The boys' and girls' indoor track and field teams celebrate their VT Division I championship.
From the Caledonian-Record
Sweep-Peat! St. J’s Dominant Girls, Scrappy Boys Repeat as D-I Indoor Track & Field Champs
By Michael Beniash, Sports Editor
February 11, 2018
BURLINGTON — The girls had the might, the boys had to fight.
In the end, all went right for St. Johnsbury Academy, which swept the Division I indoor track and field team titles for the second consecutive winter on Saturday at University of Vermont.
The Hilltopper girls won 10 events, including all three relays en route to their fourth consecutive indoor crown — besting runner-up Essex by a whopping 126 points. Senior Katherine Cowan led the charge, her three individual wins helping St. J break its all-time scoring record with 230 points (229 in 2016) and putting the Hilltoppers in elite company (they join Rutland and Essex as programs with four straight titles).
“I can’t say enough about the girls team,” SJA coach Chip Langmaid said of his powerhouse squad that, including outdoor, has produced seven consecutive championships. “They are a spectacular group that works incredibly hard.”
The St. J boys, losing 18 seniors from last year’s team, scrapped and clawed their way to the narrowest of victories, edging Essex and Mount Mansfield — the three separated by just 2.5 points — for their second straight crown.
“The boys victory is special in a different way,” said Langmaid. “When you win scrapping for every point and everyone has to dig deep. … How many events did we not even score in?”
Cowan collected victories in the 55 hurdles (8.77 seconds), 55 dash (7.43) and 300 meters (43.56), raising her individual collection of track and field titles to 24. The University of Maine-bound standout also finished second in high jump and continued her undefeated four-year run.
“In a meet that counts in Vermont, we haven’t lost as team with Katherine there,” Langmaid said.
Rebecca Green (1,000), Hannah Wescott (pole vault), Lia Rotti (long jump) and Breanna Fearon (weight throw) added to the Hilltoppers’ individual title haul. St. J also took the top four spots in the 55 hurdles (Cowan, Wescott, Jen Rotti and Lilly Leach).
Green, a junior, was 3-for-3 on the afternoon after picking up victories in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays. She led wire-to-wire in the 1,000 meters (3:17.31) and let out an ear-to-ear smile upon crossing the finish line.
After recently returning to the track following a leg injury that hampered her during cross country season, her first individual state track triumph, indoors or outdoors, was especially gratifying.
I haven’t been able to run a lot since my stress fracture during cross country and it felt so good to be able to come back and run really hard again,” she said. “I am just really happy.”
Wescott, a senior, also made key contributions, winning pole vault, taking second in 55 hurdles, second in shot put and third in high jump.
Her third consecutive indoor pole vault title came in record-breaking fashion, as she cleared 10 feet to break her school record of 9-6. It’s a mark she’s be striving to reach for quite some time.
“I made it a goal during my sophomore outdoor season, I said I wanted to clear 10. But it’s been a long progression,” she said.
Not having the ability to practice pole vault during indoor season, and her attention to running workouts outdoors has slowed her progress in her marquee event.
“It was pretty exciting, accomplishing something you’ve been working for for a long time,” she said. “It’s kind of like a weight was lifted off.”
The Rotti sisters produced points as they always do — in abundance. Lia won the long jump (16-8.75), edging teammate Zekiah Lewis by a quarter-inch. She was also second in the 300, second in triple jump and was part of the victorious 4x200 team). Jen took third in the 600 and 55 hurdles and part of the champion 4x400 squad.
Lewis, meanwhile, was third in the triple jump, sixth in the 55 dash and helped the 4x200 team to victory.
Breanna Fearon claimed the victory in the weight throw (31-11) while teammate Bridget Webber took second. Senior Annie Cunningham finished her final indoor state meet with a pair of runner-ups in the 1,500 and 3,000, a win in the 4x400 and fifth place in pole vault.
“This team stacks up with any of the previous girls champions,” Langmaid said.
The Hilltoppers won just three events (Dillon Ryan, weight throw; Kristian Baird, 55 hurdles; 4x800 relay) and failed to score points in four events, but scratched and clawed into the lead late in the afternoon. With one event remaining, the 4x400 relay, the Hilltoppers had 100.50 points, Essex had 97 and MMU 94.
Essex and MMU ran in the second heat. The St. J squad of Baird and Bermuda boys Sajan Harvey, Malik Joell and Matteo Dill, went into the third heat knowing the circumstances.
“During the relay I lied a little,” confessed Langmaid. “I wanted them to have a little more pressure so I told them we were only up by two points.”
MMU finished with the fastest time and Essex was second. But the Hilltoppers’ third-place finish gave them enough points to hoist the hardware, their third since 2012.
Langmaid lauded Dill’s emerging presence as a team leader late in the season as an important component.
“Matteo asked to be in the 4x400 earlier in the week because the meet might be on the line,” Langmaid said. “Last year, he would have never asked to be on the 4x400 team.”
On Saturday, a lot of Hilltoppers made a difference.
Ryan won the weight throw with a heave of 54-5.5 and was third in shot put. Baird claimed his first title in the 55 hurdles (8.28). Dill was second in triple jump, fifth in long jump and sixth in the 300.
Lance Abella grabbed third in high jump, fourth in triple jump and sixth in shot put, while Joell was runner-up in the 600 and Sajan Havery second in the 1,000, and Orrin Olmstead (third) and Carter Barron (fourth) produced in pole vault.
“Scrappers, I can’t think of a better word for this group,” Langmaid said.
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