This article was written by A senior Carson Beard who is on the Varsity Cross Country team and is in the Journalism class. This article was written to celebrate history, the success and hard work of the Cross Country Team winning New Englands.
On Nov. 13 2021 at 11:30 am, the U-32 Raiders lined up at Thetford Academy against 263 runners from the best teams across the five New England states.
As they do before every race, the Raiders completed a few warm up strides off the line, a 10 second run at start pace to get the legs warm.
Oliver Hanson led the Raiders out in the final stride off the start to warm up. As they jogged back, they met halfway with their coach, Andrew Tripp, and formed a huddle.
Most teams had already circled up, screaming chants, but the Raiders, one of the last teams in the starting field, kept their own tradition. After a few words from Andrew, they started their chant, saying only a single word in a low tone so no other teams or spectators could hear: “Send.”
The season’s goals started last spring, the weekend after track season ended. The team all piled into coach Andrew Tripp’s house to talk about the following year. They came to an agreement that they wanted to attempt something crazy: win New Englands.
Dreams came to reality on November 13th, as the U-32 Raiders scored the top spot at New Englands, becoming only the second Vermont team ever to win, after Essex in 1987.
It didn’t come easy. U-32 was the third favored team going into the race, with four other teams in the mix to win.
In cross country, the top 5 runners score for the team, but 7 could compete. The Varsity team consisted of members Oliver and Cyrus Hansen, Tzevi Schwartz, Sargent Burns, Wilder Brown, and Carson and Austin Beard.
Oliver Hansen is a senior and a captain of the team. “There was no room for error,” he said, “because we needed all five of our guys to have a good race to pull it off. “
The pressure to perform was felt by every member of the team. The start nerves were present: many described themselves shaking. Two days of rain had made the track slow and soggy. When the gun went off it was showtime, but the large number of runners and massive mud pit in front of the U-32 box made it difficult to get out in a good position, and all the boys found themself running slower than expected.
After the first mile, U-32 was losing. They knew they needed to make a move. Oliver Hansen decided to keep calm as he knew what the final miles would hold. Thetford is a classic VT course, with a massive hill that broke many out of state runners.
Sargent Burns went by the 3k mark and decided to make his move, passing 25+ runners in the last 2k.”I heard everyone calling my name,” he said, “and I think that’s when I kind of flipped it.”
The award ceremony at New Englands
In cross country results are not instant, which means the Raiders had to wait before results would be posted. Without a clear winner they tried not to get their hopes up, but the team knew their chance of winning was high after seeing they had their first 3 runners in before any other team.
When they heard they had won, the team was ecstatic. The captains and Coach Andrew Trip shed tears together. When they walked up to the awards, the cheers that U-32 received were louder than any other team.
The team placed 3rd at the Manhattan Invite on Oct…
The Raiders come from an impressive past, being six-time defending state champions and finishing 10th at New Englands in 2017. Oliver Hansen credits the past seniors for the team’s “culture of excellence”: “you’re with a group of people who all, for the most part, want to be great, and it’s our culture of training and working hard that came from all the previous classes.”
The Raiders season last fall was a step up from any other year. In the D2 state championships every single varsity runner finished before any other team. But Because of COVID, many of the big races like New Englands were cancelled and seniors Leo and Patrick Cioffi, Jacob Miller-Arsenault and Jed Kurts missed the opportunity to have a full season.
U-32 alums join to watch the team at New Englands
Coach Andrew Tripp never saw this coming when he started coaching ten years ago. He says he’s seen step-by-step progression each year, because “the guys see their peers, and build off them.”
This culture has been passed down the generations. When freshman runners join, they experience an environment to grow and be better.
“Our responsibility is to continue the tradition” Sarge says “and pass it on to the upcoming kids to continue our team’s excellence.”
Fist-bumps all around the team post race.
The culture of excellence is most evident in the way the team trains. Throughout the spring and summer, a normal team’s offseason, the U-32 team trains non-stop, putting in 50-70 mile weeks all summer to prepare. Training can be hard some days, but they’ve found ways to lighten it up. Basketball is a huge part of the team, as a way to take some training stress off and to bring everyone together.
Sarge says the team chooses to come back stronger each day:
“The really bad days, the rough workouts and the times when the team is down, individually you’re down on yourself, I think greatness is achieved during those moments”