It’s that time of year to stop looking at the weekly speed rankings on the web and start looking to the finish line. That’s where the best cross country runners in the state will be decided on Saturday at Elma Meadows.
If there’s anyone who knows what it takes to be the best, it’s East Aurora coach Walt McLaughlin, whose girls have won six out of the last seven Class B titles and whose boys will be chasing their third title in a row.
“The speed rankings, or any kind of rankings, do not win state meets. Performances do and that’s what it’s going to take on Saturday,” he said.
Elma Meadows Golf Course will be the site, and Section VI will be the host of this year’s championships between the state’s top public schools. Because the site rotates between the state’s 11 sections, this is the first time since 2001 the meet has been held here. The journey to this end of the state may be difficult for some sections. Superstorm Sandy has postponed until today the championship meets in the downstate Sections of I, IX and XI. Long Island’s Section VIII may be forced to having a panel select its representatives.
Elma Meadows may be considered a spectator-friendly course, but that doesn’t means it’s a picnic to run.
“It’s going to be a good challenge for these teams to meet the ‘Course of Truth,’ ” said McLaughlin. “We think this is the best course in the state and a lot of teams outside the area are going to be surprised how difficult it is. These are great teams, it’s going to be super-competitive. We’re really going to have to have our top performance. This is what we live for.”
East Aurora isn’t the only school with high expectations. The three teams who won state titles last year in Verona are back – the East Aurora boys in Class B, Barker boys in Class D and Maple Grove girls in Class D. Megan Marsh, who won the Class D race last year as an eighth-grader, returns with an impressive supporting cast.
Here’s a class-by-class look at how Section VI could fare:
CLASS A: Race favorite Nick Ryan of Fayetteville-Manlius-III is capable of spectacular runs, evidenced by the meet record he broke last spring at the state track meet, where he ran 4:05.24 in the 1,600 meters.
Clarence finds itself in a field with a F-M squad not only ranked No. 1 in the state, but also among the top 20 teams in the country. The Red Devils finished in eighth place last year. Clarence’s Dan Huben is capable of a top 20 finish and Kalen Sullivan of West Seneca West has had a big year despite battling a stress fracture.
Lockport, only two points behind Clarence for the sectional title (43-45), qualified three runners.
Section VI hasn’t had near the success at states in Class A as it has in the smaller classes. In fact, the last Class A state title was won by Sweet Home 26 years ago when Charlie Kern was a junior.
Section VI runners: Huben-11 (Clarence); Sullivan-12 (West Seneca West); Mitch Lioacano-11 (Lockport) Dan Jones-11 (Lockport); Zachery Kuloszewski-10 (Clarence); Matt Kaczmarek-12 (Lockport); Jack Jibb-10 (Niagara-Wheatfield); John Benzee-12 (Clarence); Anthony Casullo-10 (Clarence); Alex Tryjankowski-11 (Clarence); Nicholas Knorz-11 (Clarence); Kieran Coffey-12 (Clarence).
CLASS B: Section VI could sweep the team and individual titles.
Two-time defending champion East Aurora is ranked No. 3 in the state with Pittsford-Mendon of Section V ranked No. 2 and Bishop Gibbons of Section II on top. EA’s Sean Phillips placed ninth last year while Gene Baritot was 20th.
TJ Hornberger of Lake Shore is ranked No. 1 in state’s speed rankings. He’s had a huge junior year, placing second at McQuaid and third at Manhattan. He makes his third trip to states. Last year he placed third. His biggest challenge is expected to come from senior Ryan Manahan of Marcellus.
“I’m going to put everything I have into it. I really want to win it,” said Hornberger. “I’m probably going to keep my training the same, maybe do a little bit less to taper off for states, plus I’m going to sign up for regionals and nationals this year.”
Section VI runners: Hornberger (Lake Shore); Phillips-12 (East Aurora); Brendan Keany-12 (East Aurora); Baritot-12 (East Aurora); John Panus-12 (Olean); Matt Prohaska-12 (Starpoint); Calvin Butlak-10 (Lake Shore); Jake Wojnicki (Hamburg); Matt McLaughlin-9 (East Aurora); Kenny Vasinder-9 (East Aurora); Matt Nason-12 (East Aurora); Robby Coulter-12 (East Aurora).
CLASS C: Alden’s program continues to flourish after it successfully defended its Class C title at sectionals on Friday. The Bulldogs finished sixth in the state last year and enter this year’s event ranked No. 5.
The section’s top-ranked runners going into states are Seamus Degan of City Honors (ranked No. 9) and Sean Turner of Alden (No. 19).
Section VI runners: Degan-12 (City Honors); Turner-12 (Alden); Nigel Cordella-12 (JFK); Nick Zagmester-12 (Medina); Ryan Hetrick-9 (Southwestern); Jordan Powers (Southwestern); Dylan Servos-10 (Alden); Garrett Rutan-11 (Alden); Nick Kron-10 (Alden); Matt Minotti-11 (Alden); Ryan Harvey-10 (Alden); Justin Morgan-11 (Alden).
CLASS D: Look for this one to be a race to the finish between junior Corey Wefing of Maple Grove and senior Gabe Rodriguez of Geneseo. Wefing has won every race this year with the exception of third place at McQuaid. He broke the course record at Long Point State Park earlier this year with a 16:18.
“My goal for the state meet is definitely first. He’s [Rodriguez] got the fastest time in the state based on the speed ratings. I beat him at McQuaid by a few spots, but he ran a great race last week I believe.”
Defending state champion Barker is ranked No. 3 in the state behind Mount Academy-IX and Beaver River-III.
Jordan Bender of Barker looks to move up several spots after finishing 19th last year. Wefing is ranked No. 2 in the speed rankings, Bender is No. 12 and Bryce Moeller of Barker is No. 20.
Section VI runners: Wefing-11 (Maple Grove); Bender-12 (Barker); Moeller-11 (Barker); Josh Ahlstrom-12 (Maple Grove); Hayden Hathaway-10 (Barker); Casey Webb-10 (Barker); Ryan Carpenter-11 (Sherman); Frank Zuroski-9 (Maple Grove); Colin Green-12 (Maple Grove); Sergio Cruz-10 (Barker); Nolan Bouchane-11 (Barker); Dustin Walters-10 (Barker).
CLASS A: Junior Marissa Saenger of Section VI champion Clarence could finish in the top five. It’s unlikely anyone is going to catch junior Katie Lembo of Penfield-V, who owns the fastest girls time in the state. Saenger has had a memorable year winning sectionals, winning at McQuaid and breaking the ECIC meet record at the ECIC Championships at Alden. Her only loss was to Lembo at the Clarence Classic at Akron Falls Park.
“Everyone from Section VI has an advantage since we’re the only ones who have run this course before,” said Saenger, who is making her fourth trip to states. “We know how it works, and what to look out for. For a lot of people the toughest part is the hills. After the second mile there’s a really long stretch where the wind is coming right at you, that’s the tough part.”
Fayetteville-Manlius is expected to run away with the team title. It scored a perfect 15 points in its sectional final with a 1-5 finish and had all seven runners finish in the top eight.
Section VI runners: Saenger-11 (Clarence); Danielle Dorogi-10 (Wmsv. North); Abbey Lang-10 (Lockport); Olivia Zabrodsky-12 (Jamestown); Katrina Patterson-8 (Clarence); Hannah Kurbs-10 (Lockport); Hannah Kennedy-8 (Frontier); Emily Garrett-11 (Clarence); Alicia Symons-9 (Clarence); Hannah Reinhardt-8 (Clarence); Dana Warner-10 (Clarence); McKenzie Cantlon-12 (Clarence).
CLASS B: East Aurora is ranked No. 2 in the state behind Holy Names of Section II. Junior Marta McLaughlin, no stranger to the state meet stage, had the fastest time of the day at sectionals in 18:58.9.
Section VI is particularly strong in this class as McLaughlin is ranked No. 4, Sophia Tasselmyer of Starpoint is No. 5, Carolyn Hopkins of Williamsville South is No. 10, Jenny DelSignore of Sweet Home is No. 14th and Megan Baritot of East Aurora is No. 13.
Section VI runners: McLaughlin-11 (East Aurora); Tasselmyer-9 (Starpoint); Hopkins-11 (Wmsv. South); DelSignore-12 (Sweet Home); Baritot-12 (East Aurora); Aileen Doyle-10 (Sweet Home); Livia Chase-11 (Starpoint); Madeline Murray-12 (East Aurora); Mackenzie Donahue-12 (East Aurora); Fiona Danieu-9 (East Aurora); Sindey Spaschak-11 (East Aurora); Rebekah Zee (East Aurora).
CLASS C: Fredonia is ranked No. 2 in the state behind Bronxville-1. The Hillbillies’ top runner all year has been sophomore Lauren Reyda, who was seventh in the state last year.
“I definitely think I have a shot because I’ve run this course three times now, I know where the tough parts are and I know where you’ve got to pick it up,” she said. “I felt like I ran as hard as I could. I laid on a picnic table after, couldn’t even speak to anyone. I guess that shows how hard you ran if you lay on a picnic table.”
Section VI runners: Reyda-10 (Fredonia); Kelly Bochnewetch-11 (Newfane); Kaylea Rustay-12 (JFK); Holly Heil-9 (Medina); Michaela Tramuta-11 (Fredonia); Clare Foley-9 (Fredonia); Kirsten Holmberg-11 (Falconer); Eliza Papke-7 (Akron); Meredith Zebracki-10 (Fredonia); Jill Kowalski-10 (Fredonia); Cori Gullo-9 (Fredonia); Gwen Stokes-9 (Fredonia).
CLASS D: Maple Grove is ranked No. 1 in the state with Greenwich-II a close second. The Red Dragons are deep and focused as they look to defend their title.
Hope Pietrocarlo placed third in the state last year as an eighth-grader, and she’s currently ranked No. 2 with teammates Megan Marsh No. 7 (the defending individual champion), Taylor Norris No. 13 and Caroline Benson No. 14.
“We’re really looking forward to winning it and beating Greenwich,” Pietrocarlo said. “We’re really looking forward to having three girls in the top five. We haven’t seen them [Greenwich] this year, but we’ve been looking at their results, and they’re pretty much like we are. Our coach is going to train us hard – definitely. He wants that title again and we think we can do it.”
The Red Dragons’ only loss this year was to Canton in the seeded A race at McQuaid.
“Our girls are excited about it,” said coach Doc Rappole. “They’re not saying, ‘we gotta run them,’ they’re saying, ‘yeah, we’ve got a chance at Greenwich.’ So they’ll go give it a shot. They’ve had quite a run, Greenwich has been our little nemesis,”
Maple Grove won the state title in 2011 and 2010 while Greenwich won in 2009.
Section VI runners: Pietrocarlo-9 (Maple Grove); Marsh-9 (Maple Grove); Benson-11 (Maple Grove); Holly Eliason-11 (Sherman); Taylor Norris-11 (Maple Grove); Rebecca King-9 (Sherman); Abby Sirwatka-11 (Maple Grove); Hannah Seider-9 (Silver Creek); Emma Seider-8 (Silver Creek); Katie Pacy-8 (Sherman); Ally Saar-8 (Maple Grove); Stephanie Krempa-12 (Maple Grove).