Rasputitsa cyclists brave chilly weather and mud season

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A mass start heralded the beginning of the 47-mile Rasputitsa cycling race.  More than 350 racers began and ended the 47 mile race in downtown Newport on a cool Saturday morning in support of the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation.

A mass start heralded the beginning of the 47-mile Rasputitsa cycling race. More than 350 racers began and ended the 47 mile race in downtown Newport on a cool Saturday morning in support of the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation.   Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle April 23, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — Mud season is typically a time of year that Vermont residents have come to dread. For the 350 riders in Saturday’s Rasputitsa cycling event, however, mud season represented a challenge that begged to be accepted.

The lure of the Rasputitsa is one that finds its roots in the European Spring Classic bicycle races, co-organizer Heidi Myers told the Chronicle on Friday. The growth of gravel road racing nationally, coupled with the success of Ms. Myers’ and fellow co-organizer Anthony Moccia’s Dirty 40 race last August, led them to attempt a second race in the Northeast Kingdom. The fact that so many cyclists braved a blustery April morning and 47 miles of often treacherous back roads appears to have confirmed their belief in the sport’s popularity.

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In boys basketball playoffs: Ghosts fend off Ranger comeback bid

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Clint Provoncha (left) had an MVP-type performance in a losing cause as the Lake Region Rangers fell 70-59 to Dylan Jacobs (right) and the Randolph Galloping Ghosts on Thursday night.  A Lake Region senior, Provoncha's 24-point night would lead all scorers in what would be his final trip to the Barre Auditorium. Photo by Richard Creaser

Clint Provoncha (left) had an MVP-type performance in a losing cause as the Lake Region Rangers fell 70-59 to Dylan Jacobs (right) and the Randolph Galloping Ghosts on Thursday night. A Lake Region senior, Provoncha’s 24-point night would lead all scorers in what would be his final trip to the Barre Auditorium.
Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle March 7, 2014

by Richard Creaser

BARRE — The Lake Region Rangers (18-4) battled through 20 regular season and two playoff games to earn a berth in Thursday night’s semifinal at the Barre Auditorium.  Squaring off against the second-seeded Randolph Galloping Ghosts (20-2), there were no illusions about how tough a game this would be.  The DIII semifinal marked the first sell-out crowd of the Barre tournament, tournament officials told the Chronicle.

Both teams had fought hard to make it to Barre but only one would emerge to compete for the DIII crown.  On this night, with a 70-59 win, it would be the Ghosts.

“They play good ball pressure,” Ranger Clint Provoncha said of the Ghosts.  “They were really aggressive on defense and they never give up.”

Tenacity was the name of the game for both of these squads.  Though falling behind by a basket in the early goings, Lake Region managed a 7-2 lead until foul troubles upended the Ranger attack.  Halfway through the opening quarter, the Rangers had accrued five fouls.

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In boys basketball: LR Rangers advance to Barre

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LR Beauregard

Ranger Alex Beauregard (right) goes airborne on this lay up during Friday night’s DIII quarterfinal played at Lake Region’s Don Harter Memorial Gym. Peoples Academy Wolf Matt Bettis tries to block the shot. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 3-2-2014

ORLEANS — The Lake Region Rangers earned a berth in the final four with Friday night’s 59-42 win over the visiting Peoples Academy Wolves.  It was difficult at times to tell who was more charged up by the match — the players or the fans.

“The crowd support was phenomenal,” Lake Region Coach James Ingalls said after the game.

If the game could be described in one word that word would surely be energetic.  In a previous match-up against the Wolves Lake Region came out on top 57-53 so the stage was set for another tight game.

“The difference tonight was intensity,” Ranger Dakota McAlister said after the game.  “We’re rolling.” Continue reading

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In girls hockey: Lakers come out on top in defensive duel

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NCGHQrtr Morley

North Country Falcon Taylor Morley (left) comes in against Colchester Laker goalie Erica Hoffmann during Wednesday Metro Division quarterfinal game at Jay. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 2-27-2014

JAY — Last season the North Country Falcons girls hockey team (12-8-1) was rewarded for their Lake Division runner-up finish with a promotion to the Metro Division.  The 2013 Lake Division champion Harwood Highlanders also moved up a division but had quite a different experience with a 3-13-4 record.

How well the girls responded to the challenge is how Coach Claude Paul will remember his 2014 squad, not their 1-0 quarterfinal loss to the Colchester Lakers on Wednesday night, February 26, at the Ice Haus in Jay.

“We didn’t really know what to expect except that it was going to be tough,” Coach Paul said after the game.  “In Metro teams run out two or three solid lines every night, for every game.  There is no tail-off in talent.” Continue reading

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OCSU board picks new superintendent

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Bruce Labs.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Bruce Labs. Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle February 26, 2014

by Richard Creaser

The Orleans Central Supervisory Union (OCSU) school board has tendered an offer to a new superintendent.

The name is not yet being released pending the candidate’s acceptance, but two final candidates were interviewed in public Tuesday afternoon.  A decision was made after the interviews and a lengthy executive session.

On Tuesday evening OCSU school board chairman Amy Leroux of Irasburg confirmed that the board has tendered an offer to someone to replace Stephen Urgenson.  The two candidates are Bruce Labs of Piermont, New Hampshire, and Don Van Nostrand of Concord.  Ms. Leroux said after an offer is accepted and a final vetting process by the state Agency of Education is done an announcement will be made, probably by week’s end.

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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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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 girls soccer: Tigers stun Rangers with 2-0 upset win

LR girls soccer Menard

Lake Region’s Megan Menard (center) finds herself surrounded by Middlebury jerseys during Wednesday’s DII playdown game at Lake Region. The type of smothering coverage Menard encountered on this play from Tigers Gabrielle Ingenthron (left), Katherine Holmes (right) and Claire Armstrong (background) symbolized the intensity of Middlebury’s play. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 10-25-2013

ORLEANS — Coming into Wednesday’s DII playdown game, October 23, Lake Region (12-2) and Middlebury (2-12) appeared to be at polar opposites of the spectrum.  The host Rangers averaged nearly three goals per game and had been shut out only once this season, and that by the DIII powerhouse Peoples Academy team.  The Tigers had struggled to find the back of the net all season, having been shut out ten times including nine straight games to finish off their season.

All of Middlebury’s games this season have been against DI or DII schools.  Lake Region played two DII schools this season in Lyndon Institute and Lamoille Union with its other 12 games coming against DIII and DIV opponents. Continue reading

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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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