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Top Ten 2023: We boast champions all around

THE FRONT PAGE of the Addison Independent sports section on June 1, 2023

The Independent Sports section believes everyone’s efforts count. Sure, when scores are logged, times are kept, distances are measured, or performances are judged, winners are named. And here we’ll celebrate our most successful athletes. 

But not without saying that all our local athletes’ contributions mattered, regardless of the outcomes. Sports are about doing one’s best and having fun in the process. No one asks or expects more. 

One example: One of the most dramatic moments the Independent saw in 2023 was a duel for fifth place in a midseason cross-country race between Grey Fearon of Vergennes and a Burr & Burton runner. Both had determination and pain etched on their faces. Fearon earned the higher place by a tiny fraction of a second despite his competitor’s desperate dive across the finish line. 

Moments like that are as much why we watch and appreciate sports as any trophy hoisted. 

But, for the record, whose 2023 efforts did pay off with hardware?

• Coach Katharine DeLorenzo’s undefeated Middlebury College field hockey team claimed both the NESCAC and NCAA Division III crowns — for the sixth straight season since 2017 (there were no games in the COVID year of 2020). Junior midfielder Amy Griffin was named the NCAA D-III player of the year. 

• Coach Kate Livesay’s Panther women’s lacrosse team claimed the NESCAC and NCAA D-III titles. The NCAA title was the program’s third straight after the Panthers didn’t compete in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic. Livesay now has four NCAA and four NESCAC titles in her six active coaching years at Middlebury.

• First-year Middlebury College football coach Doug Mandigo led his team to an 8-1 record, good for a first-place tie with Trinity. Middlebury won at Trinity during the season, but NESCAC does not use tiebreakers in football.  

• Three local high school wrestlers won state titles. Eli Brace, a VUHS senior, earned the 132-pound championship, hit 100 wins in the semifinal round, and was named the state meet’s Outstanding Wrestler. Eagle senior Devan Hemingway claimed his second straight 120-pound title, and Tiger senior Nick Sheldrick powered his way to the 285-pound crown.

• The MUHS Nordic ski teams blew away the competition at the two-day state meet. Lia Robinson, Ava Schneider, Mary Harrington and Beth McIntosh scored all the points for the Tiger girls and the scorers for the boys were Eliot Schneider, Trey Bosworth and  Baxter Harrington on both days, and Matias Citarelli and Haakon Olsen on one day apiece.

• In indoor track last winter, Commodore Calvin Gramling won the D-II boys’ 1,000-meter race. 

• In D-III outdoor track in the spring Commodore Calder Rakowski won the boys’ 800-meter race and also ran on the Commodores’ winning four-by-800-meter relay team with Gramling, Fearon and Riley Gagnon.

• In D-II, outdoor track Tiger Jazmyn Hurley was the story, winning both the girls’ 200- and 400-meter state meet titles. 

• The Mount Abraham softball steamrolled its way through the D-II tournament, defeating No. 5 seed MUHS in the final, 12-2. It was the program’s fourth title since 2017. 

• Vergennes Champ and Middlebury Marlin swimmers fared well at the state meet in White River Junction, Champ swimmer Will Clark won four boys’ 14-and-under races, while Noah Smits (14U) and Carlyn Rapoport (19U) earned two wins apiece. For the Marlins, 18U boys’ swimmer Aidan Chance and 12U boys’ swimmer Constantin Bellman each won one state title.  

• Middlebury College senior and Middlebury Fire Department volunteer firefighter Emily Jones did one thing none of these other athletes accomplished: set a Guinness world record. 

On a cool, sunny Saturday in front of about 120 onlookers, Jones ran a mile wearing 60 pounds of full firefighter gear, breathing through a respirator, in eight minutes and 25 seconds, a full 2:35 faster than the previous record.

Afterward Jones figured her time might be tough to beat. 

“I think people are going to have to work pretty hard for it,” she said. “I would love to see someone break it so I would have an excuse to come out here and do all this again. It was really fun.”

And there you have it.

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