7 Reasons to Celebrate this Fall and Winter

As fall turns into winter, here are a few reasons to celebrate now and some things to look forward to.

NATIONAL CHAMPS COME TO CRAFTSBURY

This winter, Vermonters will have the opportunity to toe the line with some of the top cross-country skiers in the country when the Craftsbury Outdoor Center hosts the U.S. Cross Country Ski National Championships in January. It’s the first time since 2012 that the Nationals have come to Vermont. Last year’s Nationals were in Anchorage, Alaska.

Running from Jan. 3 through 8, 2019, the event features an open mass start on Sunday, Jan. 6, with a 30K race for men and a 20K race for women. Both races will be loops, making for great spectating. Both events are open to anyone who wishes to register.

On Friday, Jan. 4, Olympians and U.S. Nordic Team members such as Ida Sargent of Barton (who grew up training at Craftsbury), will race in the classic sprint series. “Anyone can enter the time trial [for the sprints],” says Craftsbury Nordic Race Director Ollie Burruss.

“The top 30 in the men’s and women’s fields will qualify for an open heat to compete for several rounds of head-to-head racing for the national championship. The spread from first place through 30th is a difference of about 15 seconds, so it will be an action-packed afternoon,” said Burruss.

Skiers will be competing for SuperTour points, which contribute to their ranking and ability to qualify for a spot on the U.S. Team at the World Championships in Seefeld, Austria.

This year’s event will also feature sit ski races for para-athletes and will serve as a qualifying event for the Paralympics. Athletes will race in a staggered sprint format. “If you have any base-level knowledge of cross-country skiing and see someone race on a sit ski, you are just blown away by how strong you have to be to compete and by how tough they are,” said Burruss.

Other events include a 10/15K classic individual start, a classic sprint, a freestyle mass start and a freestyle sprint.  —Abagael Giles

RETURN OF THE STOWE DERBY?

For the last three years, one of the most iconic races in Vermont has been cancelled due to weather. This year, the Stowe Derby, which has historically drawn as many as 900 racers in classic, freestyle and now even fat bike divisions, is being moved up to January 13, with the traditional date of Feb. 24 as the “rain” date. “We’re crossing our fingers,” says Brooke Mitchell of the hosting Mount Mansfield Ski Club.

The Stowe Derby typically takes skiers from the top of the Mt. Mansfield Toll Road in Stowe, over roughly 20 kilometers and more than a 2,700 foot elevation drop down to the town of Stowe, on a combination of alpine and Nordic ski trails. Between 1945 and 2016 the race was only canceled twice; once due to lack of snow and once during the heat of World War II.

Then came 2016, one of the worst snow years on record. The following year, scouring winds and rain left the course with a surface like a luge-run. In 2018, lack of snow also made the course unsafe.

“This year, with the new date and the traditional date as a back-up we’re hoping we can make it happen,” Mitchell says. To get updates, visit mmsc-mmwa.org. —Lisa Lynn

NOVICE MARATHONER MAKES OLYMPIC TRIALS

For most runners, qualifying for the Olympic Trials is a long-term dream. For 28-year-old Meagan Boucher, it happened in her second marathon.

On October 21, the St. Johnsbury resident qualified for the 2020 Olympic marathon team trials after setting a women’s course record in the 30th annual Baystate Marathon in Lowell, Mass.

Meagan Boucher of St. Johnsbury winning her second marathon ever. Photo courtesy Baystate Marathon.

Boucher ran the course in 2:42:23.7, shattering the previous course record of 2:45:36. To earn a spot at the Olympic Trials, she had to finish with a time of 2:45:00 or less. Boucher beat her only other marathon time (the 2017 New York City Marathon) by 15 minutes.

Boucher, who grew up in Manchester, N.H., teaches geometry at St. Johnsbury Academy and is the assistant coach for the cross-country team. In her first year at the University of New Hampshire she earned a spot on the cross-country team as a walk-on and competed in middle distance events and steeplechase.

She became interested in running marathons after a running injury caused her to shift her focus to triathlon. “It really opened me up to the routine of training for two, three hours a day. But then I realized that what I really cared about in those races was the running leg,” said Boucher in October.

Her initial goal was to run a sub 2:50:00 marathon. “Then I asked my coach, Sam Davis, if I should just go for it. He was apprehensive at first, but then we had a conversation and he said I should,” said Boucher. Davis, a well-known coach from Burlington, helped her to develop a plan to pace herself such that by the halfway mark of the marathon she would be on pace to qualify for the Olympic Trials. “I didn’t think I’d beat it by two minutes,” said Boucher. “I was shocked by how I did.”

Boucher finished the race in 20th place overall. Burlington resident Scott Mindel, 32, was the overall winner with a time of 2:23:51.2.

The 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials for marathon will run on February 29, 2020 in Atlanta, Ga. Between now and then, Boucher says she plans to focus on her speed. “I may run the Boston Marathon this spring.” She says she’s excited to get back into training, but for now, is “really excited to be eating donuts and recovering.” Her favorite place to run near her home of four years is the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. —A.G

GERARDI PODIUMS

On Saturday, Oct. 13, Vermonter Hillary Gerardi became the first American to podium in the Overall category at the Migu Skyrunning World Series.

Gerardi, who is originally from Saint Johnsbury and now lives in Chamonix, France, took 16th place in the last race of this year’s series, the Limone Extreme SkyRace, a 29K footrace in Lombardy, Italy, on Oct. 13.

Gerardi was one of 927 runners from 37 countries who competed in the race. The runners tackled 2,500 meters of elevation gain, at times climbing hand over hand on third class terrain to complete the race.

The top overall ranking in the World Series is based on a runner’s top two finishes of the season in the Sky Classic and Sky Extra categories.

Gerardi took second place for the series in the Overall category, finishing the season with 390 points, just four points fewer than the world champion, Ragna Debats of Netherlands. Kilian Jornet was the Overall champion for the Men’s series.—A.G.

A NEW WORLD RECORD

On Oct. 20, at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center (UVAC) in White River Junction, 55-year-old Fritz Bedford broke the U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) national record for the 50-meter butterfly, with a time of 26.55 seconds. Bedford, of Hanover, N.H., and the New England Masters Swim Club,  also took down the masters’ world record for the 100m backstroke, which had previously been held by Steve Wood, with a time of 1:00:78.

Bedford  was a 19-time All-American swimmer at St. Lawrence University. After that, he coached swimming at the University of New Hampshire for three years before becoming an engineer. He currently holds seven national records and one world record for USMS age group events. —A.G.

At 55, Fritz Bedford is still setting world records. Photo courtesy Barbara Hummel
A TEAM ON FIRE?

On Oct. 18, the University of Vermont mountain biking team got some bad news. After traveling to Missoula, Mont., to compete in the 2018 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships, a group of student riders learned that a FedEx truck carrying 13 team bicycles had caught fire en route. Their bikes were mangled and melted.

Club President Sara Spencer made a call to Trek Bikes. According to velonews.com, her call was referred to Gary Whitebird in customer care. Whitebird had raced at the collegiate level as both an undergraduate and graduate student and rallied to have parts for eight bikes shipped to Open Road Bicycle and Nordic in Missoula, where staff assembled them at the last minute.

Mazie Hayden (front, with red bike) led the UVM Mountain Bike Team to a win. Photo courtesy UVM Cycling Club

Trek supplied the bikes for free and the UVM team was able to race, with the additional help of a few borrowed bikes from students at Fort Lewis College and University of Montana at Bozeman.

 

Mazie Hayden of Pittsfield, Vt., took first place in the Women’s Downhill Club and the Women’s Dual Slalom Club races. Team president Nicholas Lando of Ringwood, N.J., took second place in the Men’s Cross-Country Club category. U.S Nordic Team member Katharine Ogden of Landgrove, Vt., competing for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took third place in the Women’s Short Track Cross Country Club category.

The UVM Team returned the bikes to local retailers after the race, but Spencer said, “Even when the UVM team is in a pickle, we always stick together and work through a problem. It was a stressful time and we all came together to reach a solution… the other cycling teams and local community members really stepped up to let [us] borrow bikes. It just goes to show how great the cycling community is!” —A.G.

TOUGH SOCKS FOR A GOOD CAUSE

In June 2018, just months after  Kikkan Randall and Vermonter Jessie Diggins became the first American

Kikkan Randall’s “It’s Going to Be OK” socks by Darn Tough. Photo courtesy Kikkan Randall

women to win an Olympic medal (gold) in Nordic skiing, Randall announced that she had stage 2 breast cancer.

 

Randall, a 35-year-old mom from Alaska has vowed to stay active throughout her treatment. “Maintaining a

healthy and active lifestyle will not only help me get through this but keep me stronger during the battle,” writes Randall on her website, kikkan.com.

On Oct. 26, Northfield, Vt.’s Darn Tough announced a partnership with Randall to produce a specially-designed pair of micro crew ultra-light cushion socks emblazoned with the slogan “It’s going to be OK,” designed by Randall’s brother Tanner Randall and June Shen-Epstein of Darn Tough. Two dollars from every pair of socks sold will go to AKTIV Against Cancer. You can purchase socks at kikkan.com. —A.G.

Featured Photo Caption: Super Tour Finals Women’s 10K 2018. Photo © Reese Brown