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Putney remains the heart of nordic skiing in Vermont

For years, Putney has been the epicenter of nordic ski racing in Vermont. Until the recent successes of the U.S. program at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the ski program in Putney produced the greatest group of cross-country skiers ever to represent this nation.

John Caldwell was an Olympian as a competitor (1952) and coach (1968, 1972, 1980, and 1984). As coach at The Putney School from the mid-1950s until his retirement in 1989, he trained some the greatest nordic skiers in U.S. history and literally wrote the book — The Cross-Country Ski Book, to be precise — on the sport.

His son, Tim Caldwell, competed in four Olympics and three World Cups in the 197os and 1980s, while Bill Koch won a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics, helped found the Bill Koch Ski League for 5-13 year olds, and revolutionized ski racing by introducing the skating technique. Koch and Caldwell, both Putney School alumni, were joined by Jim Galanes and Stan Dunklee of Brattleboro and the four trained and skied together for the Putney Ski Club. The four made up the U.S. relay team in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Dan Simoneau of Maine replaced Dunklee, and joined Caldwell, Koch, and Galanes on a record-setting relay team in the 1982 World Cup. This foursome was the best in the world that year and Koch became the first American to win an individual World Cup title.

Other nordic skiing Olympians from The Putney School include Bob Gray (1968 and 1972) and Martha Rockwell (1972 and 1976).

That’s a lot tradition to live up to, but the current crop of nordic skiers with Putney ties acquitted themselves well at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Nationals earlier this month in Rumsford, Maine.

Ten former students of The Grammar School in Putney were in the event. Racers Bridger Tyler, Cam McDermott, Heather Mooney (all TGS ’07), and Issy Pelletier (TGS ’08), currently students at Stratton Mountain School, were coached by Sverre Caldwell (TGS ’69).  Megan Killigrew (TGS ’05), a member of the Dartmouth ski team, was joined by fellow Dartmouth skiers and TGS alumni Patrick O’Brien (TGS’02) and Brayton Osgood (TGS ’95). Also competing were Gage Fichter (TGS ’06), who skis for UVM, Alicia Brelsford Dana (TGS ’82), who competed in the U.S. adaptive XC races, and Kevin Cutts (TGS ’02), a member of the Northern Michigan University team.

McDermott and Mooney had exceptional results that earned them places on U.S. Junior teams that will race in Europe this winter. Money was one of 12 U.S. girls and boys chosen compete in the World Junior Championships in Otepaa, Estonia, and McDermott was named to a team of 12 juniors who will travel to Ostersund, Sweden.

But for all the kudos for the Putney skiers, it was a 24-year-old woman from Vernon who stole the show. Morgan Smyth, a graduate of Stratton Mountain School, placed third out of 138 racers in the 1-kilometer sprint, and second out of 157 in the 10-kilometer classic.

Smyth had a shot of competing in the Vancouver games last year, but a bout of mononucleosis sidelined her. She’s fully recovered now, and working on an MBA degree at Alaska Pacific University, which also has a top-ranked ski team that she is racing for.

Girls’ basketball

• Size and rebounding usually is the key to winning basketball games. The Leland & Gray Rebels had it, and the Bellows Falls Terriers did not. The result was a 51-29 victory for the Rebels at Holland Gymnasium on Jan. 10.

The Rebels started slow, but turned it up in the second quarter to pull away for good. Seven different team members scored in the win, led by Bethany Robinson’s 15 points and 9 rebounds.

Alex Morrow had 9 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists. Ashley Goddard added 9 points and 9 rebounds, while Callie Ginter had 6 points and 5 steals. Sarah Dumont led the Terriers with 8 points, while Enny Mustapha and Emily Dufault each scored 6 points.

• Things didn’t go much better for BF last Saturday, as Windsor forced 11 turnovers and took a 20-point lead in the opening period on the way to a 53-25 romp over the 0-8 Terriers.

• Twin Valley was held to a single point in the final quarter in a 39-26 loss at Windsor on Jan. 10. Sam Bernard has 12 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Wildcats.

On Jan. 13 against Rivendell, the Wildcats came up short, 35-29. Bernard got into foul early in that game, so Savannah Nesbitt carried the scoring load with 16 points and 7 rebounds. Twin Valley had a 36-16 edge in rebounding, but had no answer for stopping Rivendell’s Lacey Sawyer, who led all scorers with 22 points.

• In a game that was decided at the free throw line, the Rutland Raiders beat the Brattleboro Colonels, 44-27, last Friday. The Raiders went 19-for-33 from the line, while the Colonels were only 4-for-7. The Colonels trailed 13-12 at the half, and played a solid defensive game, but it came at the cost of lots of free throws for Rutland. Kelsey Patterson scored 9 points to lead Brattleboro, all coming off three-point shots.

Boys’ basketball

•Leland & Gray seems to be in a bit of a slump, with two home losses last week.

On Jan. 10, the Rebels lost a heartbreaker to the undefeared Proctor Phantoms, 49-48. In a truly back-and-forth game where neither team could stake themselves to a comfortable lead, it came down to a pair of free throws by Proctor’s Ryan Petrini with 7 seconds left for the win. Matt Bizon led the Rebels with 17 points, while teammates Noah Chapin and Drew Barnum each added 9. Once Salago led the Phantoms with 18.

The Springfield Cosmos used a strong second half effort to beat the Rebels, 60-53, on Jan. 13. The Rebels led 28-23 at the half, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Chapin scored 12 to lead Leland & Gray, while Josh Fontaine had 11 and Barnum chipped in 10.

• The Brattleboro Colonels improved to 7-1 with a 41-38 win at St. Johnsbury on Jan. 11. The Colonels led by 11 going into the fourth quarter, and held on in the face of a very tough defensive effort by the Hilltoppers. Nate Forrett was the top scorer with 12 points.

• Twin Valley dropped a pair of games last week. On Jan. 11, they lost to Burr & Burton, 48-31, despite 14 points and 12 rebounds from Troy Birch. On Jan. 13, the Wildcats were beaten by Rivendell, 67-46. Birch had another monster game with 18 points and 20 rebounds, but Rivendell’s Kyle Huntington and Dillon Pelletier scored 21 and 10 points, respectively.


The Brattleboro Union High School bowling club made its competitive debut last Thursday in a tournament at Springfield Bowl against the Springfield Cosmos and Hartford Hurricanes.

Audrey and Burl Penton, owners of Brattleboro Bowl on Putney Road, helped get the bowling club started about five years ago. Approximately 14 BUHS students participate.

The hope is that the Vermont Principals’ Association will ultimately sanction bowling as a varsity sport, as it is in New Hampshire and 18 other states. Another 28 states offer bowling at the non-varsity club level. Vermont, along with North Dakota and Colorado, are the only three states that do not have any formal high school bowling programs.

BOC Ski Hut opens

• Thanks to last Wednesday’s huge snowstorm, which left 19 inches of snow in Brattleboro, conditions are now good enough for the Brattleboro Outing Club to open its trails for the season.

The BOC operates 25 kilometers of groomed trails in and around the Brattleboro Country Club on Upper Dummerston Road. The Ski Hut is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends. The honor system applies the rest of the week. If you are not a BOC member, trail fees are $15 on weekends, and $10 on weekdays for adults. Juniors (under 21) pay $10 every day.

A winter BOC membership is $125 for adults, $90 for juniors, and $250 for families up to five members, and provides unlimited trail time. Also, your BOC pass gives you a complementary single-day pass at each of Vermont’s 27 other nordic ski resorts. Visit for more details.

Skiing at Living Memorial Park

Wednesday’s storm also made conditions on the downhill skiing and snowboarding slope at Living Memorial Park the best they’ve been in years. The rope tow at the park is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Lift tickets are just $5, and children 5 and under ski free.

The hill, which opened for the season on Jan. 9, is run by the nonprofit, all-volunteer Living Memorial Park Snow Sports. They are looking for more volunteers. Call 802-257-4074 if you can help in any way.

Whitingham Fireman’s Fishing Derby this weekend

On Saturday, Jan. 22, from 12:01 a.m. until 4 p.m., the Whitingham Fireman’s Association will host the second Annual Whitingham Fireman’s Fishing Derby on Sadawaga Lake.

Tickets are on sale at the Whitingham Country Store and the Whitingham Town Clerk’s office. Tickets are $10 per person. Children under 5 are free, but will need to fill out a ticket.

Prizes are for heaviest fish in two categories — yellow perch and chain pickerel. Fish must be a minimum of 8 inches for perch and 16 inches for pickerel to be weighed. Prizes in each category are $400 for first place, $200 for second, and $100 for third in each category. In case of tie, the money will be split among the contestants.

For more information, contact Fire Chief Stanley Janovsky Jr. at 802-368-2446 or

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Originally published in The Commons issue #84 (Wednesday, January 19, 2011).

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