The Girls' Track and Field team won the Division I State Championship for the fourth year in a row.
VT D-I Track & Field Championship: Wescott, Rotti Sisters Power Hilltoppers to Four-peat
By Paul Hayes, Sports Writer
BURLINGTON — Despite missing two key contributors, the St. Johnsbury girls soldiered on and won their fourth straight title at the Division I outdoor track and field championship at Burlington High School on Saturday.
With last year's leading scorers Katherine Cowan and Grace Cooke (five individual titles, 62 points in 2017) sidelined by injuries, St. J flexed its considerable depth, scoring 134 points to beat runner-up South Burlington by a 44-point margin.
"They're a great group of kids, they work hard," said SJA head coach Chip Langmaid. "Even without [Cowan and Cooke] they stepped right in and kept going."
Leading the Hilltoppers were senior Hannah Wescott, a three-event winner in pole vault, high jump and 100 hurdles, and juniors Jen and Lia Rotti, with Jen winning the 300 hurdles and Lia earning four second place finishes (long jump, triple jump, pole vault and javelin).
Together they scored 89 points, setting the tone for the Hilltoppers, who rose to the challenge.
"I've never gotten in the blocks so shaky before, I know we all felt the heat," Wescott said. "Coming in without [Cowan and Cooke], being unsure how we were going to do, there was so much pressure."
Added Lia Rotti, "We knew we were going to have a huge gap where [Cowan and Cooke] weren't going to score points. But we also had a lot of people we knew could step up. We put a lot of pressure on them and they worked really hard."
With just five individual wins — Zekiah Lewis in long jump, Wescott (three) and Jen Rotti — St. J relied on its considerable talent pool.
St. J athletes stepped up across the board, including sophomores Kayla Talbot (second, discus; sixth, shot put) and Hannah Davis (fifth, 100 hurdles) and juniors Riley Higgs (fourth, 400 meters) and Neva Bostic (fourth, javelin).
Said Wescott, "It shows our depth. You can't win a championship with one person. Today proves that."
Looking on, Cowan, with a cast on her right foot, and Cooke, a walking boot on her left foot, couldn't have been prouder.
"Seeing the strength of our team beyond just us two was great," said Cowan, who will compete for Division I University of Maine in the fall.
Added Cooke, "Katherine and I have played big roles, but today was amazing."
Both were instrumental in building the foundation for the Hilltoppers' four-title run. Last year Cooke was the long jump and 100 hurdles champ. Cowan leaves as the most decorated track athlete in Vermont history.
But it wasn't just the wins. They brought heart, too.
Following Saturday's meet coach Langmaid attempted to praise their impact and legacy, but he was overcome by emotion and simply wrapped them in his arms, leading to Cowan and Cooke being enveloped in a group hug by their girls' teammates.
"When I first started doing track, I wasn't expecting to be good, I was just going to do it for another sport," Cooke said, "Then Kat and I started the same season and we were like 'Oh, we're pretty good at this!' Then we won our first state championship, then our second state championship, and it continued and continued."
"Building this team has been unbelievable, because I never expected this amount of success for any of us. It's hard to wrap my head around how well everyone has done. It's pretty cool to have been here since the beginning."
Added Cowan, "I really think our love for track became contagious after the first two years and we kind of built a family. I don't think of it as a team, I think of it as a family."
BY THE NUMBERS: The St. J girls joined an elite club with their four-peat.
The only other D-I girls programs to win four straight are South Burlington (1977-1980), Rutland (1981-1984) and Essex (several times, most recently when they won six straight from 2005-2010).
Also, St. J won its eight straight girls track title, indoor and outdoor, and the Academy's sixth team sports title of this academic year, the others being football, boys alpine skiing, boys and girls indoor track, and girls basketball.
ST. J BOYS THIRD: In the boys meet, St. Johnsbury made it a three-way race, ultimately finishing third behind winners Essex and runners-up Mt. Mansfield.
"I don't think we could've been any better," said Langmaid. "We just really hit it. Unfortunately so did Essex and Mt. Mansfield."
Leading the St. J boys were event winners Alex Carlisle (triple jump), Asher Solnit (pole vault), and Dillon Ryan (discus). They also won the 4x800 relay.
The Hilltoppers also had runner-up finishes from Mat Roy (javelin), Lance Abella (high jump), Patrick Fogarty (1,500 meters), Riley Peterson (300 hurdles) and Ryan (shot put). Carlisle was third in long jump.
D-I State Championships
At Burlington H.S.
Team scores: 1. St. Johnsbury 134, 2. South Burlington 90; 3. Essex 89.5; 4. Champlain Valley 83.5; 5. Brattleboro 40; 6. Mount Mansfield 38; 7. Colchester 33; 8. North Country 27; 9. Burlington 18; 10. Mount Anthony 3; 11. BFA-St. Albans 2.
100-meter dash: 1. Cora Kakalec, SB 12.82; 2. Caroline Hill, CVU; 3. Maggie Lonardo, Bratt; 4. Macey Wissell, MMU; 5. Charlotte Hill, CVU; 6. Carly Hansen, MMU.
200: 1. Caroline Hill, CVU 26.79; 2. Cora Kakalec, SB; 3. Macey Wissell, MMU; 4. Morgan Whitney, Essex; 5. Lizzie Martell, Essex; 6. Tara Lowensohn, SB.
400: 1. Lizzie Martell, Essex 59.57; 2. Tara Lowensohn, SB; 3. Elizah Jacobs, CVU; 4. Riley Higgs, SJ; 5. Ella Larson, Essex; 6. Alexis Lefairvre, NC.
800: 1. Camille Bolduc, SB 2:23.55; 2. Alicia Tebeau-Sherry, Colc; 3. Rebecca Green, SJ; 4. Madison Druzba, SB; 5. Sarah Gallagher, Bratt; 6. Sadie Holmes, CVU.
1,500: 1. Delaney Bullock, Independent 4:56.55; 2. Alice Larson, CVU; 3. Ella Whitman, CVU; 4. Alicia Tebeau-Sherry, Colc; 5. Camille Bolduc, SB; 6. Jennifer Ireland, CVU.
3,000: 1. Ella Whitman, CVU 10:24.54; 2. Alice Larson, CVU; 3. Delaney Bullock, Independent; 4. Jennifer Ireland, CVU; 5. Savanah Tebeau-Sherry, Colc; 6. Claire Ellis, NC.
100 hurdles: 1. Hannah Wescott, SJ 16.33; 2. Nejla Hadzic, Essex; 3. Jen Rotti, SJ; 4. Ali Green, Essex; 5. Hannah Davis, SJ; 6. Maggie Desmond, Colc.
300 hurdles: 1. Jen Rotti, SJ 47.43; 2. Nejla Hadzic, Essex; 3. Hannah Wescott, SJ; 4. Perry Willett, MMU; 5. Leah Lambrecht, CVU. 6. Ali Green, Essex.
4x100: 1. Essex (Morin, Whitney, Hadzic, Moffatt) 50.33; 2. Brattleboro; 3. MMU; 4. CVU; 5. St. Johnsbury; 6. South Burlington.
4x400: 1. Essex (Whitney, Larson, Eddy, Martell) 4:10.35; 2. South Burlington; 3. CVU; 4. St. Johnsbury; 5. North Country; 6. MAU.
4x800: 1. BHS (M. Massey-Bierman, Q. Massey-Bierman, Barker, Vivanco) 10:00.33; 2. Colchester; 3. St. Johnsbury; 4. North Country; 5. South Burlington; 6. MMU.
High jump: 1. Hannah Wescott, SJ 5-2; 2. Hannah Neddo, Essex; 3. Marika Massey-Bierman, BHS; T4. Jordan Mattison, MAU and Teresa O'Leary, SB; 6. Leah Mason, SB.
Pole vault: 1. Hannah Wescott, SJ 9-6; 2. Lia Rotti, SJ; 3. Abby Carter, MMU; 5. Rebecca Moriarty, MMU; 5. Chloe Zinn, SB; T6. Hannah Neddo, Essex; Tali Giubardo, CVU.
Story and photo courtesy of Paul Hayes/Caledonian-Record.