Photos added drama to tales of fall sports season

ADDISON COUNTY — There is, of course, the adage that a picture is worth 1,000 words. 

Technically speaking, most of the Independent’s photos might be worth closer to 600 or 700 words, at least in our sports section — that’s roughly how much language it would take to fill the same space typically taken up by one of our man Steve James’s indispensable shots.

Graphics can be essential to telling stories, for a number of reasons. Action draws readers in. Photos show effort, athleticism and emotion in a more direct and visceral way.

During the course of the high school season, I collected my favorites of Steve’s work. For sure, they all demonstrate graphic quality, but they also resonated in other ways.

Some just showed the beauty of a moment — an acrobatic save, for example. Others display something about the essence of a sport — how did that runner gain those 19 yards? Some shots just showed the best athletes in top form, or simply high drama. 

All, to me, show the drama and joy of sport. Some, in fact most, told larger tales about the season. 

Here are a collection of images from this just-completed fall sports season, during which we covered teams from Middlebury, Vergennes, Mount Abraham and Otter Valley union high schools. We hope this takes you on a little trip from the end of August through just after Halloween.


Middlebury Union cross-country runners Mary Harrington and Beth McIntosh finished second and fourth, respectively, in Division II championship meet this fall.  At a home meet in September, the program’s first in many years, McIntosh held onto the lead over Harrington as they emerged from the woods, wreathed in green and bathed in a gentle light; see photo on left. Steve captured both the effort and the aesthetics of cross country here.

BETH MCINTOSH, FRONT, and Mary Harrington, on her heels, finished first and second, respectively, for the Tiger girls in their home meet on Sept. 22, which was held at Middlebury Union Middle School. Both later finished in the top four in Division II.
Independent file photo/Steve James

MUHS senior boys’ soccer player Eddie Fallis established himself as the best player on the county’s best team this fall, scoring at a high rate and assisting teammates at almost the same pace. Already a solid contributor during the past two seasons, he used his speed, athleticism, skills and savvy to come into his own this fall. If not for a controversial non-call in a D-II semifinal, he might well have led the Tigers to the program’s first title. 

TIGER STRIKER EDDIE Fallis hurdles over at attempted tackle by Eagle midfielder Noah Ladeau during an October game at MUHS, won by the host Tigers. Fallis, as usual, had a goal and an assist: He finished with 27 goals and 23 assists this season.
Independent file photo/Steve James

The local field hockey teams did not enjoy a banner season, although Otter Valley did have a .500 record and took a No. 3 seed to overtime in a D-II quarterfinal. The biggest highlight for Mount Abraham was its 1-0 first-round playoff win over Brattleboro. The Eagles dominated most of the action and got the only goal they needed from junior Hailee Allen, seen here in the photo netting the game-winner. 

EAGLE JUNIOR HAILEE Allen flicked home the goal that proved to be the game-winner during the Mount Abe field hockey team’s home playoff win over Brattleboro on Oct. 24. A slick pass from senior center mid Morgan Barnard set up the score.
Independent file photo/Steve James

Vergennes junior Grey Fearon emerged this fall as a top cross-country runner, finishing 17th in the Division II championship race in Thetford, just three seconds behind the top MUHS runner, Baxter Harrington, in 16th. Fearon’s determination, emblematic of many cross-country runners, could be seen in his successful duel to the finish line with a Burr & Burton runner at September meet at Middlebury Union Middle School hosted by the Tiger varsity. 

VUHS JUNIOR GREY Fearon, right, gave his all at the finish to edge Burr & Burton’s Caleb Fitzpatrick for fifth place by two-hundredths of a second in the boys’ race at a cross-country meet hosted by MUHS on Sept. 22. Both were exhausted by the effort — Fitzpatrick’s teammates had to help him to his feet after he dove across the finish line.
Independent file photo/Steve James

It might look like MUHS boys’ soccer goalie Jonathan Kafumbe is hanging from the back of the net, but in fact he is flying through the air after just punching the ball wide for a save against Rutland in the Tigers’ season opener. Kafumbe, a sophomore first-year starter, improved steadily this fall and became a second-team Lake Division all-star with plays like this.

TIGER SOPHOMORE GOALIE Jonathan Kafumbe flies through the air to make a save on a Rutland shot during the Tigers’ home game on Sept. 2.
Independent file photo/Steve James

It’s great when running backs gain yardage after they’re hit. It’s even better when their blockers clear a path for them — that’s the way plays are drawn up. And rarely did a blocker do his job better than Tiger senior Gavin McNulty did on this key play against Hartford on Oct. 6. On third-and-long late in the first half, McNulty pancaked not one but two Hurricanes to allow QB Jacob Kemp to pick up 19 yards and a first down on a scoring drive. McNulty was a solid contributor all season carrying the ball, catching the ball, blocking and tackling. 

TIGER QB JACOB Kemp gains key yards late in the first half of an Oct. 6 game against Hartford behind a big block from back Gavin McNulty (#20).
Independent file photo/Steve James

This photo below has it all. Vergennes goalie Quincy Sabick is making an athletic dive to knock away a dangerous cross. Commodore backs Siobhan Potter and Alaina LeBeau are on the scene, but are still concerned about the outcome of the play. Meanwhile, the author of the threat, Tiger forward Jazmyn Hurley, is still hopeful as she checks out the results of her effort. 

COMMODORE GOALIE QUINCY Sabick dives to knock away a cross sent in by Tiger wing Jazmyn Hurley, in the background, during a Sept. 23 game in Vergennes. VUHS center backs Siobhan Potter, left, and Alaina LeBeau race in to defend.
Independent file photo/Steve James

The Middlebury girls’ volleyball team was a great story this fall. In its first year as a varsity program, the squad earned a top-four seed in the post-season playoffs, claimed a first-round home playoff victory, and finished with 13 wins. Efforts like this diving save by senior captain Sienna Rubright in the Tigers’ quarterfinal setback were typical of the squad, as was teamwork and strong chemistry. 

TIGER SENIOR CAPTAIN Sienna Rubright dives to keep a point alive during the Tigers’ home volleyball quarterfinal on Oct. 26 vs. St. Albans.
Independent file photo/Steve James

Junior Oliver Choudhury was probably the main midfield engine of the Tiger boys’ soccer team, and this photo gives a glimpse why. A good defender, he had broken up a Lake Region threat in the Tigers’ quarterfinal win. Choudhury is also athletic enough to hurdle a tackle attempt, and heady enough at the same time to be looking up field to consider his next move.

HAVING JUST WON the ball in the MUHS defensive end, Tiger junior midfielder Oliver Choudhury hurdles a tackle attempt by Lake Region’s Liam Oliver during the Tiger boys’ 4-0 D-II quarterfinal triumph on Oct 28.
Independent file photo/Steve James

Sometimes a picture tells a story. 

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