The Champlain Valley Union girls cross-country team needed a standout performance in order to capture a historic ninth straight Division I state championship.
Freshman Alice Larson came up with the performance that the Redhawks needed, finishing in fourth place during Saturday’s state meet to lead the team to the trophy.
“This one is historical,” said CVU coach Scott Bliss. “No one has ever won more than eight in a row. Because of all the different things that we have dealt with, this one means more.”
Jennifer Ireland followed up Larson’s finish by crossing the line in fifth. Chloe Andrae finished in 10th place, Ella Whitman was 16th and Cate Noel wrapped it up for the Redhawks in 17th place.
“Our normal No. 1 girl was was No. 4 at the state meet and our normal No. 5 really picked us up,” Bliss said. “We preach that we need all seven girls.
“There is a culture, a culture of we don’t do it for the individual, we do it for the group. They are willing to give a little bit more.”
The performance of the CVU harriers was just enough to help them top second-place Burlington. The Redhawks had 44 points, coming in just three points ahead of the Seahorses.
The ninth state title seemed like a sure thing at the start of the season, when CVU was supposed to return five of its runners from last season. But injuries cost the Redhawks two of its top runners (another decided not to return) and CVU was forced to rely on its depth.
Andrae’s return a few weeks ago helped boost the chances for CVU on Saturday.
“That’s why we travel as much as we do,” Bliss said. “We put them in situations that are challenging to prepare them for when they might be in that situation in the state meet.”
The depth and the top performances helped carry the Redhawks’ historic win – no cross-country team, boys or girls, has won more than eight titles in a row – something that the runners did not even know they were running for.
“No one knew but me, not even my assistants knew,” Bliss said. “I didn’t want anyone thinking about it. It’s hard enough when you are expected to win every time you step on the line.”