Shaker’s Higgins pulls away from teammate Griffin late to win Grout Run

Shaker's Kaleigh Higgins, shown winning the Niskayuna Ekiden Relays on Sept. 3, finished first in the Grout Run on Saturday.
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Shaker's Kaleigh Higgins, shown winning the Niskayuna Ekiden Relays on Sept. 3, finished first in the Grout Run on Saturday.

SCHENECTADY – They were shoulder-to-shoulder with a half-mile to go.

After the race, all Leonni Griffin could do was shrug her shoulders. And smile.

The Shaker junior came up just short of her fourth Grout Run victory in Central Park on Saturday, and was OK with that, since it was her teammate, Kaleigh Higgins, who finished first.

Higgins used the final short ramp-like descent out of the trees to kick away from her teammate and win in 15:40.03 for 2.75 miles.

Coupled with Griffin’s 15:50.94, the Blue Bison, ranked No. 5 in New York state Class A by MileSplit.com, rolled to a team title in Division I, with 27 points to 64 for Mohonasen.

“This race is big for the team,” Higgins said. “We normally do really well, and I know me and Leonni always like to run this race.

“We just ran together, and then I felt good at the end and pushed it home. But we were doing it together the whole time, and I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without her.”

“Overall, I think it was a great performance for both of us,” Griffin said. “We pushed each other through the whole race.

“Right when we were coming down that hill, she really took advantage of that, and she had a great kick in the end. As long as I knew I was pushing myself as hard as I can, I was pretty satisfied overall.”

Divisions I and II at the 83rd Everett T. Grout Run were run as single races for boys and girls, and there were also the traditional Division C races for smaller schools. Colonie finished first in the girls’ Division II standings, and CBA edged Columbia by one point in boys’ Division II. 

Charlotte Dunkel (16:50.59), Isabella O’Donnell (17:31.12) and Birtu Diefenderfer (17:50.88) also scored for Shaker.

Higgins put it all together after running a 17:58.75 last year that was well over two minutes slower than her 2021 finish time.

“I haven’t had the best of luck with this course, so it feels good, my last race, to come through,” she said. “Last year was probably the hardest for me. I think I ran close to 18 minutes, I was anemic, it just wasn’t good. So it feels good a year later to come back, like two minutes faster. I’m just happy with where I am from last season to now.”

The team has high aspirations, too, and Saturday’s race was a solid indicator of where the Blue Bison stand.

“Place well at sectionals, get to the Fed meet … We’re fifth in the state right now, and I think we want to get up there to top three,” Higgins said. “I think we have the talent to do it. The team looks good.”

Griffin was attempting to win the Grout Run for the fourth time, and was in position to do so in the final stretch, but coming up just short didn’t sting as much, considering who was ahead of her.

“I feel a little bit of disappointment, but I’m glad it was her that won the race,” she said. “I still have one more year, so hopefully we can pull it off again next year.”

Mohonasen, ranked No. 9 in Class B, finished second behind Shaker with a top seven consisting of four eighth graders and three sophomores.

Rachel Miller was fourth overall for Mohonasen in 16:35.34, followed by Abby Marriner (17:31.52) and Ella Marriner (17:37.94).

“We have an extremely young team, and we’re performing as a team better than we expected, so I’m really excited about the second half of the season,” head coach Bill Sherman said. “There’s a little bit of competition right now for those top varsity spots. Keeping everybody hungry for those slots is important.

“It’s friendly competition. We talk about the sisterhood at Mohonasen. Your sisters aren’t your competition, but they can help you get better.”

Albany’s Neel Chittur won the boys’ Division I-II race despite wiping out shortly after the start and scraping his knee.

He ran 13:51.66 as a Division II entrant, and Shenendehowa’s Jonathan Wolf was another six seconds back to take second overall and first among the Division I runners.

“I kind of got shoved and slipped and got a scrape, but I got right back up and kept pushing,” Chittur said. “The whole race, I was just catching people. Finally, I kicked it in right up that last hill, and it worked. So I’m just happy I was able to get the dub [‘W’] today. Adrenaline was kicking in.”

Chittur said the incident as the field took a right turn off the opening straightaway may have cost him 5-10 seconds off his finish time.

“I thought about it, but my teammate, Graham Richard, was right up on my shoulder and he was like, ‘Get right back up, you’ve got this, keep pushing,’” Chittur said. “So I was OK. I was like, ‘Yep,’ and he said, ‘Bring it home,’ and I kept going. But it was a grind. It was great, though, I loved it.”

Wolf said he didn’t see Chittur take his spill early, probably because he was having his own issues with the crowded start.

“I got boxed in and got pushed around a little bit,” he said. “But eventually I was able to push up that hill, and on the downhill I pushed it and ended up being in first. I was where I wanted to be, so keep pushing, keep pushing. There were a few guys close behind me.

“Neel eventually went up on me. I tried to stick with him, failed. It happens. I still wound up winning D-I, second overall, which is good for me. I care more about the division, so I got my first win, in my eyes. But Neel is a really good competitor. I have so much respect for that guy.”

The Plainsmen won the Division I team title by 24 points over Suffern despite missing their No. 1 runner, Logan Doll, who was taking the SAT exam.

“If Logan was in the mix, it would’ve been a bit easier for us as a team,” Wolf said. “But we still did really good today and had a lot of good performances. Overall, our team still did really good. Whether we have Logan or not, we’re still a powerhouse.”

The fastest time of the day actually came out of the Division C race, as Fonda-Fultonville’s Bennett Melita posted a 13:32.38 to lead a 1-2-3 charge by the Braves that carried the No. 8 Class C team in the state to the team title.

Matheu Dettenreider ran a 14:04.91 and Ty Sanges finished in 14:07.69 for Fonda.

“I got out front the early part of the race and just kept on pushing,” Melita said. “I’m pretty sure the Class C record for the course is 13:53, and I just tried to go for that.”

Brennan Melita (16:11.36) and Joey Susi (16:13.09) also scored for Fonda.

Bennett Melita said Fonda’s goal is to get the whole team to the state meet, which the Braves would achieve by winning the Section II championship.

More: All SportsEverything Schenectady

With that in mind, they ran in the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Invitational on Sept. 10 to get a look at the state meet course.

“We know what we have to do, and we went to the pre-state meet, so we know the course, we know where the slow spots are, and we’ve just got to keep pushing,” Melita said.

Broadalbin-Perth’s Emma Frasier won the girls’ Division C race in 17:13.06 to lead her team to a close victory over Schuylerville, 50-54.

Laina Frasier (19:08.00), Katherine Bolebruch (19:11.84), Erica Lin (19:36.34) and Jordan Syzdek (19:52.66) also scored for the Patriots.

Emma Frasier said she was shooting for a 17:35 and was thrilled about her 17:13, after having finished in 18:09 in 2019.

The Patriots had to convince their coach to move B-P’s own invitational to a week earlier to free up the spot on the calendar to compete at the Grout Run.

“We actually begged our coach to come here again,” Frasier said. “So we were all excited and actually happy to be here, and I think with a happy mindset, that allowed me to have a great race. I had a great week of practice. I had a great workout Thursday, I was beating my goals and I’m training at a fast time, hoping to break 20 in the 5k for sectionals.

“My big goal is to get top 20 and get one of those big medals, and then I’m also hoping to make it to states with my team this year, because last year I only made it with my one teammate, which was still, of course, nice having her there, but it’s so much different being with the team.”

GIRLS

Division I team results: Shaker 27, Mohonasen 64, Suffern 67, St. Francis Prep 100, Averill Park 116, Troy 164, Yorktown 186.

Division II team results: Colonie 27, Washingtonville 67, Amsterdam 76, Albany 81, Columbia 99.

Division I-II individuals

Kaleigh Higgins (Shaker), 15:40.03; Leonni Griffin (Shaker), 15:50.94; Sophia Squires (HV), 16:35.34; Rachel Miller (Mohon), 16:35.78; Charlotte Dunkel (Shaker), 16:50.59; Shea Fajen (Columbia), 16:59.84; Grace Hughes (SFP), 17:00.75; Olivia DeCarvalho (Wash), 17:05.41; Lily Diamond (Suff), 17:06.62; Olivia Armenia (Colonie), 17:19.38.

Division C

Team results: Broadalbin-Perth 50, Schuylerville 54, Hampshire Regional 62, Lake George 100, Fonda-Fultonville 116, Greenville 143, Tamarac/Hoosick Falls 152.

Individuals

Emma Frasier (B-P), 17:13.06; Adeline Ballou (Schuy), 17:15.56; Megan Vianese (Schuy), 17:19.59; Audrey Perrone (Hamp), 17:29.62; Andrea Warren (Saratoga Catholic), 17:33.94; Olivia Schaffer (Fort Plain), 17:39.22; Isabella Miller (Fonda), 18:28.69; Jacey Locci (Stillwater), 18:33.34; Sarah Raymond (T/HF), 18:41.00; Addison Thornton (Stillwater), 18:43.53.

BOYS

Division I team results: Shenendehowa 41, Suffern 65, Bethlehem 80, Averill Park 107, Glens Falls 130, Colonie 148, LaSalle 154, Yorktown 185, Mohonasen 225.

Division II team results: CBA 67, Columbia 68, Washingtonville 69, Albany 73, Shaker 110, Schenectady 139, Amsterdam 200, Middletown 214.

Division I-II individuals

Neel Chittur (Alb), 13:51.66; Jonathan Wolf (Shen), 13:57.66; Graham Richard (Alb), 14:06.47; Mason Mayer (Suff), 14:08.41;Carter Norton (Columbia), 14:14.97; Giovanni LaPietra (Columbia), 14:16.15; Jason Ariano (Wash), 14:17.47; Liam Burgess (GF), 14:19.94; Christian Fox (Shen), 14:24.81; Colin Brunelle (AP), 14:25.96.

Division C

Team results: Fonda-Fultonville 71, Broadalbin-Perth 90, Schalmont 94, Hampshire Regional 104, Stillwater 117, Greenville 121, Schuylerville 162, Lake George 184, Mayfield 226, Cobleskill-Richmondville 291, Johnstown 313, Tamarac/Hoosick Falls 330, Fort Plain 344, Hartford 382.

Individuals

Bennett Melita (Fonda), 13:32.38; Matheu Dettenreider (Fonda), 14:04.91; Ty Sanges (Fonda), 14:07.69; Carter Flowers (Schal), 14:18.81; Anthony Zazzaro (Stillwater), 14:24.72; Finn Kosich (Greenville), 14:32.50; Connor Couperus (B-P), 14:33.40; Rylee VanAlstine (B-P), 14:42.94; James Lynch (Schuy), 14:56.81; Spencer Moreau (Schal), 15:08.69.

More: All SportsEverything Schenectady

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