Nov. 20, 2008
By Mal Boright
The first quick impression during an after school meeting with Champlain Valley Union High cross country competitor Tony Sulva is that a runner and his track shoes are never far apart.
Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Even though CVU’s cross country season ended at the New Englands in Manchester, N.H. on Nov. 8, Sulva had his shoes in hand and would be running following an interview with the Observer.
Next up for the lean (aren’t they all) five-kilometer specialist is the indoor track season at the University of Vermont facilities.
Sulva, a senior, is coming off his best campaign for the Redhawks — his accomplishments featured a slew of second place finishes, including the district meet in Swanton where he turned in a career-best time, and the state meet in Thetford.
“Tony is the best male runner I have ever coached,” said veteran CVU cross country mentor Scott Bliss. “He is also one of the most respected runners by his peers.”
Speaking of peers, the season was a series of chases involving Sulva, Mount Mansfield Union’s Adron Pitman and David Sinclair of Green Mountain Valley School, who entered the meets as an individual.
In the districts at Missisquoi Valley Union High, Sulva burned the course in 16 minutes and 18 seconds, his personal best. Pitmon just beat him, with a meet record time some 11 seconds better.
The two got together the following week in the hilly course at Thetford, with the state title at stake. This time, Sulva got past Pitmon late in the race but finished second to Sinclair, despite a late charge that caused some anxious moments for the victor.
“I had beaten David three times during the season, but he had a good day,” said Sulva. “Everybody peaks on a particular day and that was his.”
While Sinclair captured a well-deserved individual win, Sulva earned first place among the teams in the competition and that was perfectly all right with Bliss.
“He (Sulva) wanted to do what was best for the team and he did it. He was first among all the teams,” the coach said glowingly.
And the team aspect of what some consider an individual sport is all important to Sulva.
“We have seven runners, of whom five score,” he said. “When one has a problem, we all have to come together to make it up.”
Sulva recalled that at the state meet, one of CVU’s leading runners fell and finished last, but the team was still able to take second place, losing first by just three points to Essex High.
He also noted that team members can be helpful in motivating each other during pre-race preparations.
At the New Englands, against the best of the region, Sulva and Pitmon waged another of their duels while finishing in the 30’s in the huge field.
“I passed him with 800 meters to go, but he then got back and beat me by eight-tenths of a second,” Sulva recalled.
Pitmon finished 37th and Sulva 39th.
Sulva said the other New England states have many more good competitors than can be found in the smaller population of the Green Mountain State.
It has been a four-year haul for the senior harrier, who said when he began running his freshman year, his fastest time was 20:40.
“My first year I trained hard to get past that,” he said, noting an increasingly better work ethic helped him lower his times to 17:20 by the end of the season.
“I was breaking some ground and that really motivated me,” he said with a smile.
By the end of his sophomore year, Sulva was running just below 17 minutes.
The further down you go, the harder it gets, he pointed out.
Where will he run next fall?
Sulva said he has applied to several colleges but has not yet made a decision. He would like to get an athletic scholarship, but if that does not happen he will try out as a walk-on for what would then be a fortunate cross country program.
So how often does he run?
“Every day,” was the quick answer.
Even in the rain and mud, which, he says, is not that bad.
It’s the running that’s important.