SCHENECTADY — Gitch Hayes and Leonni Griffin are well aware that challenging yourself isn’t as easy as someone else doing it for you.
Still, the cross country runners provided eye-catching individual victories Saturday at the 82nd annual Grout Invitational at Central Park.
Hayes, a senior at La Salle and the top-ranked cross country runner in New York, won the boys’ Division I race of about 2.75 miles in 13 minutes, 11 seconds. It was his second Grout varsity victory and fourth overall. He won the invitational’s last running in 2019, and also captured the freshman and modified races, respectively, in 2018 and 2017.
Griffin earned her third consecutive Grout varsity victory by capturing the Division II race in 16:29, propelling the Blue Bison to the team win as well.
Both runners had to provide their own motivation. Hayes won by 51 seconds over the closest competitor, Shenendehowa’s Michael Clay, while Griffin won her race by 44 seconds over teammate Ciara Bullington.
Hayes, who is considering a number of Division I colleges, said he tried to push himself at the beginning.
“I knew it was going to be hard the last third of the race just because I have no one with me, but try to surge every mile,” Hayes said. “You know, I fell short, like, six seconds of the course record, but I’m happy with my time.”
Hayes said he was motivated by running against Shenendehowa, ranked fifth in Class A in the latest state poll and which easily won the team competition with 24 points. Unfortunately for Hayes, the Plainsmen’s top runner dropped out of the race.
“I know he’s about 10 to 15 seconds slower than me, but it could have kept me hungry during the race,” said Hayes, who noted he’s focusing on course and personal records.
“I raced last weekend, the fastest kid in the country, got blown away by him,” Hayes said. “He beat me by, like, 13 seconds. But that was a good race; he pushed me to a time I didn’t think I could run.”
Griffin, still just a sophomore, said she takes being a defending champion of the Grout seriously.
“Individually, I feel very confident on this course because I feel like I’ve gotten it down how to pace it. Although today was much different from other years, so my time was a little slower,” she said.
Griffin also said she chose not to hold anything back in the beginning because she was confident enough that she could hold her lead. Knowing she wouldn’t have a challenger nearby, she tried her best to work on things to help her time. She referenced a pair of hills, the first one being about a mile from the finish.
“When you take the turn, I feel a little bit tired, but I work through it and work on really pumping my arms and legs to get up the hill as fast as I can, even though I’m tired,” Griffin said. “I don’t want to let myself go on that hill just because there’s a lead. Also on this last hill, I just think there’s about an 800 (meters) to go, and that’s my specialty for track, so if I can run an 800 then, I can do it now.”
Other strong performances came from Fonda-Fultonville, who captured the boys’ Class C title with 32 points behind a win from junior Bennett Melita (14:07) and three others in the top 10, and Bethlehem’s Rylee Davis, who turned in the girls’ fastest time Saturday by winning the Division I race in 16:15.
The Eagles, ranked third in the Class A state poll, cruised in their race, with their four other scoring runners showing just a six-second gap between them while finishing fourth through seventh.
Greenwich won the girls’ Class C team title with 44 points. Also, Queensbury senior Jack Hicks won the boys’ Division II race in 14:14.
At Central Park (about 2.75 miles)
Team scoring: Shenendehowa 24, Washingtonville 55, CBA 86, La Salle 99, Glens Falls 108, Cohoes 162.
Individual top 10: 1. Gitch Hayes (LSI), 13:11. 2. Michael Clay (Shen), 14:02. 3. Derek Leiter (Wash), 14:19. 4. Logan Doll (Shen), 14:36. 5. Philip Matthews (Shen), 14:44. 6. Christian Fox (Shen), 14:46. 7. Liam Hoffman (Shen), 14:52. 8. Jack DeChiro (Shen), 14:56. 9. Ethan Howe (Wash), 15:01. 10. Peter Efinger (Wash), 15:06.
Team scoring: North Rockland 43, Queensbury 58, Bethlehem 86, Shaker 107, Schenectady 107, Albany 122, Schalmont 148.
Individual top 10: 1. Jack Hicks (Q), 14:14. 2. Neel Chittur (A), 14:23. 3. Michael Niero (NR), 14:38. 4. Guiseppe Colella (NR), 14:38. 5. Eduardo Nava (NR), 14:41. 6. Jack Gemmett (Schal), 14:44. 7. Devin Decker (Schdy), 14:46. 8. Tyler Harrington (Q), 14:53. 9. Graham Richard (A), 15:03. 10. Michael Daley (Schdy), 15:04.
Team scoring: Fonda-Fultonville 32, Johnstown 99, Broadalbin-Perth 102, Stillwater 103, Mayfield 112, Plattsburgh 124, Bishop Gibbons 178, Fort Plain-Canajoharie 181, Lake George 222, Berne-Knox-Westerlo 225, Galway 227, Greenville inc.
Individual top 10: 1. Bennett Melita (FF), 14:07. 2.Cameron Abdella (May), 14:55. 3. Connor Couperus (BP), 15:02. 4. Matheu Dettennreider (FF), 15:03. 5. Finn Kosich (Grn), 15:11. 6. Ty Sanges (FF), 15:13. 7. Anthony Zazzaro (Stil), 15:29. 8. Braydon Jourden (May), 15:38. 9. Connor Duda (Plat), 15:44. 10. Allan Booth (FF), 15:47.
Team scoring: Bethlehem 23, North Rockland 39, Glens Falls 84, St. Francis Prep 89.
Individual top 10: 1. Rylee Davis (B), 16:15. 2. Savannah Pezzementi (NR), 16:37. 3. Jade Pazmino (NR), 16:39. 4. Charlotte O’Meara (B), 16:52. 5. Annie Bolke (B), 16:54. 6. Anna Chrapowitzky (B), 16:55. 7. Katherine Bannigan (B), 16:58. 8. Maeve Conway (B), 16:59. 9. Meghan Glrmley (NR), 17:04. 10. Clara Avery (GF), 17:55.
Team scoring: Shaker 21, Albany 57, Queensbury 60, Columbia inc.
Individual top 10: 1. Leonni Griffin (S), 16:29. 2. Ciara Bullington (S), 17:13. 3. Isaroda Martinelli (A), 17:22. 4. Miranda Habshi (Q), 17:40. 5. Shea Fajen (Col), 17:46. 6. Alyssa Kearns (S), 17:47. 7. Kaleigh Higgins (S), 17:59. 8. Birtu Diefenderfer (S), 18:07. 9. Natalie Bennett (S), 18:21. 10. Maddie Powers (Q), 18:35.
Team scoring: Greenwich 44, Lake George 60, Broadalbin-Perth 88, Tamarac 89, Plattsburgh 98, Fonda-Fultonville 111, Saratoga Central Catholic, Canajoharie/Fort Plain, Stillwater, Granville inc
Individual top 10: 1. Gianna Coryea (P), 17:32. 2. Teagan Wright (Gwch), 17:51. Katie Cronin (SCC), 17:55. 4. Olivia Schaffer (C/FP), 17:59. 5. Isabella Miler (FF), 18:06. 6. Jacey Locci (Stil), 18:37. 7. Sarah Hanssen (Stil), 18:46. 8. Amber Gibbs (Gran), 19:07. 9. Caroline Kelly (Gwch), 19:13. 10. Emily Skiff (Gwch), 19:19.