January 17, 2020 – Middlebury, Vermont
Middlebury College vs Colby College
Vermont is a self-contained universe of small towns. It’s largest city, Burlington, is the smallest largest city in the country with a population just a shade over 42,000. The second-largest city, South Burlington, has just under 18,000 people.
Today the road took me to Middlebury, a town of just 8,500, and the ride took me through tiny towns like Bethel, a place that has less people than my high school.
What Vermont lacks in megacities it makes up for in its charm, and Middlebury is the perfect kind of charming. It’s a town straight out of central casting. A snowy hamlet in the mountains wrapped around an elite university with the history to match.
John Deere, yes, that John Deere, went to college here. Robert Frost taught at the school for more than four decades. That’s just the kind of place that Middlebury College, and the town itself, is.
It’s a bear to get to as it’s an hour off I-89 through land so remote that there is no connectivity of any type. However, once you get there it is a truly wonderful little town.
The Fire and Ice resturant (not connected to the chain) is a local treasure. Opened in 1974, the restaurant is a landmark in town and has the food to back it up. A quirky mishmash of trinkets and stained glass inside, Fire and Ice is a delight.
Every entree comes with a complimentary all-you-can-eat salad bar. The bar has every salad staple along with chickpeas, sushi, and pasta salad among its options.
There is also a well-manicured boat in the middle of the salad room.
The dining rooms were exactly what you would think from a cozy, family-owned New England restaurant. Soft lighting, stained glass, books set upon the walls.
What made the night even better was that I was meeting my friend Clayton, A native Vermonter, Clayton is one of many groovy people I’ve met in my sports travels. An author, a traveler, and a member of SABR, Clayton’ the kind of guy who loves his state and loves the theatricality of sports.
He was also picking up dinner that night, and I’m never one to say a negative thing about someone like that.
If you had told me the best cheesesteak I’d ever have would be in Northwest Vermont I’d have said there’s no way. But that sandwich could compete with any of Philly’s best.
Middlebury has just 2,500 students but just a shade over $1 billion in its endowment. With that comes resources unavailable to most D3 schools, or for that fact many D1 institutions.
It shows the most with the main athletic building on campus. Enclosed within is the indoor track, pool, ice arena, and the gym. There could very well be more but that’s just what I walked by on my way to the game.
Pepin Gymnasium is nice and cozy. Sitting a compact 1,200 people, the room is no-frills in the best possible way.
One quirk of the room is its baseline. Due to the gym being housed in a Quonset hut-esque building, it means that pillars extend a little too close to the court on the baseline which creates one of the more unique padding setups in college basketball.
The contest was a massive one in Division III. It was 12th-ranked and unbeaten Colby traveling west to play the fifth-ranked Panthers.
The game had an added energy due to Noah Tyson. A native of nearby Castleton, the sophomore had a large and vocal cheering section right behind the Colby bench.
Tyson finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Check out a nifty layup from Tyson late in the first half.
The game was an excellent one. Colby led by 10 in the first half but couldn’t shake the Panthers. Middlebury eventually took the lead, 71-69 with 5:52 left but Colby took the lead back for good less than a minute later and put it away with this three:
Colby 89, Middlebury 82. Final.
Top performer for Colby: Alex Dorion -23 points
Top performer for Middlebury: Jack Farrell – 20 points, six rebounds
Time of game – 1:30