Seamus Degan did a lot more than win one of the eight races at Friday’s Section VI Cross Country Championships at Elma Meadows Golf Course.
The City Honors senior became just the second runner to bring a title home to the Buffalo Public Schools since the annual event began in 1947. The only other City runner to win a race was Jacob Mays of Traditional in 1985.
While Degan’s race took 17:03.0 to run, his eventual victory was a long time in the making.
“Lotsa muddy Sundays at Chestnut Ridge, putting in long runs, getting used to the muck. I was ready for it today,” said Degan. “I trained with some friends of mine, guys from other teams, we train at Chestnut Ridge, put in long runs, work hard on the trails and work hard on hills so a course like this doesn’t get to you and tire you out.”
A field of 405 boys and 246 girls competed over the muddy course in temperatures that hovered in the low 40s. The event was also a qualifier for next week’s New York State Championships, which this year will be hosted at Elma Meadows. The winning team, along with the top five runners of each race not on the winning team, advanced.
The overall Class C team title went to Alden, the program’s first, led by senior Sean Turner, who was runner-up to Degan in 17:14.6.
CLASS A BOYS: Clarence won its third title in four years with three runners in the top 10. Lockport was a mere two points behind with four runners in the top 10. Junior Dan Huben of the Red Devils won the race after finishing runner-up last year. Zachery Kuloszewski was fifth and John Benzee eighth.
“I knew after the first mile, I was going to have to start going,” said Huben. “I was worried about Kalen Sullivan [of West Seneca West]. At about the mile mark, he didn’t take it out too hard, he was behind me then, but then I looked back at the second mile and I saw him.”
CLASS B: Junior TJ Hornberger of Lake Shore won his third title in a row with easily the fastest time of the day for boys in 16:09.0. “The wind and all the mud – there’s nothing you can really do except stay mentally strong and just keep pushing through it. I would have liked to get sub-16 [minutes] but with the conditions, it was pretty good.”
A 2-3-4 finish led the way as East Aurora won its 10th crown in the last 11 years. Seniors Sean Phillips, Brendan Keany and Gene Barritot turned in strong runs.
CLASS D: Junior Corey Wefing of Maple Grove won his third title in a row crossing the finish line in 16:52.2. As well as Wefing and his teammates ran, they could not dethrone defending sectional and state champion Barker. All seven of the Raiders’ runners finished in the top 14 as Jordan Bender, Bryce Moeller and Hayden Hathaway went 2-3-5.
CLASS A GIRLS: Clarence won its fourth title in a row led by junior Marissa Saenger, who overcame many obstacles to win the third sectionals of her career. Just like the Clarence boys, the girls needed a big effort to hold off Lockport. Eighth-grader Katrina Patterson, junior Emily Garrett and freshman Alicia Symons turned in gutsy runs for the Red Devils.
CLASS B: Junior Marta McLaughlin of East Aurora won her third Section VI title holding off Sophia Tasselmyer of Starpoint, who had beaten her at ECICs and at the Alden Stampede. Her 18:58.9 was the fastest time of the day for girls.
“I’ve been going out slower trying to prepare for these harder courses because if you go out too fast, you’re done,” said McLaughlin. So she [Tasselmyer] just got me and I never had time to like close her down. [Today] I made sure I was always with her. I matched every move that she did.”
McLaughlin’s run led the Blue Devils to their 12th straight team title.
CLASS C: Lauren Reyda of Fredonia won her third sectional title and she’s only a sophomore. “There always is a little bit of pressure [being the defending champion] but you just have to run your race, run as hard as you can. You just gotta push through the pain,” she said.
Fredonia also took home the team title for the fifth year in a row.
CLASS D: Maple Grove ran away with this title with a 1-2-3 finish led by repeat champion Hope Pietrocarlo, who is only a freshman. Last year’s Class D state champion Megan Marsh was second and former sectional champion Caroline Benson was third.
“Hope’s fast, she’s a determined kid and a beautiful runner. There’s just nothing wrong with what she does,” said Maple Grove coach Doc Rappole. “Those three girls are unbelievable. They can really do the job.”