A day for speed at Conant Fast 5K

Conant's Aylee Bernier at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday.

Conant's Aylee Bernier at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Conant's Nathan Alajajian led the boys' race wire-to-wire at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday. 

Conant's Nathan Alajajian led the boys' race wire-to-wire at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Conant's Aylee Bernier with mom Becky at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday.

Conant's Aylee Bernier with mom Becky at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Conant alumni Matt Bernier with sister Aylee at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday.

Conant alumni Matt Bernier with sister Aylee at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Florence Schaumloffel runs at Conant Tuesday. 

Mascenic's Florence Schaumloffel runs at Conant Tuesday.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Amelia Smith runs at Conant Tuesday. 

Mascenic's Amelia Smith runs at Conant Tuesday.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Skye Lambert runs at Conant Tuesday. 

Mascenic's Skye Lambert runs at Conant Tuesday.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Kaitlin O'Shea runs at Conant Tuesday. 

Mascenic's Kaitlin O'Shea runs at Conant Tuesday.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Conant's Aylee Bernier, with brother and Oriole alumni Matt Bernier pushing, races the Conant Fast 5K course Tuesday. 

Conant's Aylee Bernier, with brother and Oriole alumni Matt Bernier pushing, races the Conant Fast 5K course Tuesday.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

 Mascenic's Emma Schaumloffel was the second Viking girl across the finish line.

 Mascenic's Emma Schaumloffel was the second Viking girl across the finish line. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

 Mascenic's Erin O'Shea runs to a second-place finish at Conant on Tuesday. 

 Mascenic's Erin O'Shea runs to a second-place finish at Conant on Tuesday.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

 Conant's Amelia Hill wins the girls' race at the Conant Fast 5K against Mascenic, Derryfield and Hinsdale in Jaffrey on Tuesday

 Conant's Amelia Hill wins the girls' race at the Conant Fast 5K against Mascenic, Derryfield and Hinsdale in Jaffrey on Tuesday PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Conant's Nathan Alajajian led the boys' race wire-to-wire at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday. 

Conant's Nathan Alajajian led the boys' race wire-to-wire at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Derrick Somero leads teammate Dylan Callahan at Conant Tuesday.

Mascenic's Derrick Somero leads teammate Dylan Callahan at Conant Tuesday. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Conant teammates Odin Gauthier and Isaiah Nero race side-by-side at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday. 

Conant teammates Odin Gauthier and Isaiah Nero race side-by-side at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mascenic's Dylan Buttrick at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday.

Mascenic's Dylan Buttrick at the Conant Fast 5K Tuesday. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

By BEN CONANT

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 10-04-2023 3:39 PM

Aylee Bernier likes to go fast.

Ever since her adoptive parents took her in from China 13 years ago, Aylee has had a need for speed. First, she’d ride in her vehicle with mom Becky pushing her along, but it wasn’t long before Aylee started tugging at her mother’s leg, looking for a little more velocity.

Then, it was dad Chris’s turn, and the avid runner and Conant cross-country coach got Aylee, who has cerebral palsy, going even faster in her training vehicle, even pushing her along in a pair of recent 5Ks.

On Tuesday, Chris and Becky got to watch as Aylee – now a freshman on the Conant cross-country team – traded in her training vehicle for a sleek racing model and swapped out her usual running partners for a pair of star Oriole alums as she participated in the Conant Fast 5K race.

“Running’s been a part of our family from early on, and it’s nice to have her a part of it,” Becky said after Tuesday’s race.

On Tuesday, it was Aylee’s older brother Matthew – home briefly from his Marine Corps post in Switzerland – and fellow Conant running alum Kylie Aho who donned the orange-and-black to push Aylee down the 3.1-mile rail trail course.

“It was fun to watch her with a smile on her face,” Chris Bernier said. “I’m always pushing her. And also, to see my son involved with a Conant uniform on? It was really cool. It made the whole day worth it just for that, to watch two of my kids get to run.”

If Tuesday’s race had been at Conant’s usual home course around the track facility, Aylee likely would have sat it out, as the course is a bit too treacherous for her racing vehicle. But the Orioles moved over to the Jaffrey rail trail at Community Field, and the 5K out-and-back on flat ground was perfect for the freshman.

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Aylee has been welcomed to the Conant team this fall; the Orioles take turns pushing her during practices and goof around making funny videos with her during downtime.

“She has a blast,” Becky said. “She loves it. [The kids] will push her for 30 seconds when they’re practicing and then another one will jump in and push and they keep rotating the kids, so she gets to go really fast the whole time.”

Aylee wasn’t the only Oriole having a good time at Tuesday’s race against Mascenic, Derryfield and Hinsdale, as Conant runners took first in both the boys’ and girls’ races. An improved Amelia Hill has taken pole position for the Oriole girls this fall, and she won Tuesday by a handy margin, with her 20:53 personal record nearly 30 seconds ahead of Mascenic’s Erin O’Shea.

“I think she’s just getting warmed up,” Chris Bernier said. “I don’t even think she’s near her potential. We have another race Friday and I don’t expect anything less than another PR from her.”

Bella Nero is also on her way to another great season. Now that her Clarence DeMar half-marathon training is complete, she’s rounding into 5K form, and without the services of a guide runner this fall, the rail trail course was a welcome change from a wooded trail. She was Conant’s second finisher, in sixth in 22:46.

“She always pops at the right time, so when it comes to states, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a top-10 performance out of her,” Chris Bernier said.

Also finishing for the Conant girls were Lily Mormando (ninth), Ellie Cassidy (10th), Abby Hendren (13th), Sophia Batti (14th), Caroline Rockhill (15th), Amarah Lapinsky (16th), Scarlett Griffith (17th), Annaliese Medders (18th) and Lizzie Crespo (20th).

Conant’s Nathan Alajajian led the boys’ race from start to finish, going out hard on the flat course and holding a 40-plus-second lead through the end line (18:05). With only five boys on the team, the Orioles aren’t likely to make much noise at states, but Alajajian looks medal-bound at his current trajectory.

Also finishing for the Conant boys were Aaron Graham (sixth), Odin Gauthier (10th), Isaiah Nero (11th), Drake Parkerson (12th) and Billy Horne (25th).

Mascenic won both the boys’ and girls’ team races. The Viking girls are loaded with upperclassmen, and with a recent win at Belmont’s Jeri Blair Invitational, have their sights set on the podium. Top finishers on Tuesday were Erin O’Shea (second, 21:19), Emma Schaumloffel (third, 21:30), Kaitlin O’Shea (fourth, 21:56), Skye Lamber (fifth, 22:13), Amelia Smith (seventh), Gracie German (eighth), Diana O’Donnell (11th) and Florence Schaumloffel (12th).

Mascenic’s boys were led by the four-pack of Derrick Somero (second, 18:48), Dylan Callahan (third, 18:50), Kalsin Whitehead (fourth, 19:26) and Dylan Buttrick (fifth, 19:34). Also finishing for the Vikings was Logan Vaillancourt (16th). Both teams will race next at Monadnock at the Cheshire County Fairgrounds on Friday.