ROTTERDAM — The traditional Section II heavyweights were all there when the New York State Sportswriters Association released its first set of girls’ high school cross country rankings earlier this month.
Mohonasen was there, too, with the likes of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Queensbury, Shenendehowa, Saratoga Springs and Greenwich, at No. 15 in the Class B group.
“We don’t have a running legacy here,” Mohonasen junior Anna Sherman said during a break from practice Wednesday. “In the past, we’ve had individuals, but not great team success. We’re building that.”
The Mighty Warriors accomplished a couple of firsts in program history Tuesday by beating Guilderland and Bethlehem for the first time as well Schenectady at Tawasentha Park to extend their dual meet Suburban Council record to 7-2. Guilderland and Bethlehem were among the Class A teams ranked on Sept. 11, when the NYSSWA released its initial fall poll.
“When I told them we were ranked in the first poll I also told them, ‘You’ve done nothing to earn it,'” Mohonasen coach Bill Sherman said. “They’re earning it now.”
Mohonasen is winning with a cast of underclassmen led by Anna and Kate Sherman, the coaches daughters, and Christa Bailey and Emma Sinisgalli.
“Last year we went 5-9 [in duals]. Our goal this year was 9-5,” Sherman said. “We thought we’d be better than last year. I didn’t think we’d … let me say I didn’t have Guilderland on our win list.”
The team is on a fast climb, showing a No. 12 state ranking on the second NYSSWA poll that came out the day before Mohonasen took down Guilderland and Bethlehem. That performance, and a runner-up effort the Saturday before at the Wayne Pre-State Invitational in Rochester, will likely push the Mighty Warriors a bit higher.
Mohonasen had a one-week stay in the state cross country poll last season when, in early October, it checked in at No. 24.
“These are building blocks,” Bill Sherman said. “It was only a dual meet, but it was a big deal to us. You should see the video on Facebook. The girls were ecstatic. They dumped water on me.”
Bailey, a sophomore, finished just fractions of a second behind race winner Rachel Hodge of Bethlehem. In the team scoring, Mohonasen beat Bethlehem by one point, and Guilderland by four.
“We expected to be better than last year, but beating Bethlehem and Guilderland is kind of a shock,” Anna Sherman said.
Mohonasen defeated Albany, Averill Park and Troy to begin the season, and in its second dual meet defeated Shaker while being outpointed by reigning Section II champions Saratoga Springs and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
“I never thought this would happen,” Sinisgalli, a sophomore, said. “I had faith in us, but …”
Each of Mohonasen’s ‘Core 4,’ as coach Sherman calls them, have led the Mighty Warriors across the finish line during a race this season.
“That’s how well balanced our top four are,” he said.
Kate Sherman was best among the Mighty Warriors at the Wayne Invitational, with the freshman placing 11th among 180 runners. Sinisgalli finished 16th.
“You never know how a race is going to go,” Bailey, a sophomore, said. “If someone is having a rough race, we try to scoop them up.”
Coach Sherman said he’s looking for a fifth runner to complement his four leaders, and he has a handful of eager athletes competing for the position.
“That’s our weakness. You need five to score,” he said. “The question is who is going to step up to round out the group. I have identified six girls with potential. If someone steps up from my second group we’ll be competitive at the sectionals.”
Mohonasen placed third at the 2016 Section II championships, behind runner-up Schalmont and Burnt Hills.
“What’s happening in September has been very good for us for a lot of reasons, but isn’t our main focus,” coach Sherman said. “Our focus is what we can do later in October.”
Mohonasen has grown to include 23 girls among its varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams. Sinisgalli said when she joined as an eighth-grader there were, “Maybe ten girls.”
“Bethlehem showed up with two buses,” said coach Sherman, who is in his fourth year at Mohonasen and in his second as the girls’ head coach. “It’s about building a running culture in the community. It’s about building a program. I’ve spent a lot of time recruiting kids.”
Anna Sherman believes having team success will aid in her dad’s recruiting efforts.
“Kids in elementary school see the soccer team is winning so they want to play soccer,” the team captain said. “If they see the cross country team doing well, maybe they’ll want to join cross country.”
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports