As one observer noted on Friday, “There’s a lot of good teams staying home next weekend.”
Welcome to Section II cross country, where the competition is so fierce in some classes that it’s not uncommon for state-ranked teams to miss the state championship meet, since only one school from each section qualifies.
Class AA was close in both divisions this year, as the Shenendehowa boys and Saratoga girls each won by four points at the gray, chilly Saratoga Spa State Park, the Queensbury girls knocked off defending champion Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake by six points in Class A and the Fonda-Fultonville boys edged Voorheesville by one point, 44-45, in Class C.
In cases like that, one runner making a little extra push can be the difference. For the Shen boys, it was Ian Dorset who just got up in the final strides to beat Shaker’s Ryan Egan by less than a second to finish ninth overall, in a race won by the Plainsmen’s Dan Harris in 15:16.68, the fastest time of the day.
“He stepped up huge,” Harris said of his teammate. “We knew it would be close, but we didn’t know it would be this close.”
“I was a little nervous at first,” Dorset said. “I felt a little off, my legs were kind of tired, but I started going through the race and got in my rhythm and finished well.
“I heard coach shouting, which usually means I’ve got to go catch somebody.”
“It was tight, very tight,” Shen coach Mark Thompson said. “They were beating us with about three-quarters of a mile to go pretty soundly, so our kids really, really closed hard. Not to put pressure on Danny, but the No. 1 was expected. Ian Dorset ran phenomenally. He really stepped up to the plate. If those two guys are ahead of him, we lose. I don’t believe Ian has been our second man all year, until today.”
Saratoga freshman Keelin Hollowood (17:13:12) won the girls’ Class A race, followed by Shen’s Lizzie Predmore in 17:25.70.
Girls’ Class AA resembled a dual meet between the Blue Streaks and Lady Plainsmen, with runners from those schools taking 12 of the top 13 spots, and a final score of 27-31.
It was Saratoga’s 20th Section II championship.
“We had eight out of 10 get PR’s, so they did great,” said Blue Streaks Linda Kranick, co-coach with husband Art. “That’s the plan, to improve as the season progresses. This team works very well together. We kept score of our JV team against varsity competition, and they went 10-1. We haven’t had this much depth in quite a while.”
Like Class AA, two schools flip-flopped boys’ and girls championships, as the defending state champion Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys rolled, with 17 points to 44 for arch-rival Queensbury, and the Queensbury girls got past Burnt Hills, 28-34, led by a 1-2-3 punch of Brittany Winslow (17:09.57), Danielle Winslow (17:11.01) and Morgan Mueller (17:46.05) that counterbalanced the fact BH had five runners in before Queensbury did.
The BH boys were led by Scott Maughan (15:38.63), who came down the stretch shoulder-to-shoulder with teammate Otis Ubriaco and barely hit the finish first.
“I think Otis let me have a turn winning sectionals,” Maughan said with a laugh. “That was nice of him. It’s awesome to run with him.
“Turning around after we finished, watching Sean [Pezzulo] come in, watching Chris [Fernandez] outkick someone, that’s a great feeling, to see that.”
The Spartans’ hard closing kick allowed them to win by a bigger margin than they’re used to at this meet.
“To win it like that, I think we all ran a great race today, compared to last year, when we still won, but it was like Scott, me and two Queensbury guys with a thousand [meters] to go,” Ubriaco said. “That was a lot more nerve-racking. Today, we worked off each other. Our energy was up high, and we were just moving along.”
TARTANS COME THROUGh
The Scotia-Glenville girls have boasted some of the best runners in Section II, regardless of class, in recent years, but had never qualified the entire team for a state meet appearance, until Friday.
Sophomore Becky Celorio rolled to a victory in 18:41.20, over 20 seconds ahead of Broadalbin-Perth’s Opal Jessica Bogdan, and Katie Zeppetelli, Josie Zeppetelli, Becca Kraines and Blake Colyer also scored for the Tartans.
“We’ve been training really hard, and we wanted this so bad,” Celorio said. “You have no idea. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. We knew it was going to be really, really close with B-P. We had a plan, and our plan was to go out and be strong and just do our very best, and I think that’s what we did.
“I just went out, and it was me and the course, and I knew I had to go. I tried to block out any pain and just get my breathing on and go for it. Going as a team has been a goal right from the beginning, and it’s really pleasing to know we’re there.”
“This has been their goal from day one, to say, hey, we’ve got a shot to go to states, let’s take advantage of it, let’s see what we can do,” Scotia coach Jim Krogh said. “And they trusted in the training, believed in what we’re doing and believed in themselves.”
Broadalbin-Perth, led by Justin Ferguson and Adam Rasefske in sixth and seventh, respectively, repeated as boys’ Class B champion.
The Voorheesville boys were the hard-luck runners-up in Class C, losing by one point for the second year in a row, this time to Fonda.
The young Braves’ Zak Godfrey was second behind Cobleskill-Richmondville’s Conor Cashin, and Michael Scott and Cody Shave held strong to ward off Voorheesville’s Joe Becker with 200 meters left.
“We told them, ‘You’re a young team, just go out, go for a PR, if you run your best time and we get beat, then you’ve got nobody to blame and it’s no fault of anybody’s, they just ran better.’” Fonda coach Mark Therrien said. “Fortunately, we’ve got some competitive kids, and they wanted to do well.”
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