Perkins wins titanium in national dance competition

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Kendra Perkins is wearing the medal she won in Sheer Talent national competition in Las Vegas in July.  Behind her are some of her dance photos and trophies.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Kendra Perkins is wearing the medal she won in Sheer Talent national competition in Las Vegas in July. Behind her are some of her dance photos and trophies. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle August 6, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

DERBY — At age 19, Kendra Perkins was no stranger to national dance competition. She had been there four times before.

July 7 to 12 was her fifth time at the Sheer Talent competition, and she came home from Las Vegas with a titanium medal. Her score was 298 out of a possible 300 points from three judges.

“I came off the stage and I was bawling,” she said. She thought she had done badly. A perfectionist, she often reviews videos of herself dancing to try to improve. It turns out she did pretty well, even though she wasn’t satisfied herself.

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In boys baseball: Falcons finish season with best record since 2007

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The Rice Memorial Green Knights displayed their aggressive base running all day as this spectacular collision with Falcon catcher Andrew Gonyaw (left) shows.  Coming in to score is Green Knight Tommy Fitzgerald, who recorded seven stolen bases on the day as teammate Timmy Shea (number 11) looks on. Photos by Richard Creaser

The Rice Memorial Green Knights displayed their aggressive base running all day as this spectacular collision with Falcon catcher Andrew Gonyaw (left) shows. Coming in to score is Green Knight Tommy Fitzgerald, who recorded seven stolen bases on the day as teammate Timmy Shea (number 11) looks on.  Photos by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle June 4, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — While the Falcons were unable to match a 20-year-old record, they did equal their best record since 2007, finishing the season at 8-8 on Saturday. Had the North Country baseball team won one or both games over the weekend, they could have matched a more than 20-year-old record, Assistant Coach Jared Gonyaw said.

“They’ve put together a great season, and this is without a junior varsity program,” Coach Gonyaw said. “We had three underclassmen pitch today, and they held heir own.”

Finishing with a .500 record is an especially significant feat given the peculiar nature of the 2014 spring sports season. The Falcons played nine regular season games in the last two weeks and only seven games in the first three weeks of the season.

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In boys tennis: Falcons win over U-32 on strength of singles matches

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Nathan Marsh is enjoying his second season on the North Country Falcons tennis team, having come late to the program.  A lifelong hockey and soccer player, Marsh has emerged as one of the top four singles players in the Falcons tennis program. Photo by Richard Creaser

Nathan Marsh is enjoying his second season on the North Country Falcons tennis team, having come late to the program. A lifelong hockey and soccer player, Marsh has emerged as one of the top four singles players in the Falcons tennis program.
Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle May 14, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — The North Country Falcons tennis team extended its winning streak to two matches and evened up their season record at 3-3 with a 4-3 win over the visiting U-32 Raiders on Thursday, May 8. Coming into the contest, Coach Gary Atchinson predicted that the victory would be attained or lost on the strength of the singles matches.

“Our top four are very strong with a lot of experience,” he said. “We kind of need that to balance out the fact that we have a lot of inexperienced players.”

The Falcons team has only nine players — the exact number needed to field a team for each match. With very little wiggle room, it falls on the team to perform to its maximum capability each and every time. So far, they have not disappointed, Coach Atchinson said.

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At NCUHS: Spidey swings from NYC to Newport

G.G. Rafuse produced this striking image as the log for The Spidey Project’s original off-Broadway production.

G.G. Rafuse produced this striking image as the log for The Spidey Project’s original off-Broadway production.

copyright the Chronicle March 12, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — A musical with music written by one North Country Union High School (NCUHS) alumnus and directed by another, will swing into town on Friday, May 16, for a single performance.  The staging of The Spidey Project will benefit the school’s Art and Communications Academy and help fund its fall musical production.

Chase Gosselin, who graduated from the high school in 2012 and is now engaged in a variety of theatrical enterprises in New York City, is slated to direct the show, which has a script written by Justin Moran and Jonathan Roufaeal, and music composed by Newport native Adam Podd and Doug Katsaros.

The show was created when Mr. Moran posted a video announcing the production as a response to the long-delayed and phenomenally costly Broadway production of Spiderman:  Turn Off The Dark.

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In boys basketball: Gray’s return to NCUHS bad news for Falcons

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NCBBall Gray cmykcopyright the Chronicle February 12, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — It was a bittersweet homecoming for Kendrick Gray, who returned to the North Country gymnasium for the first time this season on Friday night.  Gray, a former North Country Falcon freshman, now plays for the Rice Green Knights (12-3) as a potent sophomore forward.

“Coming in as an opponent was pretty nerve-wracking,” Gray said after Rice’s 74-39 win.  “I just wanted to do my best and everything kind of came out.  I wasn’t expecting to have as good a game as I did.”

Gray exhibited the kind of skills that made him a fearsome opponent for any team.  His 17-point performance, tops among both teams, including shooting 4 for 9 from the free throw line, a three-point basket, and five other baskets including a crowd-inciting dunk in the first quarter.  The fact that his heroics inspired cheers from both halves of the crowd was not lost on the amiable sophomore.

“I knew I couldn’t hide forever and I’d have to come back sometime,” Gray said smiling.  “I love my Newport peeps.  I love this place.”

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Young pitchers and catchers take up yoga

copyright the Chronicle February 12, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — Jay Gonyaw has operated a clinic through the Junior Legion Baseball Program for area pitchers and catchers for the past eight years, first at IROC and now at North Country Union High School.  His coaching experience, however, goes back even further.  Mr. Gonyaw is also the coach of the North Country Falcons junior varsity squad.

“I coached my first time when I was 18 years old,” Mr. Gonyaw told the Chronicle on Tuesday.  “So I’ve been around baseball and coaching baseball a long time.”

What Mr. Gonyaw has noticed lately is that his young athletes often aren’t quite in the condition they should be.  To remedy that, he’s introduced an unlikely new element to his coaching regimen — yoga.

A number of factors contribute to the fact that  kids aren’t as limber as they once were.  They range from the widespread use of technology to a more stringent focus on single or double sport athletic training.

“You see it when a kid transitions from playing in one sport season and switching over to a different one in the next season,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “They have to be in great shape to play at a high level in one sport, but when they switch they end up sore.  They’re going from working one group of muscles to a completely different group of muscles, and their bodies just aren’t ready for that.”

The ability to adapt from one sport to the next has also declined as varsity athletes begin to focus more on a single sport instead of the two or three sports that athletes of his generation played, Mr. Gonyaw said.  Working on the muscle groups that are used most ignores the benefits that a more complete workout experience delivers to those muscle groups you use less frequently.

Back in the day when outdoor activities formed a major part of a child’s life, multiple muscle groups were always being tested.  Kids rode bikes through town, played soccer in the park, or swam at the local beach.  As “free-play” activities have diminished, so has exposure to different kinds of body workouts.  And that has affected the ability of athletes to meet the physical demands of their sports, Mr. Gonyaw said.

“I see a lot of kids coming into my clinic or at the start of the season and they are pretty stiff,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “It got me to thinking that the traditional stretching routine maybe isn’t working as well as it used to.  So I started to think outside the box.”

So Mr. Gonyaw and his fellow trainer Eric LeBlanc arranged for yoga instructor Rebecca Marcotte of Barton to come in and work with his players.  The first 30 minutes of each weekly session are dedicated to yoga stretching and the final 60 minutes to pitching and catching.

“We’ve been at it for five weeks of our seven-week clinic and we’re already seeing a big difference,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “I’ve had kids ask me why we didn’t do this sooner, so they’re really buying into it.  They’re seeing the value of what we’re doing.”

While the clinic focuses on pitchers and catchers, the benefits of yoga would apply equally across the diamond and the outfield, Mr. Gonyaw said.  Pitchers and catchers are the only players with direct interaction with every pitch but that doesn’t mean that the position players, or batters for that matter, wouldn’t benefit as well.

“A centerfielder or a left fielder might go a couple of innings without needing to do anything,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “But then they need to be ready to run at full speed and make the catch or make a throw right away.  That puts a lot of strain on the body.”

Not only will yoga help players perform at a higher level of readiness, but it should also help to avoid some of the more common injuries that occur during the season.  As short as the high school baseball season is in Vermont, by the time an injury has healed the season is effectively over for that player.

“I think we will see some early results when we start the daily practices in the spring,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “The real test will come at the end of the season when we see how many injuries we have or how many sore arms we have.  I really think that this is going to make a huge difference.”

Mr. Gonyaw intends to bring back yoga for his clinic in future years, and he also hopes to incorporate a ten- to 15-minute yoga routine in his daily practices and pre-game regimen.  As the student athletes become more comfortable with the yoga routines, he expects that players may also start to recognize the meditative benefits of yoga as well.

“I know of yoga mostly as a good way to stretch out your muscles and joints,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “But I can see a time when a batter or pitcher can step back and refocus for the next at-bat.  The mental part will come.”

Mr. Gonyaw’s annual pitching and catching clinic is open to a wide range of ages from 12 years old to 17 years old and to kids from all over.  This year’s group includes four catchers and 13 pitchers who work with Mr. Gonyaw and Mr. LeBlanc, a former pro baseball player.

“Eric really has an amazing understanding of what it takes to pitch at all levels,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “He understands the mechanics of each pitch and the benefits of a good stretching routine.  That really enhances the experience for everyone.”

The positive feedback from players so far indicates that Mr. Gonyaw’s unorthodox yoga regimen has hit a home run.  How well the yoga stretching philosophy extends beyond the kids in his clinic is yet to be seen.

“I definitely think there’s something here that would benefit all players in all sports,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “If it helps them perform better and avoid injuries, it’s been totally worthwhile.”

 contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For more free stories like this one, please see our Sports pages.

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Sargent joins friends in Sochi for Olympics

Ida Sargent of Barton will ski in her first Winter Olympics next month.  Photo courtesy of Dave and Lindy Sargent

Ida Sargent of Barton will ski in her first Winter Olympics next month. Photo courtesy of Dave and Lindy Sargent

copyright the Chronicle January 29, 2014

by Natalie Hormilla

 

On the week of her twenty-sixth birthday, Ida Sargent of Barton got some very big news — that she had officially been named to the U.S. Olympic women’s cross-country ski team.

“I think when I found out I couldn’t stop smiling,” Ms. Sargent said in a telephone interview Friday from Toblach, Italy, where she will compete in two World Cup races this weekend. 

The weekend’s events are the last for Ms. Sargent before she heads to her first Olympic games, in Sochi, Russia.

“Then on Sunday, we’ll drive to Munich, then Monday we do all the processing — fill out the forms, get the visas figured out, and get our uniforms.  Then on Tuesday, we fly to Sochi.”

Even with the Olympics around the corner, Ms. Sargent is still focused on the tasks at hand.

“Right now, I’m still kind of focusing on these next World Cup races and trying to just take each moment in stride,” she said.

Her birthday plans included hard training sessions in the morning, followed by fun with a couple of friends who just happen to be in Italy, too.

“Hannah Dreissigacker and Susan Dunklee are training about 30 minutes from here, which is really unique, because we usually don’t cross paths,” she said.  “That’ll be a really special way to celebrate my birthday.”

Ms. Dunklee and Ms. Dreissigacker are newly named Olympians themselves, having been nominated to the U.S. women’s biathlon team.

The three women have known each other most of their lives, through skiing together at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, first as kids in the Bill Koch League, then as young women in the Craftsbury Green Racing Project.

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War on Poverty: Fifty years later schools are the battleground

Lisa Grout is a social studies teacher at North Country Union High School in Newport.  She has a perspective on both poverty and how poverty affects student outcomes.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Lisa Grout is a social studies teacher at North Country Union High School in Newport. She has a perspective on both poverty and how poverty affects student outcomes. Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle January 22, 2014

Editor’s note:  The following story is the first in a two-part series on the link between poverty and success in school.

by Richard Creaser

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared in his State of the Union Address an “all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States.”

Fifty years later, the war rages on with the nation’s public schools as the battleground in this epic struggle.

“As a history teacher, I just can’t help but see that this isn’t anything new,” said Lisa Grout, a social studies teacher at North Country Union High School.  “At times, it has been described as a racial divide, but really it’s something else — it isn’t a war on poverty, it’s a war on the poor.  We need to rid ourselves of this myth that anyone can do whatever they want to do if they really want it.  Our system just isn’t balanced evenly that way.”

In fact, the system appears to be heavily weighted against students from poor families.

A direct link between low household income and student achievement is known in the educational system as the achievement gap.  The evidence is most readily appreciated by examining student performance on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) scores as tabulated by the Vermont Agency of Education.  Agency data for the reporting period of 2011-2012 for North Country is especially telling, although it’s important to consider that NECAP tests are only administered to juniors at the high school level.

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In field hockey: Falcons and Hilltoppers battle to 1-1 tie

field hockey tangle

Falcon Mara Spates (right) battles with St. Johnsbury’s Emily Reardon during Saturday’s varsity match at North Country. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 10-20-2013

NEWPORT — Saturday morning’s match between the North Country Falcons (7-3-3) and the visiting St. Johnsbury Academy Hilltoppers (2-9-2) was a fitting regular season finale for both squads.  While both sides flashed moments of offensive brilliance, the attack was outshone by the defensive prowess of the game’s two goalies — Falcon Myrriah Gonyaw and Hilltopper Grace Desrochers.

Falcons Coach Chantelle Bouchard was pleasantly surprised to learn that St. Johnsbury’s goaltender was a JV call-up, brought in to replace injured starter Bea Brody. Continue reading

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Hand Artists introduces sign language

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Pictured is Jan Caswell, a Derby Line native, holding her book, Hand Artists.  Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Pictured is Jan Caswell, a Derby Line native, holding her book, Hand Artists. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

by Natalie Hormilla

When Jan Caswell was growing up in Derby Line, she had no idea what sort of career lay in her future.  Now, after 40 years of working with deaf people in a variety of ways, she’s created a book that introduces American Sign Language and deaf culture, entitled Hand Artists.

Ms. Caswell said she basically fell into working with deaf people.

“It’s given me a career for 40 years, and I have met some people who are just fascinating,” she said in an interview with the Chronicle.

After graduating from North Country Union High School’s second class, in 1969, Ms. Caswell went to the University of Connecticut.  She said she thought she’d return to the Northeast Kingdom, but took a job at the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, on a lark.

“I needed a job and I wanted to be back in Vermont,” she said.  The job was to be a dormitory counselor at the Austine school.

“I lived in a separate house with 25 girls between the ages of 16 and 21,” she said.  All the girls were deaf students at Austine.

“I was like the big sister,” she said.

Ms. Caswell was 22 years old at the time, and had no previous experience in sign language.  She was told she wouldn’t need to know sign for the job.

“That was too scary,” she said.

As luck would have it, Ms. Caswell knew a returning senior at Austine who lived in Newport.  Ms. Caswell asked to borrow the girl’s yearbook, and taught herself how to letter spell each student’s name so she would at least have an entry point for conversation once she got to Austine.

Ms. Caswell picked up American Sign Language very quickly once she got to Austine.

“In six weeks, I was fluent,” she said.

“It was hands-on the minute I started.”  Ms. Caswell said the girls would try to tell her dirty jokes in American Sign Language.
“I wouldn’t understand them.  I’d sign, ‘slow,’ ‘again.’”

That job marked the beginning of a lifelong love for signing.  Since then, Ms. Caswell has worked as the Vermont state coordinator of services for the deaf, as an educational interpreter in California, as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the deaf in Massachusetts, and she even worked as the interpreter on Madeline Kunin’s gubernatorial campaign, among other things.

“I’ve done everything you can do — I think.”

She said that she is sometimes mistaken as being a deaf person, rather than a hearing person.

Ms. Caswell said that her kids really encouraged her to publish a book after learning that she had written some stories, just for fun.

After she wrote the book, she used the online funding platform Kickstarter to gather money for publishing expenses.

Kickstarter allows for people from just about anywhere to donate to a project, whether because they know the project creator or they just think it’s a cool idea.

Ms. Caswell said that she raised most of the $6,600 she needed through Kickstarter.  Donations ranged from $5 to $500.
“People donated from all over:  Alaska, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, California, Oregon, Arizona, Vermont, Connecticut, Florida,” she said.

She said some people who weren’t at all connected to her or even the deaf community donated money.

The donations were helpful because, as Ms. Caswell put it, “I’m not going to make millions.  It’s really a work of love.”

Ms. Caswell brought on a late-deafened woman, Stephanie Labrie, to be the illustrator.
“Steph had never done anything professionally before,” she said.

Ms. Labrie used watercolor pencils, which allow for colors that are deep and bold.

“When you take a 3-D language and put it on a 2-D page, it’s extremely difficult,” Ms. Caswell said.

Hand Artists is a very colorful book that tells the story of Kyleigh, a deaf girl, and Erin, a hearing girl, who are best friends.  American Sign Language is interspersed throughout the pages.  The discerning reader will learn the signs for different letters, numbers, and even words like “story” and “goal.”  The illustrator used curved arrows to indicate the hand motions needed for more complicated signs.

“It’s an opportunity to learn a little bit about sign, but it’s not something to ‘teach’ sign with,” Ms. Caswell said.  “It’s meant to introduce it.”  The book is also meant to be an introduction to deaf culture.

“My friends who are educators said it’s most likely for five-to-ten-year-olds, but older kids can benefit, too,” she said.  “It’s meant for whomever, or for hearing people who want to learn a little more about sign.”

Ms. Caswell said that about a dozen teachers, from Ontario, Canada, to western Massachusetts, have ordered the book for their classrooms.
Ms. Caswell lives in western Massachusetts, but she said she still considers Vermont her home, and visits her parents in Derby Line often.

Hand Artists is available at Wider Than the Sky in Newport, the Woodknot Bookshop in Newport, Barnes and Noble, and amazon.com.

contact Natalie Hormilla at natalie@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Reviews pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

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