November 3, 2003

 

Dear Coaches, Students, Volunteers and Friends,

 

It was 13 years ago this weekend, on November 9, 1990, that I had the idea that Thetford Academy could host the New England Cross-Country Championship in 1992.  I’ve had a lot of good memories since then, and I thought I’d share some with you.

 

My very first memory (though it doesn’t count as a good one!) is that my wife, Dana, was very sick with the flu as we were driving back in the pouring rain from the 1990 New England Championship at Manchester, New Hampshire.  That’s when the idea popped into my head.  I’d seen in the program for the event that the 1992 New Englands would be held in Vermont at some “site to be announced.” Well, why not Thetford Academy, I thought.

 

After talking with John Morton, who I knew had designed some nice trails on his own land, I remember doing up a (probably overly long) proposal to the Vermont Headmasters’ Association—as the Vermont Principals’ Association was then called—to host the Vermont Championship and the New England Championship.

 

After John Morton did the initial design of the course, I have a picture in my head from March of 1991, of John and me crashing through the underbrush looking to lay out 5,000 meters of trail.  We had borrowed from a local surveyor a rig called a “hip chain” to measure it.  The hip chain laid down a thin bio-degradable thread as it clicked off the meters.  Don’t believe that it’s bio-degradable!  John and I later picked up every meter of that stuff!

 

Here’s another memory: One misty, moisty summer Sunday morning in July of 1991, Dana and I went up to cut through some of the slash left over from State Park logging in 1990.  I cut and we threw; I cut and we threw.  We were joined by bugs and heat.  It was just above the big airplane turn” coming down the hill on the upper loop.  I still can’t pass the place without thinking about that morning.

 

A little later in the summer of 1991, a bunch of us were working at about the 3,000-meter mark.  The 5-year-old son of one of the volunteers had come up to watch.  As we rolled a log out of the way, a swarm of hornets attacked the poor kid.  All of us adults jumped in to swat the hornets off of him.  Last Saturday, that same kid, now a young man about to graduate from high school, was part of the Thetford Academy team that won the Vermont Division 3 Championship.

 

The Trail got built because hundreds of volunteers worked on it.  Our first big event was the Second Annual Woods Trail Run in 1992.  I’ve never forgotten the letter we all got on the Monday after that event.  I’ll reproduce the whole thing here:

 

Dear Thetford Academy Cross Country Race Organizers:

 

On behalf of the Peoples Academy Cross-Country team supporters, we wish to compliment and thank you for the fantastic job you did at last Saturday’s Second Annual Woods Trail Run.

 

To be totally honest, there were some of us who were very concerned when Thetford Academy was chosen as the site of this year’s State Finals and New England Championships.  We were wrong!  After our recent experience, we feel no reservations at all.  We have never attended a more efficiently managed race.  You have reason to feel very proud of your school and community.

 

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

 

Sincerely,

Peoples Academy Cross Country Supporters

 

What a nice letter!

 

One of the fond memories I have of races, one that I miss, is the sound of thousands of feet pounding across the wooden bridge on the lower loop.  Thumpity, thumpity, thumpity, thump, they went.  Putting the big culvert there was the right thing to do after the bridge supports became shaky, but I miss the thumpitys.

 

And how about the Fun Runs during the summer?  Those every-Tuesday-evening events from mid-June to late August are far more low-key than the big races.  So low-key, in fact, that they could almost run themselves—and once did so.  In 1998, I went on vacation for three weeks and arranged for someone to take care of the Fun Runs.  My replacement thought I would be back a week earlier than I was.  No one showed up to take names and record times for the final Tuesday I was gone.  So the 10 people who were there simply started a watch, and one of them recorded the names and times and gave them to me the next week.

 

I’ll bet there are 60,000 students and parents (yes, that’s how many people have come here over the years) who will join me in remembering the singing of our national anthem before each of our events.  Stirring!  And done by our Thetford Academy students!

 

I have especially fond memories of the thousands and thousands of students who were our guests over the years.  You all remember seeing students jigging to some of the Irish music.  And I remember the wet season of 1996, when the students went belly-flopping in the mud after their races.  But I have fixed in my mind a picture of students bounding about on our fields, like colts in a pasture, having a good time, learning, I have always hoped, a lesson in community service.

 

But the primary memory I have of these 13 years is of a community working together.  Volunteers doing every job imaginable.  Volunteers busily showing off their community—our Thetford Academy community—to its best advantage.  Volunteers eating donuts.  Volunteers parking cars, pounding stakes, ordering finishers, mopping up mud.  Volunteers who for 13 years have had, as that group of Peoples supporters put it, “every reason to feel very proud of [their] school and community.”

 

I’m now going to take those memories, and so many others, and leave.  I’m retiring, and I’m leaving the Trail, its maintenance, the Fun Runs, and the big meets.  I’m leaving all of it to the Thetford Academy community, and I’ll find new memories in new activities.

 

I leave it to my community, the Thetford Academy community, to decide how to continue the Trail, its maintenance, and the cross-country events. 

 

I have so many reasons to feel very proud of my school and my community.   And I am so very proud.

 

I met all of you through our Trail and these events.  You have been so very supportive for 13 years.  Thank you.  Thank you, all of you.

 

With all my best wishes, I am,

 

Dan Grossman

Thetford Academy Trail Coordinator and Meet Director Emeritus