Bellows Falls- Last year, Twin Valley’s track team lacked numbers. But in his years of coaching track and field, Buddy Hayford says it’s often not a matter of quantity, but quality. This year he has both. With a formidable team of newcomers and veterans alike, Hayford believes both his boys’ and girls’ teams will find themselves in state competitions, if they find their niche and work hard.
With a roster of 19, Twin Valley’s largest track and field squad ever, first-time participants are in the process of feeling out which events are right for them, with Hayford’s encouragement and guidance, and returning team members have a chance to lead. Conall Sullivan, Jared Lambert, Jacob Hicks, and Evan Therrien all return for the boys’ team, while Alex Kennedy, Cassie Bratton, and Jade Waters return for the girls.
During their first meet at Bellows Falls on Monday, Hayford said it was a matter of getting comfortable for his team, adjusting to their numbers and experience. “At the first meet we had people trying things out for the first time,” said Hayford. “Some kids wanted to be a fly on the wall, watch the events, and see how it all works.”
Among those trying new competitions was Tony Tarr, who was given a tutorial by his teammates Nick Nilsen and Morrow Bernard before trying the high jump. Tarr is part of a group of runners who make up the Twin Valley 4x100-meter relay team, which Hayford says may be the school’s best chance at winning a state championship. The relay team was the only first place awarded to Twin Valley on Monday, as Eli Park, Tarr, Oscar Smith, and Nilsen cruised to victory. While the girls came in sixth in the same relay, Hayford says they have the potential to compete at the state level as well.
Smith, who finished second in the boys’ 100-meter run, and sixth in 300-meter hurdles, is one of the team’s speedsters, along with Sullivan, who runs middle distances, Therrien, who is coming off an ankle injury that ended his soccer season early, and Nilsen and Park, who in their first year looked solid on the short distance. Morrow Bernard came in third in the 1500-meter, showing the team has a durable long-distance runner as well. Bernard is also competing in the high jump.
Other runners on the boys’ team include Juan Carlos Carranza, who Hayford says will do well in relays and middle distance, Andrew Lange, a freshman who runs the 200-meter and middle distances, and Jared Lambert, who runs the 100.
Lambert provides the team with a formidable hurler in shot-put, discus, and javelin as well. “In our division, I have high hopes he can do well and he can make some noise. He’s a senior, he’s a big kid, and he’ll be right up there with the top five,” said Hayford.
Jade Waters and Bratton finished fourth and sixth respectively in the long jump competition, to bring Twin Valley’s girls’ points to 10 in their first meet. Bratton will also be a hurdler on the 300-meter, while Maya Holschuh and Mandolin Lucier will compete in short-distance races. Newcomer Christiana Strysko runs the 1500 long-distance, and plans on the 3000 as well. Waters will also be taking on middle- to long-distance races, along with senior Alex Kennedy, who will also see time on the relay team, and Morgan Morrow. The only member of the girls’ squad playing in field competitions so far is Kira Courchesne, who throws discus, along with jumping hurdles and running the relay.
Hayford would like to see his plethora of athletes in even more competitions, including the boys’ 4x400 relay, which would showcase their long-distance and speed abilities. “We need to focus our efforts on where our strengths lie to get kids qualified for states,” said Hayford, “and for me, it’s a matter of figuring out what our events will look like in state events so we can finish in the top three to five.”