By LAUREN READ
Nothing the Champlain Valley Union girls cross country team had accomplished this season could prepare them for the end of the Nike Cross Northeast Regionals on Saturday in Wappinger Falls, N.Y.
State championships and record point totals meant nothing as CVU tried to book a spot in the Nike Cross national championships with a top-two finish.
“I wasn’t nervous before the race. I wasn’t nervous during the race,” said CVU coach Scott Bliss. “I was nervous after because you just don’t know.”
Sitting in third place at the two-mile mark of the qualifier, the Redhawks poured it on in the second half of the race but could only sit and wait for the final scores to see if they had done enough to earn a top-two spot.
“It was a few people between us and their (North Allegheny’s) kids,” Bliss said. “All season long, we have run the second half of our races well.”
Then the announcement – the Redhawks had pulled it off. Their strong second half pushed them past North Allegheny, Pa. for second place and a spot in the national championships.
“Scream and jump around, that’s exactly what happened,” Bliss said of his team’s reaction. “Then you had perma-grin for an hour after that, they were pretty much floating.”
CVU last qualified for the nationals in back-to-back years, 2010 and 2011.
North Hunterdon, N.J. was first overall with 70 points, CVU followed in second with 117 points, just ahead of North Allegheny’s 128 points.
“I knew we ran the second half of the race really well,” Bliss said. “We may have run the second half of the race as well as we ever have.”
Alice Larson paced the Redhawks with an eighth place finish, coming in 19:00.8. Ella Whitman followed in 17th place (19:31.8) and Chloe Silverman came in 39th (20:14.8).
“Alice and Ella are finishing with a low a number is huge for us,” Bliss said. “Chloe Silverman ran a phenomenal race for third, she was not fully healthy so for her to do what she did was really big.”
Catherine Noel (43rd) and Alicia Veronneau (48th) also earned points for CVU, while Sadie Holmes (66th) and Jasmine Nails (71st) wrapped it up.
“I’m kind of a broken record but it really was all of them,” Bliss said. “It took all of them moving up for us to do what we did.”
CVU now sets its sights on the national championships in Portland, Ore. The Redhawks’ race is Saturday.
“It’s a pretty awesome experience they are going to get to take part in,” Bliss said. “We want to go out there, do well and enjoy the experience.”
Caleb Nye was top finisher on the CVU boys team, coming in 172nd place. Jared Leonard followed in 188th; Parker Soares (193rd), Skyler Heininger (213th) and Jamie Williamson (255th) rounded out the boys finishers for the Redhawks.