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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Five area schools have new principals

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by Richard Creaser

Five area schools will have new principals to start the 2013-2014 school year.  Brighton Elementary has perhaps the most radical change in store as Denise Russell not only takes over as principal but is joined by ten other new hires.

In interviews over the past few weeks, the newly hired principals each touched on part of a recurring theme — community.  The small size of the towns creates not only the school’s biggest weakness but also its greatest strength.  Small towns sometimes have fewer resources, but they also often have a greater sense of community and often enjoy more involvement by parents and townspeople than larger towns and cities do.

Two of these administrators will be familiar to some of the students.  Robert Midi returns to Newport City Elementary to serve as interim principal for the coming school year.  Mr. Midi had previously spent 18 years as the school’s chief administrator.  In Albany Todd Rivver, a former teacher there, returns to provide leadership following the retirement of Jill Chaffee.

In Brighton, Deborah Ahrens returns after a one-year absence to teach grades one and two, Chris Lawson arrives to teach middle school math, Tammy Wise to teach middle school language arts, Beth Rodondi to teach middle school science, Carolyn Mader will teach music, and Kevin Smith joins the team as a special educator.  Linda Beaumier, Brittany Gonyaw and Dana Jacobs arrive as paraeducators and O. Ray Willey is the school’s newest bus driver.

Eric Erwin, former assistant principal at Newport City Elementary, takes the helm at Lakeview Union School in Greensboro.  Kelli Dean, former assistant principal at Barton Academy and Graded School, takes leadership of Holland Elementary.

Despite the many changes in store for the coming school year, what remains the same is that all five principals are fully committed to the task of providing a quality education for the region’s children.

“Creating the best possible learning environment is always the bottom line,” Mr. Midi said.  “That’s always the goal.”

Creating that perfect environment starts with a school’s administration, Mr. Erwin said.  Not only must the principal oversee the educational needs of his students but also address the development of his staff and serve to educate the public as well, he said.

“To a large extent the principal is a public servant,” Mr. Erwin said.  “I need to be able to educate the public about the operation of the school, the needs of the school and explain how gaining the resources necessary to meet those needs will affect the education we can provide.  I feel that if I give people the information they need to make well-informed decisions they are better positioned to make the best choices for their children.”

Determining what is best for a community’s children is not an easy task.  Opening lines of communication is the first step to assessing and understanding the kind of school a community wants to have.  In many rural communities, the school occupies a critical place in the fabric of that town.

“It’s about creating an environment that invites involvement,” Ms. Russell said.  “I want people to be able to come to me and let me know what they think is important.”

Getting people involved in their school involves demonstrating an understanding of the nature of a community.  To that end, Ms. Dean feels she can relate to the people of Holland, having grown up in the Northeast Kingdom and lived in many similar communities.

“I can understand the role the school has in small communities because I’ve lived in it, I’ve worked in it myself,” Ms. Dean said.  “I’m sensitive to the needs of our small schools.”

That basic understanding will be important as Ms. Dean leads Holland Elementary in the next year.  Voters defeated the school budget at Town Meeting primarily out of a frustration over a lack of connection to the school.  Ms. Dean has vowed to build and repair those bridges that divide the school community from the rest of the town.

“I can’t do it alone,” she said.  “Luckily I have a school board that is also working to make those connections.  Holland School is the center of this community, and people certainly want to know that their tax dollars are being used well.”

Making those connections is part of the joy of being the administrator in a small school.  Those connections inevitably begin with the students in your care, Mr. Midi said.

“Even in a community the size of Newport you can make connections to the wider community through the students,” he said.  “The children have aunts, uncles, grandparents, a whole host of people they are related to.  You can reach those people providing the kind of educational environment that gets the kids excited and talking about what happened in school today.  The word gets out pretty quickly.”

Mr. Erwin is particularly grateful for the amount of support he has already received from the community.  Greensboro and Stannard, the two communities served by Lakeview Union, have proven particularly interested in their school community, he said.

“But I can’t take their interest for granted.  If I want to maintain that relationship, I need to get out there, meet people and keep them interested in what’s happening here.”

The close knit nature of small towns is conducive to building relationships, Mr. Rivver agreed.  Daily interactions both at and outside of the school provide an opportunity to keep community members engaged.

“Part of it is enthusiasm,” Mr. Rivver said.  “People can tell when you are passionate about something and they respond to that.  We’re not building iPods or engines, we’re educating children, and what can be more important than that?”

While a small community can facilitate engagement, small communities also have a small tax base which creates a challenge for administrators.  The budgeting process is one area where community involvement is particularly important.

“When you have limited resources you want to make sure that you make the best possible use of those resources,” Ms. Russell said.  “We need to make education relevant to the present and future needs of our children and our community.  Sometimes we are trying to teach them skills we don’t even know exist yet.  It’s about preparing them to be effective learners.”

Technology is one of those ways to expand learning opportunities and, if done well, can do so with limited effect on the bottom line.

“Island Pond is somewhat isolated because of its geography, but it doesn’t have to be,” Ms. Russell said.  “If we use technology well, we can provide our students with the same kinds of opportunities afforded students in New York City.”

How to implement that technology is one area where understanding a community’s values is particularly important, Mr. Erwin said.  To some people schools are seen as a protective force against outside influences.

“Technology has exposed our children to a lot of influences, a lot of information that can be both good and bad,” Mr. Erwin said.  “Our job is to help them make the distinction between the two.  It’s the duty of schools to help students use and understand the technology.”

Ms. Dean is in a unique position among all of the new principals.  Her position is defined as 80 percent principal and 20 percent fifth- and sixth-grade social studies teacher.  While that distinction may be reflected in the division of her salary, it becomes less obvious in practice.

“I am going to devote the time necessary to make sure that I accomplish both roles 100 percent,” Ms. Dean said.  “I think it will be a good combination, allowing me to keep fingers in all of the pies.  I love teaching and I think that it will actually be re-energizing to get the opportunity to interact with the kids in the classroom.”

Ms. Dean also hopes that by creating a bond with students outside of the principal’s office, it will help her better understand the needs of students and staff.  Building relationships outside of the office is also something that Ms. Russell hopes to accomplish in Brighton.

“Maybe I’ll be more approachable with a violin in hand,” Ms. Russell, a classically trained violinist, said.  “Sometimes you can’t always be the principal.  Sometimes you need to step outside that role and show a different side.”

Showing that other side can be rewarding on many levels, Mr. Rivver said.  Sometimes building those relationships can be as easy as getting to know the students by name or greeting them as they come off the school bus in the morning.

“Principals are perceived as the disciplinarian,” Mr. Rivver said.  “When you build those relationships, establish those connections early on, discipline becomes less of an issue.”

Addressing disciplinary issues is invariably founded on establishing respect, Mr. Erwin said.  Schools are perfectly positioned to encourage respectful actions and dialogue, he said.

“We’re working very hard to teach rules for acceptable behavior,” Mr. Erwin said.  “But it is a challenge because when you look at adult role models, politicians in particular, you don’t see that.  You don’t see them talking it out in a respectful way.”

Mr. Midi offered some words of wisdom to his new administrative colleagues.  In order to earn the trust and the respect of their community, they must be willing to clearly establish what they stand for and exhibit a willingness to follow it through.

“People trust you for your word and that’s very important in a small community,” Mr. Midi said.  “If people know what to expect, know what you stand for, even if people don’t always agree with it, trust is formed.  Don’t just say it, live it.”

Mr. Midi also encourages members of the community to remain involved and engaged with their local school.  While the principal is there to listen to your concerns, the school board is also able to voice those concerns on your behalf.

“We need to hear those voices, especially during the planning and budgeting process,” Ms. Dean agreed.  “It’s hard to know what everyone values.  It can’t just be my vision, it has to be a vision based on what we all agree is best for the kids.”

Lakeview Union School will have a special meet and greet with Mr. Erwin at the school on August 23 at 3 p.m.  Brighton Elementary will have a back-to-school picnic for students and parents at the school on August 26 at 5:30 p.m.

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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

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Newport team clinches softball D division title — headed to nationals

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Rhonda Howard, pitching for the Newport-based D&D Electric softball team, delivers a pitch during Sunday's tournament play.  Short stop Ashley Gravel (background left) prepares for the play.   Photo by Richard Creaser

Rhonda Howard, pitching for the Newport-based D&D Electric softball team, delivers a pitch during Sunday’s tournament play. Short stop Ashley Gravel (background left) prepares for the play. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser 

NEWPORT — Solid defense and great team chemistry have propelled D&D Electric onto the national stage.  The Newport-based team has earned a berth at the Amateur Softball Association of America’s national eastern C and D division championships in Canton, Ohio, at the end of August.  D&D Electric earned the berth by winning the D division state tournament held at Gardner Park in Newport over the weekend.

D&D Electric defeated Accura Printing of Barre, 4-2 to clinch the title and remain undefeated throughout the tournament.  Coach and pitcher Rhonda Howard credits solid defense, particularly from fielders Krista Sargent and Christiane Brown, for keeping Accura off the board and securing the win.

“They had some really great catches to keep them off the bases,” Howard said.  “It was a really close game but we came out on top.”

Slow pitch softball is a game within a game.  The slow arc of the ball is deceptive in its movements.  Unlike a batting practice lob, the ball can be imbued with off-speed movement.  Controlling the arc and controlling its location are essential elements to the game.

“A good pitcher can have a great impact,” Dori Austin of The Rez in Waterbury said.  “A good pitcher can place the ball to make a hitter hit it where you want it to land.  That’s why you will hear the good pitchers moving their players around.”

The ability to dictate the flow of the game separates the good pitchers from the rest, Ms. Howard agreed.  It’s also a matter of learning the hitting habits of your opponents and playing to their weaknesses, she said.

“If you know the teams, you know where they are most likely to hit it,” Laura McClure of Burnett Scrap Metals from Burlington said.  “It does help to play against teams you normally would play.  You start out already knowing something about them.”

Playing against unfamiliar teams requires patience and a willingness to watch your rivals in action against other squads.  It was not unheard of for at least some opponents to watch games in progress, scouting out their rivals in preparation for the next round.

Slow pitch is less about big, dramatic hits and more about small ball — the art of generating hits and moving your players along the base paths.

Scottie Taylor (left) playing for McKees Pub & Grill in Winooski, makes a diving stab at an errant ball as Chelsea Trombley playing for Burnett Scrap Metals of Burlington reaches first base.  Newport's Gardner Park was the host site for the Vermont Amateur Softball Association of America's state C and D division tournament over the weekend. Photo by Richard Creaser

Scottie Taylor (left) playing for McKees Pub & Grill in Winooski, makes a diving stab at an errant ball as Chelsea Trombley playing for Burnett Scrap Metals of Burlington reaches first base. Newport’s Gardner Park was the host site for the Vermont Amateur Softball Association of America’s state C and D division tournament over the weekend.
Photo by Richard Creaser

“Defense plays a huge part in this game,” Ms. Austin said.  “You need to work at getting people on base and taking advantage of any play that lets you score runners.  You have to earn every run.”

As competitive a sport as it might be, particularly at the state tournament level, no one has forgotten that having fun is also part of the equation.  Many of the players at the tournaments have not only played with their teammates for years, but they have also played against one another for years as well.

“When you get to a tournament like this, sure, it’s about winning games and moving on,” Ms. McClure said.  “But you also have that social aspect.  It’s about good friends meeting up with friends they haven’t seen in a while.”

softball cooler

Dori Austin, playing for The Rez out of Waterbury, rides on the must have cooler for tournament play. The cooler keep beverages cool and helps players navigate the tournament grounds ensuring they arrive at the dugout rested and refreshed.
Photo by Richard Creaser

Cans of beer, canopies and the smell of hot dogs give the tournament a festive air.  The fact that Ms. Austin is also driving around on a motorized cooler only adds to the carnival-like atmosphere.  The scooter-cooler is a handy way to get around and keep beverages cold, but it also has a story behind it, Ms. Austin said.

“I wrote a letter to talk show host Ellen Degeneres and she read it on air,” Ms. Austin said.  “A little while later they sent this cooler from her show.  They featured the Cruzin’ Cooler on her show and she sent us one.”

Ms. Howard, Ms. Austin and Ms. McClure have all been part of teams that have competed at the national level.  It is, they agreed, an incredible experience as players and fans of the game.

“The level of softball you see when you get to nationals is just phenomenal,” Ms. Howard said.

Christiane Brown of Newport smashes a ball down the first base line during Sunday's tournament play at Gardner Park.  Ms. Brown and her teammates on D&D Electric, won the state D division and will advance to the eastern national tournament in Canton, Ohio, in late August.  D&D Electric remained undefeated throughout the tournament and captured the title with a 4-2 win over Accura Printing from Barre. Photo by Richard Creaser

Christiane Brown of Newport smashes a ball down the first base line during Sunday’s tournament play at Gardner Park. Ms. Brown and her teammates on D&D Electric, won the state D division and will advance to the eastern national tournament in Canton, Ohio, in late August. D&D Electric remained undefeated throughout the tournament and captured the title with a 4-2 win over Accura Printing from Barre.
Photo by Richard Creaser

Does that high level of play intimidate the Vermont teams at all?  Not in the least, Ms. Howard said.

She played on the Newport squad that went to nationals in 2007.

“The teams from the south, where they can play pretty much all year, yeah, they have some advantages,” Ms. Howard said.  “We play sometimes in the winter, in the snow.  But ball is ball.  You go out there, give it 100 percent and see what happens.”

Ms. McClure’s team, though relatively new, includes a core group that had participated in eight straight C division state titles.  Team chemistry matters as much as field time when it comes to tournament play, she said.

“It takes it to a whole other level,” Ms. McClure said of the national tournament experience.  “It’s an awesome experience and it’s just always great to be able to travel as a team.”

Winning the state tournament or being the runner-up is only part of the ticket to the national tournament.  Each team that advances to represent Vermont now faces less than a month to raise the money to get them to Ohio.  D&D Electric will hold a team meeting later this week to formulate a plan, Ms. Howard said.

“We don’t have anything definite planned right now but we have a few ideas,” she said.  “We are thinking of a big garage sale, holding a car wash, and approaching local businesses to sponsor us.”

Anyone interested in supporting D&D Electric in their bid for the eastern national C division title can contact Ms. Howard at (802) 673-4156 for more information.

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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Orleans County All Stars runners-up in district tournament

The Orleans County All-Stars were runners-up after losing a tight 5-4 championship game against district champions St. Johnsbury.  The OC All-Stars are, back row from left to right: Coach Allan Wright, Denver Bodette, Ben Myrick, Devin Royer, Ethan Willey, Caleb Derbyshire, John Stafford, Coach Denis Houle and Manager Mark Royer.  Front row from left to right: Robbie Diaz, Zachary Royer, Phoenix Malanga, Brennan Perkins, Ryland Brown and Caleb Sweeney.  Photo courtesy of Mark Royer

The Orleans County All-Stars were runners-up after losing a tight 5-4 championship game against district champions St. Johnsbury. The OC All-Stars are, back row from left to right: Coach Allan Wright, Denver Bodette, Ben Myrick, Devin Royer, Ethan Willey, Caleb Derbyshire, John Stafford, Coach Denis Houle and Manager Mark Royer. Front row from left to right: Robbie Diaz, Zachary Royer, Phoenix Malanga, Brennan Perkins, Ryland Brown and Caleb Sweeney. Photo courtesy of Mark Royer

by Richard Creaser

LYNDONVILLE — The Orleans County All-Stars, composed of players from two Lake Region and one North Country squads, earned runners-up honors at the 13-to-15-year-old Babe Ruth district tournament held in Lyndonville over the weekend.  Team manager Mark Royer had nothing but praise for his team.

“I told the boys after the game, we came here with pride, we played with pride and we left the field with pride,” Mr. Royer said on Monday.  “It was an honor to coach them.”

The caliber of sportsmanship displayed by the Orleans County team was such that even the umpires took note, Mr. Royer said.  The umpires admired the way the players remained composed and respectful, even at their worst moments.

The district tournament pitted the Orleans County squad against all-star teams from Lyndon and St. Johnsbury.  The double elimination tournament took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with St. Johnsbury emerging as the district champs following Sunday afternoon’s match-up against Orleans County.

The tournament started out well for Orleans County as they defeated Lyndon on Friday night.  Orleans County faced St. Johnsbury in the first game of the day Saturday morning and lost 10-0 with the game called in the fifth inning by the ten-run mercy rule.

“Even though we lost 10-0, St. Johnsbury was only ahead 5-0 coming into the bottom of the fifth,” Mr. Royer said.  “If we could have caught a few breaks it might have been a completely different game.  We played well, but just couldn’t cash in those runs.”

Orleans County finished off Lyndon in the nightcap to set up a rematch with St. Johnsbury on Sunday afternoon.  Because of the double-elimination format, the St. Johnsbury squad was playing for the championship while Orleans County played to force a second and deciding match.

Ethan Willey of Glover slides into base during the game on July 12 versus the Lyndon All-Stars.  Minding the base is Levi Daniels.  Photo by Walter Earle

Ethan Willey of Glover slides into base during the game on July 12 versus the Lyndon All-Stars. Minding the base is Levi Daniels. Photo by Walter Earle

The rematch proved the capabilities of the Orleans County squad as they managed to carry a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning.  Unlike in the first meeting, Orleans County generated some offense by finding holes in an otherwise tight St. Johnsbury defense.

“We definitely hit the ball better,” Mr. Royer said.  “The ball found the grass.  That’s what we would say in the dugout, ‘Make the ball find the grass.’”

St. Johnsbury plated two runs in their half of the sixth inning and carried it over into Orleans County’s final at bats.  St. Johnsbury would hang on to the lead and with the win, clinch the district title.

“We pitched really well and played solid defensively,” Mr. Royer said of the championship game.  “After they shut us down ten to nothing on Saturday there was no head-hanging.  We knew we had something to show them and we showed it on Sunday.”

Mr. Royer admired the way his team handled their loss in what may have been the biggest game of the season.  Baseball is just a game, he said, but the way you handle the outcome speaks volumes for the depth of a person’s character and that carries over to life off the diamond.

“Even when you try your best you won’t always get the result you want,” Mr. Royer said.  “Your effort and your attitude are the only things in life you can control.  It’s how you handle adversity and how you get back up and try again that really matters.”

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For a story on the Babe Ruth district three 13-year-old title win by the Lake Region All Stars, click here.

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

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