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Swanton high school student breaks Division II Vermont state record at New England Championship

A photo showing girls lined up on an indoor track coming out of the starting blocks.
Randy Shutter, Courtesy
Swanton high schooler Ruth Brueckner at the start of the 55m race at the New England Championship in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ruth Brueckner started running at the age of four when she tagged along with her mom and siblings to track practice at the elementary school in Swanton. That’s where Ruth’s mom was recruited to coach. And Ruth has been running ever since.

“I’m the youngest of five.  I have three older brothers and an older sister and we all ran for MVU. My brothers are a lot older than me, so it started from a very young age, watching everyone do it. I'm competitive. I was always motivated to try to keep up with my sister and that played a big part into it, also,” Brueckner said.

The now-18-year-old from Franklin County competed in theNew Balance Nationals Indoor Track competition in New York City last week. And a week before that, Brueckner ran in the New England Championships, where she broke the Division II Vermont state record in the 600-meter for the second time this season.

A photo showing a girl who appears white wearing a blue uniform and face mask on an indoor track.
Dan Brueckner, Courtesy
MVU's Ruth Brueckner running the 600m race at the Vermont State Championship.

"I was able to break the state record at States and then again in New Englands, where the higher competition really helped to push it there," Brueckner said.

And there’s a kind of passing of the baton here, to use a running metaphor, because the runner that held the record before Brueckner, is UVM’s Sonia John. She ran for Rice Memorial High School and broke what — at the time — was the 600-meter Division II record for indoor track. And Brueckner remembers watching Sonia John.

“She was really fast," Brueckner said.  "I remember me and my friend were like, how do you do it?  She was sweet and gave us all these tips. I never thought I could be that fast, and it meant a lot to beat someone I remember watching, and break her record.”

The New England Championships were held March 5 and 6 at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston. The best six runners in each track and field event are chosen from the state competition to advance to New Englands. Brueckner qualified in all three of her main events: the 55-meter, 300-meter and 600-meter.

“When I crossed the line I didn’t get to look at the time.  I had no idea what my time was or where I placed until the girls started saying, 'You just ran a one minute thirty-six second!' I actually didn’t know until right before we got on the podium," Brueckner said.

"I never thought I could be that fast, and it meant a lot to beat someone I remember watching, and break her record."
Ruth Brueckner

And that was the second time Brueckner recorded a personal best time in the 600-meter this season, shaving nearly three seconds off her time from the state championship. And it landed her a third place finish at the regional meet, where she also earned a first place title in the 300-meter.

There was no indoor track season last year because of COVID, and the students this year didn’t know what to expect for post-season.

 “We didn’t know if there was going to be New Englands. Even States had been up in the air, so I was really thankful we got to go to it," Brueckner said.

A photo showing runners wearing medals and standing on a podium.
Dan Brueckner, Courtesy
MVU's Ruth Brueckner on the podium at the New England Championship for Indoor Track & Field March 5, 2022.

Brueckner, who runs forMVU, was one of nine Vermont high schoolers who qualified for Nationals, along with students from BFA St. Albans, Essex, CVU and St. Johnsbury Academy. Brueckner describes what it was like to soak in the surroundings ofNew York City’s Armory Track.

“When we walked in, it was so overwhelming in a good way, I guess," she said. "Everything was super professional and everything was dedicated to track.  It was just so, so big, and there are pictures of Olympians plastered everywhere because that’s where they train and compete.  There are signs saying it’s the fastest track in the world.  It was awesome!”

And not surprisingly, thoughts of another Franklin County runner ran through Brueckner’s mind — Elle Purrier St. Pierre.

"She ran here in January and set the American record for the indoor mile in the Millrose Games, and ran it again a month ago and won it," Brueckner said. "Watching her run here, and when I was warming up, thinking, this is so crazy to be running here, I’ve seen it on TV so many times.  And I’ve watched so many Olympians run there.  This is crazy that we get to run on the same track."

"It was just so, so big, and there are pictures of Olympians plastered everywhere because that’s where they train and compete."
Ruth Brueckner

In a northern Vermont school, with no indoor track, training can be unconventional.

"We run around the theatre in MVU," said Brueckner. "It actually comes in handy that MVU is in circles, because I know a lot of other people struggle to find places to run."

Their training includes endurance building and “broken 800s,” which Brueckner describes this way:

"A broken 800 is: you sprint 200 meters, then you get a 30-second break.  You do that four times, and then you have a full recovery. And then you just keep doing it again."

For Brueckner, running is something that will continue to be part of her life, broken 800s and all, even after she graduates this year.

"In the fall I’ll be going to Crown College in Minnesota," she said. "They’re a Division III school, so I’ll be running for them.  And my sister is there, so we’ll be running together again."

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb @mwertlieb.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Karen is Vermont Public's Director of Radio Programming, serving Vermonters by overseeing the sound of Vermont Public's radio broadcast service. Karen has a long history with public radio, beginning in the early 2000's with the launch of the weekly classical music program, Sunday Bach. Karen's undergraduate degree is in Broadcast Journalism, and she has worked for public radio in Vermont and St. Louis, MO, in areas of production, programming, traffic, operations and news. She has produced many projects for broadcast over the years, including the Vermont Public Choral Hour, with host Linda Radtke, and interviews with local newsmakers with Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb. In 2021 Karen worked with co-producer Betty Smith on a national collaboration with StoryCorps One Small Step, connecting Vermonters one conversation at a time.
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