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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Dirty 40 racers enjoy the best of the Northeast Kingdom’s back roads

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A soft whir, hum and crunch was all that alerted the casual observer to the arrival of the first group of cyclists heading along Nelson Hill Road during the first stage of the Dirty 40 race on Saturday.  In its inaugural year, the race raised an estimated $4,000 to help support the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation, which provides financial assistance to Orleans County families dealing with cancer.  Photos by Richard Creaser

A soft whir, hum and crunch was all that alerted the casual observer to the arrival of the first group of cyclists heading along Nelson Hill Road during the first stage of the Dirty 40 race on Saturday. In its inaugural year, the race raised an estimated $4,000 to help support the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation, which provides financial assistance to Orleans County families dealing with cancer. Photos by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

HOLLAND —  There was very little warning of when the riders would make their first appearance, only a best guess and a couple of Labrador’s barking out a greeting at a photographer.  The sound came first, the crunch of tires on gravel, the steady whir of gears and wheels and legs united in motion.  Then a blur surged out from the trees shrouding the bend and the leaders emerged in tight formation, swelling like a wave of brilliant blues and yellows, reds and whites.

Smiling cyclists streamed by for perhaps 20 minutes, bodies bent forward to reduce drag, legs pumping as the riders hit yet another incline however slight.  Over the next six hours, 200 cyclists would clock in, having completed the inaugural Dirty 40 race.  Others would drop out along the way, and still more would finish their runs, proud about the accomplishment if not overly concerned about their time.

“That’s what’s really great about this race,” Todd Bowden of Glastonbury, Connecticut, said at the after race party at Tavern on the Hill in Derby.  “It’s very laid back and not super serious.  You race for the love of it and for the bragging rights, not the hardware.”

On this day, the bragging rights would belong to Mr. Bowden.  He led all racers with a blistering time of 2:55:21.6 over the 60-mile course, 40 of which were on the gravel roads that give the race its name.

Eric Daigle of Newport Center rides by pastured horses drinking in the scenery on the race route of the Dirty 40 cycle race.  Participants traveled from all over New England, New York, Quebec, and Ontario to take part in the inaugural gravel road race.

Eric Daigle of Newport Center rides by pastured horses drinking in the scenery on the race route of the Dirty 40 cycle race. Participants traveled from all over New England, New York, Quebec, and Ontario to take part in the inaugural gravel road race.

Not that Mr. Bowden completely blew the competition out of the water.  Iain Radford of Chelsea, Quebec, and Matt Surch of Ottawa, Ontario, finished with times of 2:55:22.9 and 2:55:23.0.  Five other racers also finished within 24 seconds of Mr. Bowden’s precedent setting time.

On the women’s side, Kathleen Lysakowski of Quincy, Massachusetts, led the field with a time of 3:12:17.3, followed by Heather Voisin of Montpelier with a time of 3:14:14.4 and Danielle Ruane of Bow, New Hampshire, with her time of 3:16:52.7.

Bev Gage of Orleans came in thirty-second overall, earning her the dubious distinction of being dead last with a time of 6:11:13.  There was no hang-dog expression for Ms. Gage, however.  As someone who only began riding in earnest in July and whose previous longest ride had been 32 miles, Ms. Gage was proud simply to have finished.

“My inspiration was raising money for the Halo Foundation,” she said.  “Doing something to helps others is just so wonderful.  Anthony (Moccia) and Heidi (Myers) should be so proud of what they accomplished.”

As the founders and organizing forces behind the Dirty 40, Mr. Moccia and Ms. Myers worked diligently to round up sponsors and work the social networks to attract racers to the event.

Behind it all, however, was the fact that all profits from the race would go to benefit the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation, which provides financial support to Orleans County cancer survivors and the families of individuals fighting cancer.  Ms. Myers said Monday morning that, although the numbers are preliminary, she expects the Dirty 40 race and raffle raised an estimated $4,000 for the Halo Foundation.

Dave Lafoe of Norton plays a game of chicken with a photographer during the first leg of the Dirty 40 cycling race Saturday.  As the oldest listed participant in the race at age 72, Mr. Lafoe finished with a respectable time of 4:41:31.

Dave Lafoe of Norton plays a game of chicken with a photographer during the first leg of the Dirty 40 cycling race Saturday. As the oldest listed participant in the race at age 72, Mr. Lafoe finished with a respectable time of 4:41:31.

“We’re pretty happy about that,” she said.  “We’d like to raise more next year.  We could have raised more but it being the first year there was no registration fee for the first 100 riders.”

When the Dirty 40 was conceived the ideals behind the race included a celebration of what rural Vermont was all about — back roads, gorgeous countryside and a community that stands together to help its own.

The friendliness of the community was apparent to the cyclists participating in the race.  Locals came out to wave at the riders as they passed by.

“I’m not really sure where it was, but there were some little girls serving lemonade,” Robert Schiesser of South Royalton recalled.  “How great is that?  I really couldn’t tell you how the organizers could have designed a better course.”

Even a local like Ms. Gage was impressed at the breadth of terrain the course encompassed.  Whether as a cyclist or just someone enjoying the area, the beauty of the Northeast Kingdom was to be found everywhere along the route, she said.

“I had a chance to go on some dirt roads I never would have traveled before,” Ms. Gage said.  “It really opens your eyes to how beautiful and how special a place we live in.”

While the beauty of the landscape was most often mentioned by participants, it was the challenge of the course that appealed to hardened cyclists like Mr. Bowden.

“It was a tough course, a real challenge,” he said.  “Unlike your traditional road race the ending was not proscribed.  It was a little bit crazier with a lot more variables thrown in there.”

Mr. Schiesser comes from a mountain bike racing background.  While some elements translate from mountain bike racing to gravel road racing, it was a new kind of experience for him.

“Mountain bike racing is won in the turns,” he said.  “In this kind of race you need to be in it the whole way, there is no last push to get through.  You need to pace yourself.”

Gravel road races are growing in popularity but the amount of races available are still limited, Mr. Bowden said.  That’s why he was more than willing to make the trek up from Connecticut to participate in the Dirty 40.

“It’s a really unique area,” Mr. Bowden said.  “Something is changing all of the time.  Those last 5 kilometers with the steep climb was hard, real hard.”

Mr. Bowden praised the work of the road crews responsible for maintaining the gravel roads that comprised the Dirty 40 course.  In general, gravel road racing requires a thicker tire with an aggressive tread.  Road conditions on Saturday were such that a rider could have gotten away with a narrower tread because of the excellent state of the roads.  Narrower treads lead to less resistance and a corresponding increase in speed, he explained.

Voyaging through the back roads was more than a bike race, Mr. Schiesser said.  It was akin to an adventure race where you need to be prepared for any and all sorts of conditions.  He even likened the course to a ride through Alaska’s boreal forest.

“I thought it was really neat to be out there,” he said.  “I think the course was just right.”

If there is one change to be recommended, it came from Ms. Gage.  Her recommendation was that perhaps someone better prepared might be able to take her place in next year’s race.

“I’m proud that I did it and that I’m still standing after,” Ms. Gage said.  “I still want to be involved but I think I might volunteer next year.  It was a wonderful experience and a great cause.  That’s why we do these things, to help people.”

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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

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