Last Saturday was Championship Saturday for the Bellows Falls Terriers’ field hockey and girls’ cross country teams. It’s a date both these teams circle on their calendars every year. Shortly before everyone turns the clocks back, they compete and contend and usually win their competition that day.
In a year when most people wondered if there would even be a champion crowned, both teams arrived, competed, conquered, and arrived home to a parade salute.
Bethany Coursen’s field hockey team moved up to Division I three seasons ago and the “Little Engine That Could” has appeared in the title game every year since. This year’s stickers made it two titles in three years with a 2-0 victory over Champlain Valley Union at Burr & Burtons Turf Field.
Word coming out of Manchester at halftime on Saturday said the Terriers had been outplayed in the first half. CVU had outshot them and Goliath was likely to triumph. When the Terriers elevated themselves to Division I a few years back, it was a gamble, but David has shot the slingshot well. For those who may be wondering, CVU is listed with 1,308 students in the most recent copy of the Vermont Education Directory, while Bellows Falls has just 331. How do the Terriers make it work?
“I have amazing athletes who are willing to work. We know they have more to choose from, but we work to our potential. I don’t know what other people were thinking at the half, but the girls felt they were better conditioned. They brought that up. We also talked about what we had to do and we did it,” said Coursen, looking back at the contest.
Grace Bazin was the only one of the Bellows Falls’ three captains to not have been in uniform for a previous state title experience, and she tallied both of the game’s goals. Bazin attended Vermont Academy her first two years of high school and enjoyed her own championship experience. “They don’t offer field hockey,” Bazin said, “so I played soccer. We won the NEPSC Championship and I enjoyed playing, but, I played field hockey from third grade through eighth grade and I missed it. So I came to school here this year.”
Maya Waryas was the leading scorer on the team for the past two years and one of the captains. She didn’t like how the game played out in the first half and was determined not to lose. When asked what she was thinking at intermission, she said, “CVU showed they wanted it more in the first half. At the half we talked about how we needed to come out and bring that fire. Our town cares about sports and us, and we needed to pick it up.”
Grace Wilkinson is the third captain and mentioned, “Ever since I was a little girl, I had waited to play on this team. There has been a lot of winning while I was growing up, and now it’s our turn. Last year, we lost the state game, but we had a really great year, and no one expected us to even be in the state game and now we have proven we can be a comeback team. This game was one of the best moments of my life.”
The cross country team made it three state titles in a row. Coach Josh Ferenc pointed out that no one should be surprised about either team winning. “It’s easy to figure out how both teams win. It matters how you perform today, but it all circles back to the youth programs. Both cross country and field hockey has athletes starting at a young age, and they have been involved for a number of years before they get to high school.”
Ferenc is just like those athletes. He has been waiting in the wings for years and now is in his first year as the cross country varsity coach. Ferenc has taught and coached at the middle school for years and has sought out and groomed numerous cross country and track performers. The numbers in those sports have been high most years, and Ferenc has piqued their interest.
This fall, Bellows Falls did not have a great deal of cross country success during the regular season. “We lost all our dual meets, except one, and on that day Thetford was without their number two runner. How anyone looked at our team depended on your perspective. Most people looked at us as the underdog today, but everybody was given a role today, and everyone did their job on state day whether they scored for us or not,” Ferenc said.
Bellows Falls’ tally of 27 points was six in front of Thetford’s 33. No one else was in the running. The two were followed by Northfield 78, Rice 89, Otter Valley 109, Lake Region 120, Danville 121, and Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax 124. For the third year in a row, junior Abby Broadley captured the individual state title in Division III. Ferenc said, “Abby wasn’t challenged all year long. She just missed her PR today and won easily.” The Terriers placed seven runners in the first 26 Division III runners. Behind Broadley were Stephanie Ager (4th), Victoria Bassette (5th), Birgess Schemm (17th), Molly Hodsden (23rd), Lilly Ware (24th), and Abby Dearborn (26th).
Will either team be strong next year? Well, field hockey only loses one senior and cross country returns three runners, who just happened to place in the top five, and a promising freshman who ran well in the state meet.