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Essex, Rutland athletes tapped as best of the month

VERMONT — An Essex High School track and field standout, a championship Rutland High golfer, and a teenage racecar driver were elected in statewide balloting of Vermont Sports Media Association members as Athletes of the Month for June.
VSMA members picked Essex High senior Katherine Furland as the Female High School Athlete of the Month, Rutland junior Drake Hull as the Male High School Athlete of the Month, and East Montpelier resident Emily Packard, 17, as the Open Division Athlete of the Month.
Each was first nominated by a VSMA member for his or her outstanding efforts in June. Local nominees were Otter Valley senior softball player Taylor Aines and Addison County American Legion baseball player Devin Hayes, a Vergennes resident.
Furland topped off a record-setting high school track-and-field career in June by winning two events (the high jump at 5’2” and 100-meter high hurdles in 15.56 seconds) and placing in two more events at the Division I state meet and then earning a seventh-place finish in the 100 hurdles at the New England Championship meet, qualifying for the final by running a personal best 15.41.
Two days after the New England meet, Furland won the girls’ high school division of the inaugural Vermont Women’s Decathlon at the University of Vermont while finishing second overall. Her 4,983 points gave her a 37-point margin of victory. On the way to her overall title, Furland won the 100 (13.30), 100 hurdles (16.17), high jump (5’ 3”) and long jump (15’ 6.25”). 
For her honor, Furland outpolled Aines and U-32 junior lacrosse player Maggie Lague. Aines earned her nomination for her efforts in helping the OV softball team win the D-II crown. She went 4-0 on the mound, including a two-hit shutout of Lake Region, a three-hit shutout at No. 4 Mount Abraham, and a two-hitter with no earned runs in the final vs. Vergennes. In the four games, Aines allowed 13 hits and five walks while fanning 31 batters in 28 innings with an ERA of 1.00.
At the plate during the playoffs, Aines went 10 for 17 with a double, a homer, six RBIs, 10 runs scored and two stolen bases and also walked twice. She led off the seventh inning of the final in a tie game with a single and scored the winning run.
Hull shot a 6-under 66 in June at The Country Club of Vermont to win medalist honors and lead Rutland to its second straight D-1 boys’ golf state title. He followed up that effort with a third-place finish at the Killington Junior Golf Championship at Green Mountain National, an event at which had the low final-round score of 4-under 67 for a 2-over total of 215.
Hull also won a sectional qualifying tournament in Trumbull, Conn., to earn a spot in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. He posted back-to-back 70s to finish the 36-hole event at 4-under par to win by two strokes. Hull just completed his junior year in high school, but has already earned a college golf scholarship at Kansas University.
 Also nominated for the award were two baseball players, Harwood senior Luke Russell and BFA-Fairfax sophomore Alex Chapman.
Packard, a rising senior at Union-32 High, posted three top-10 finishes in six starts in June while performing consistently in all her races, finishing in the top 16 in all her starts. Packard’s best finishes came later in the month, with a third-place finish on June 20 at Devil’s Bowl in West Haven, a sixth-place finish on June 15 at Devil’s Bowl in the Spring Green 114, and a fifth-place finish at Thunder Road on June 26.
After voting for the award had closed, Packard set two records at Devil’s Bowl in July: She became the youngest driver to win a NASCAR Whelan All-American Series event in the Late Model division at 17 years, six months and 10 days, and became the first woman to win in the division.
For her honor, Packard outpolled Hayes. Hayes, a former Vergennes Union High School standout and a member of the Castleton State College pitching staff, helped the AC team to a 6-3 record in June that included a 6-2 mark in the Northern Division.
Hayes batted .433 with a homer, two doubles, two triples, six runs and nine RBIs in June, slugging .600 and reaching base at a .528 rate. On the mound he went 1-0 with two no-decisions, compiling an ERA of 2.50 and striking out 22 while allowing four walks and 14 hits in 18 innings.
The three June winners will receive plaques from the VSMA’s sponsor of the organization’s Athlete of the Month program, Initial Ideas of Rutland.
More information about the VSMA is available from organization president Josh Kaufman of the St. Albans Messenger at [email protected]

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