The Commons
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Putney remains the heart of nordic skiing in Vermont

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Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons

Leland & Gray guard Alyson Marcucci (12) tries to muscle past Bellows Falls defender Kammie Crawford during their game on Jan. 10 at Holland Gymnasium.

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


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.

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