The weather simply could not have been more perfect for a run, but few could have predicted the final outcomes of Saturday’s 63rd New York State Cross Country Championships.
The course records for boys and girls were shattered as well as the fastest times ever for Section VI boys and girls.
Unseasonably warm temperatures, no wind and a course that held up to 2,294 runners spelled doom for the long-standing marks. Senior Nick Ryan of Fayetteville-Manlius ran a 15:07.9 over the 5K course to rewrite the previous record of 15:38.6 held since 2001 by Orchard Park’s Peter Meindl.
Ryan wasn’t the only runner to better Meindl’s time. There were four others including junior TJ Hornberger of Lake Shore, who now owns the fastest time for a Section VI runner over the Elma Meadows course after he placed second in the Class B race with a 15:35.1.
“I think everyone, no matter what, you always think you can do that much better, but I think I gave it my all,” said Hornberger. “I didn’t want to go out and try to win in the first mile. I stayed back until it panned out and it was just me and him [Ryan] left.”
The girls course record now stands at 17:34.3 courtesy of freshman Megan Reilly of Warwick Valley. Denise Bushhallow of Section III’s Auburn held the previous record of 18:09 since 1986. An impressive 13 girls bettered Bushhallow’s time.
One of them was junior Marissa Saenger of Clarence, who ran a career-best 17:41.3 to earn third place in the Class A race and claim the girls Section VI record at Elma Meadows. The previous record was 18:20.3 held by East Aurora’s Peggy Melonic since 1997.
“I think it’s the hardest I’ve run all season, I thought I was going to die at the end,” said Saenger, now a veteran of four state meets. “It’s the first time I’ve really had a lot of competition, so it was exciting,”
Also carving out a piece of history were the Maple Grove girls, who claimed the only state title on the day for Section VI as they won the Class D race. Freshman Hope Pietrocarlo led the charge with a third place finish in 18:57.10. Defending state champion Megan Marsh placed among the top 10 in 10th in 19:44.4
Maple Grove had all the incentive it needed in wanting to knock off Greenwich. Their Section II nemesis finished 1-2, but Maple Grove’s top five runners finished in the top 15, adding up to a 21-point margin of victory.
“We planned on winning today and we trained so hard,” said Pietrocarlo. “Everybody had a great race, that was the key.”
The East Aurora boys and girls were both Class B runners-up while defending state champion Barker boys were second in Class D.
The EA girls all finished within 34.4 seconds of each other with all five runners in the top 19. Holy Names of Section II won the race with its fivesome placing in the top 12.
“Our girls did awesome. Sometimes you get beat by a better team,” said EA coach Walt McLaughlin. “Holy Names is ranked Top 10 in the country for a reason. We ran better than any EA team has run on this course. Anytime you can line up and be in the thick of things, that’s a good thing.”
EA’s top runner was Marta McLaughlin, who placed seventh, two spots behind Sophia Tasselmyer of Starpoint. Sweet Home’s Jenny DelSignore was 10th. Gene Baritot was EA’s top boy in 16:26.8.
It was the fifth year in a row Barker finished in the top two. Jordan Bender, Bryce Moeller and Casey Webb led the way. “They really got after it,” said coach Paul Dessarkissian. “We lost five seniors last year, and they knew the lineage that we had and they brought it all back together and they keep the tradition going.”
Corey Wefing of Maple Grove was fifth in the Class D race, but he said he had higher expectations. “My time (16:32.4) is a PR here, but I just didn’t get it done,” he said.
The top boy finisher in the Class A race was Dan Huben of Clarence in 26th place. “The first mile everyone took it out fast and they kept it fast. It was just constant. You had to stay tough. I had trouble keeping up. I caught a couple people at the end,” he said.
Fredonia was fifth in the girls Class C race led by Kirsten Holmberg. Newfane junior Kelly Bochnewetch was the top Section VI finisher in 16th. She said she focused on her knowledge of the course rather than the competition.
Alden’s boys were fourth in the Class C race, seven points out of third. The Bulldogs’ Sean Turner and City Honors’ Seamus Degan both crossed in 16:50.8.