ST. JOHNSBURY — In cross-country running, a team can only be as good as its weakest link.
That’s good news for St. Johnsbury.
Deep, experienced and fast, the Hilltoppers are primed to chase down their first boys cross country title since 1958.
“We have lots of talent,” said SJA coach Chip Langmaid, whose team finished fifth at state last year while earning a berth to the New England regional championship. “We have a lot of returning talent and some good additions. We’ve got to stay healthy, but we’ve looked really good in training and the top group is very focused.
“Our top five should be impressive and fun to watch as the season progresses. We’ll make a run at it.”
As will Hilltoppers junior Evan Thornton-Sherman, one of Vermont’s premier runners. Third at the state championship last fall, Thornton-Sherman has continued to mature physically and is hungry to reach the top.
One of his top challengers will be senior Brady Martisus of Essex, who was runner-up to teammate and state champion Henry Farrington (graduated).
“Evan’s stronger and he has another year of experience,” Langmaid said. “There will be expectations and pressure, but he should be the best runner in Vermont.”
Thornton-Sherman will be joined by a plethora of talented returnees and newcomers. Junior Hale Boyden, who ran with Harwood as a freshman and St. J last fall, finished 10th at the 2019 state meet. “He looks good; had a really strong summer,” Langmaid said of his No. 2 runner.
Braden Anthes, a junior newcomer from Virginia, slides into the No. 3 spot. “He’s worked hard this summer. He’s run a lot of miles,” Langmaid said. “He’s a fairly confident runner who has improved dramatically in his time trials.”
Senior Luke Chadderdon returns after finishing 22nd at state last season. Classmates Mason Davis, a former soccer player, and Gabe Hatch, the 600-meter indoor track champion, are both newcomers to the squad, but could become key fixtures.
Sophomore Nathan Lenzini ran to 31st place at last year’s state championship and will be in the mix with a few other Hilltoppers for a coveted top-seven spot.
Last year’s state champion, Champlain Valley, will be among the favorites. They return five runners that finished in the top 14 at the state meet.
“They are very good,” Langmaid said.
The Hilltoppers are scheduled to begin their COVID-19 altered season with a home dual meet against Craftsbury, slated for Sept. 30 and to be held at the Rankin Property. Langmaid said they plan to run in waves with the fastest runners first.
The state championship is scheduled for Oct. 31 at Thetford Academy.
ST. JOHNSBURY AT A GLANCE
Coach: Chip Langmaid; assistant coach: Rachel Slimovitch (first year)
Last year’s record: Placed fifth in D-I state championships, sixth overall to earn a berth in the New England Championships.
Graduation losses: MacKay Breton.
Returnees: Evan Thornton-Sherman, Jr., Hale Boyden, Jr., Luke Chadderdon, Sr., Nathan Lenzini, Soph., Dominik Gray, Jr., Colin Barney, Sr., Lukas Morris., Sr., Joe Scott, Soph., Ryoma Ikeda, Jr., Ben Morse, Jr.
Newcomers: Gabe Hatch, Sr., Braden Anthes, Jr., Mason Davis, Sr., Patrick Griffen, Jr., Eric Chen, Soph., Carson Eames, Fr., Nathaniel Bernier, Fr., Isaiah Rollins, Fr., Christian Admes, Fr., Gavin Maney, Fr., John Giddings, Fr., Clay Emerson, Fr., Sebastian Najri, Soph.