record
Paul Hayes, Sports Writer; Photo credit Paul Hayes
Feb 28, 2017

CRAFTSBURY — The Northeast Kingdom ruled on the second day of the Vermont state Nordic championships at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on Monday.

Taking home Division I crowns were the North Country girls — winners of the 10K freestyle relay and a second straight team championship — and St. Johnsbury senior Alexandra Lawson who won the girls 5K freestyle.

Both won in a dominant fashion.

The North Country foursome of Callie Young, Loren Searles, Ani Koontz Miller and Avery Ellis finished the freestyle relay in a time of 31 minutes, 29.8 seconds — beating runners-up Mt. Mansfield by a full one minute and 44.8 seconds.

"It's very rewarding," said NCU senior Avery Ellis, who anchored both relay teams and also won the 5K classic title.

"The kids wanted it," said NCU coach Mike Kiser, who guided the Falcons to three state titles (boys in 1999 and 2000 and girls in 2003) and resumed coaching this season after nine years away. "We knew we had a team that could do it again, it was my job to stay out of the way."

Meanwhile Lawson ended her high school career with a flourish.

In her final race as a Hilltopper, Lawson left nothing to chance, setting out at a breakneck pace and never letting up, winning the 5K freestyle in a time of 14 minutes, 7.7 seconds — a 46.5 second margin ahead of the runner-up, friend and training partner Young.

"I really wanted to win today. I had Callie starting right behind me, which was a little scary and intimidating, but it definitely made me go out pretty hard at the start and I think it went really well," Lawson said. "I just went hard the whole time. I really didn't want Callie catching me."

Young gave it her best shot, but quickly knew it would not be her day. She finished as runner-up.

"I knew Alex was starting ahead of me, so I knew I was going to have to go really hard to try and beat her," said Young. "My dad gave me a split at the top of the first hill and I was actually five seconds ahead of [Lawson] at that point, and I knew as soon as he gave me that split that I went out too hard."

"I just had to try and hold on. I had to keep pushing and try to finish."

Lawson said she was "definitely" fueled by her runner-up finish to Ellis in the 5K classic on Friday.

"[Lawson was] very hungry," said SJA coach Tim Viles. "I asked her at the beginning of the race if she was ready for a little payback today and she sort of nodded enthusiastically."

For Lawson and Ellis, the state Nordic championships was a reward for years of hard work, with both winning their first individual titles. Next year they will compete side by side for Middlebury College.

Said Viles about Lawson, "I like that she is going into her college career hungry and happy to be skiing."

Added Kiser about Ellis, "She's special ... it's always gratifying to see a senior who's worked hard for four years to have that kind of success."

Meanwhile Young will return for one more season. Last year she was the champion in classic and freestyle. This year she was runner-up in both. Looking ahead she'd like to return to the top of the podium.

"With Alex and Avery gone, I'd like to be state champ I guess," Young said. "But you never know who's going to come up and be a super fast, hot shot freshman."

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