By JOE GONILLO

With Raymond Bell, professional T-shirt designer.

Valentine’s Day!! Besides the cards, flowers, chocolates, and/or dinners, this marks the halfway point of February. State championships on the line for the track and field teams and the gymnastics team on Saturday. Both should be exciting. EHS will host the gymnastics  championships once again.

The Pink Zone hoop game is also this week!

In track and field, St. Johnsbury will be the boys main competition while the defending champion Hilltoppers and the Wolves are the girls challengers. Hornet top/high seeds include:

  • Ryan Guerino and Jackson Baker 1-2 in long jump;
  • Henry Farrington 1st in 1500m;
  • Peter Alden 1st 3000m;
  • Lizzie Martell 1st 600m/2nd 300m;
  • Hannah Neddo 2nd high jump;
  • Jeremy Brenan and Jack Hamilton 2nd/3rd weight throw;
  • Spencer Towle and James Boldosser;
  • Jamaal Hakey 2nd 55m high hurdles;
  • Neljla Hadzic 2nd 55m high hurdles;
  • Baker 4th high jump;
  • Natalie Preston 3rd 1500m;
  • Hannah Brisson 3rd 3000m;
  • Morgan Marckres 4th 3k.

The gymnasts’ last meet against Randolph was cancelled due to weather. They ended their season on Senior Night vs Middlebury– check last week’s column for specifics. This young team grew consistently as the season progressed. Their 135.3 score was a winter-season high, and they enjoy a lot of depth this year. Some of their top scorers have been senior Abbey Gleason as well as juniors Ella Lesny and Livia Ball. Again, this team enjoys great chemistry, knows how to work together to accomplish their goals, and are extremely excited to compete this Saturday.

The wrestlers continue their dominance in Vermont. On Saturday the Hornets captured their 3rd consecutive NVAC Wrestling Championship in chilly St. Johnsbury Academy. In round one Essex easily defeated a combined team of Harwood, Middlebury and Williamstown 78-6. In the semifinals they crushed St. J 60-18. The finals came down to the last match of the day with Ben Stewart earning a technical fall for a razor-close 41-40 victory. Congrats!

On Saturday, the junior varsity team heads to Spaulding High School for the JV State Tournament. Next week, Essex hosts the State Tournament Friday and Saturday 2/22 – 2/23.

The girls hockey team is 13-1 after a 2-0 week. The Hornets blitzed Woodstock 4-0 behind 2 goals from Grace Wiggett. Hannah Himes and Olivia Miller-Johnson scored the other goals. Sage Amaliksen had 2 assists while goalkeepers Isabelle Seguin and Megan Ginnett stopped 7 shots. Essex shutout South Burlington 3-0 Saturday and has now won eight games in a row. Rutland and Burlington High School/Colchester High School provide the opposition this week.

With two big wins last week over Bellows Free Academy and Spaulding High School the boys’ hockey team is now 10-2. The big one was in St. Albans, a 2-1 squeaker. Sam Gibbs’ first period tally, Charles Wiegand’s second period tip-in, a stifling defense, and solid goaltending was the recipe for success. Sam Foster stopped 28 shots, Jason Smith, Willem Barwin, and Justin Prim added assists in the huge win. Essex kept it going Saturday in a 6-1 smothering of SHS.

Next up for the team is Rice, BFA again – but this time at home Saturday at 5 p.m., and a rescheduled CVU game Monday.

The boys basketball team went 1-1 last week, and is now 8-6. The Hornets lost a heartbreaker to Rice 57-53 in OT as a Green Knight driving layup tied the game as time expired. Stephen Astor swished 14 points and Robbie Meslin 11. They bounced back with a 46-39 win over BHS. Meslin hit for 16, and Astor added 9 field throws late in the game. They’ll play  MMU and St.J this week.

The girls basketball team went 2-0 and is now 9-7. The Hornets dropped SHS 58- 43 and stopped SB 33-24. A strong second half saw Essex score 36 points to leading to the win. Sarah Coulter had 23, Anna Sabourin 11, and Rachel Botala 10. The girls shutout the Wolves (9-0) in the final quarter in an outstanding display of defense. Lizzie Goodrich totaled 8 pts and Coulter 6. This week they battled St J then host BHS. The junior varsity defeated the Tide and Wolves upping their mark to a stellar 14-1. In their 58-12 win over SB Paige Winter had 11 and Cindy Sheeran 9.  The Pink Zone games are Thursday. Hopefully following same schedule as years past.

The downhill skiers raced in a giant slalom hosted by Smuggler’s Notch. The ladies had a nice day. Madeleine Larson stepped up her skill placing 13th in a time of 1:28.17. It was her 1st top 15 finish. Maggie Donahue finished 22nd in 1:37.11. Cara Vignulli was 28th in 1:42.73. As they only had 3 racers, EHS didn’t score as an official team. BFA edged Stowe 24-28. The boys skied well tying for 3rd with BHS.  Individually Drew Engard placed 14th with a time of 1:20.85. Bryan Stammelman was 16th with a time of 1:23.25. Nate Croft finished 22nd in 1:26.64 and Zach Centracchio rounded out the scoring with a 1:41.99 for 38th. Also Conor McMahon 39th 1:44.92 and Christian Smith in 43rd 2:24.39 completed their results. The team continues its improvement and is gaining ground on their opponents. With NVACs looming things are looking good.

The Nordic skiiers final scores from the Tour De Chittenden went like this: varsity boys – 10th 234pts; varsity girls – 9th 182;

Our Essex bowlers finished 2nd behind Randolph and ahead of BHS, and White River Valley School Saturday. They scored 1402 (744/658) as Ben Sprenger and Tyler Elias bowled 168 and 167 respectively in the first match. Griffin Pine’ 154 and Sprenger’s 142 led the team in the second with Sam Buell rolling 135.

Congratulations to the cheerleaders for winning the NVAC’s Saturday at SBHS.

Happy Birthday Kayla Guerino, Michelle Kent, former all-star babysitter Chelsea Zelko, Tanja Digangi, New York Ranger gk Alexandar Georgiev, Steve Hennessey, Jayne Tessitore, Lindsay Morrett Johnson. Monday would have been my parents’ – Don and Rosemary- 63 anniversary and in-laws Terry and Ed Bechtel’s 73rd! Thanks to Ben Chiappinelli for updating my picture too.