Harwood’s Ava Thurston runs all alone in front during the Division II girls cross-country running state championship at Thetford Academy.

A bird in hand vs. two in the bush?

The old proverb aptly describes the boys cross-country running power rankings this week. U-32 and undefeated BFA-St. Albans received multiple votes for the top spot. The Bobwhites have proven they are the real deal while defeating the Raiders, but some coaches made the case that U-32 has a higher eventual upside. Time will tell.

The Manchester Invitational on Sept. 25 will be the next time BFA and U-32 will go head to head. Look for No. 3 CVU to push for the top spot as the Redhawks have both a front-runner in Matthew Servin and a strong and improving pack.

The middle of the rankings are even more closely bunched than the top spots. Four teams occupy the next three spots, with No. 4 Essex and No. 5 South Burlington followed by Craftsbury and St. Johnsbury, which are tied for No. 6.

The Chargers may be the story of the year as the tiny Division III school has assembled a top 5 able to compete with — and perhaps beat — the state’s traditional D-I powers. Expect the Chargers to make a serious run for a New England’s spot this year.

The third tier features No. 8 Montpelier, No. 9 Middlebury and a tie for No. 10 between Mount Mansfield and Harwood. These four teams, and likely others, could move up as the year progresses. Harwood has a legendary coach and Montpelier is very young. Both of these variables could result in major improvements during the next month.

On the individual side, St. Johnsbury’s Evan Thornton-Sherman is the best runner in the state on both the track and the trails. Last Tuesday he ran solo to a course record of 16 minutes, 9 seconds on the hilly U-32 course.

On Saturday the Hilltoppers senior cruised to a 27-second victory over a solid field at the Randolph Invitation. While Servin, Jacob Tremblay, Ethan Mashtare, Ollie Hansen, James Cilwik and Avery Smart may dream of being overall state champ, they will have to beat Thornton-Sherman to make that happen. And that will be easier said than done.

The girls overall top 10 has not changed much in a week. With Burlington and Essex running a scrimmage meet and no results available, they stay in their spots at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively.

Burlington has yet to compete with its full top 7, so the Seahorses should remain in the top spot until anyone proves they can challenge them when they are fully loaded.

Harwood won the Randolph Invitational this weekend, besting 12-time defending D-I champ CVU by 31 seconds. Harwood is looking good and has a close group with its No. 2-4 racers. But coach John Kerrigan and the Highlanders will need to move their No. 5 finisher up to contend with the full BHS squad.

It’s hard to know about Essex with only one set of race results on record, but the Hornets are making steady progress and are obviously another team to watch for the top spot. CVU will need to move its No. 2-5 runners closer to the front of its pack to make any noise against this top 3.

Redhawks freshman Alice Kredell sets the pace for her team, which has consistently been one of the top programs in New England. If the past has taught athletes and coaches anything, it should be that championships aren’t handed out in September and there’s still a long way to go.

South Burlington and MMU are in a very tight battle for the No. 5 and 6 spots. Both need to close their gaps in their top 5 and they also need to keep a close eye on BFA St Albans behind them. Last week BFA-St. Albans was incomplete, so this week was the Comets’ first race with a complete seven-person squad. Loghan Hughes is the fastest BFA racer and teammate Lauren Kate Garceau is a strong No. 2 runner for the Comets. BFA should compete for a spot in the top 5 if its No. 3-5 runners are closer to the front.

Middlebury drops down to No. 8 behind BFA. Bellows Falls stays in the top 10 but it is hard to judge the southern part of the Vermont because of a lack of statewide competition.

U-32 rounds out the top 10 after winning its home meet on Tuesday. With limited results at this point in the season, these positions may be in flux for awhile. But pretty soon there should be some more clarity on where teams belong.

Boys Overall Top 10

1.BFA 1. U-32 3. CVU 4..Essex 5. South Burlington 6. Craftsbury 6. St. Johnsbury 8. Montpelier 9. Middlebury 10. Mt. Mansfield 10. Harwood

Division I Top 5

1. BFA-St. Albans 2. CVU 3. Essex 4. South Burlington 5. St. Johnsbury

Division II Top 5

1. U-32 2. Montpelier 3. Middlebury 4. Harwood 5. Mt. Abraham

Division III Top 5

1. Craftsbury 2. Bellows Falls 3. Stowe 4. Thetford 5. BFA-Fairfax

Girls Overall Top 10

1. Burlington 2. Harwood 3. EHS 4. CVU 5. South Burlington 6. Mount Mansfield 7. BFA St Albans 8. Middlebury 9. Bellows Falls 10. U-32

Division I Top 5

1. Burlington 2. Essex 3. CVU 4. South Burlington 5. Mt. Mansfield

Division II Top 5

1. Harwood 2. U-32 3. Burr and Burton 4. Middlebury 5. Lamoille

Division III Top 5

1. Bellows Falls 2. BFA Fairfax 3. Rice 4. Hazen 5. Thetford 5. Randolph

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