The Shenendehowa Plainsmen are smart enough to know that if they want to reel in this big fish, they need to be patient, pick some spots to let out a little slack once in awhile and be ready for the final fight of the 2008 season.
On Saturday, it was time to tighten the line and exert some pressure.
The Plainsmen have slipped in the state and national rankings a little bit lately, but in the Grout Run at Central Park, they put it all together and dominated three-time defending Class A state champion Queensbury in the Division I race by 50 points.
The Spartans were missing one of their top runners and are waiting for another to work his way back to the varsity; Shenendehowa had no such handicap, and acted like it, placing five in the top seven and getting all seven runners to the finish within less than a 67-second spread.
“I was very impressed with how we did,” said Shen junior Dan Harris, who was second to teammate Alex Leuchanka. “We kind of knew that we would do pretty good, but we’re really happy with how it turned out.
“This was the first meet when we got to run all of our top guys, and it really felt good.”
“The way that our season race schedule worked out, today was a day that we earmarked to run fast,” coach Mark Thompson said.
They did that. Leuchanka’s 13:17.67 was one of the fastest times on the course since it was altered slightly in 1995, and his teammates didn’t waste any time getting in behind him.
Harris ran 13:35.48; Mike Danaher (13:45.93) was fifth behind Lake George’s Steven Petramale (13:40.23) and Queensbury’s Brian Gallagher (13:40.46); and Brian Trainor (13:48.11) and Jamie Glover (13:51.13) were sixth and seventh, respectively.
Brent Pavlick and Sam Kinney also finished in the top 21.
Leuchanka, a transfer from Warwick Valley, which beat Shenendehowa by 20 points at last year’s Class AA state meet, made his move out of a tight pack at the mile mark and wasn’t really threatened after that.
“I just felt good there, nobody went with me, so I just kind of kept cruising,” he said.
Leuchanka, whose mother accepted a job at Albany Medical Center this summer, caused something of a stir by leaving a state champion for his senior year to join a team that promised to be a state championship contender without him.
After getting off to a bit of a late start and acclimating himself to a new team, a much bigger school and a different training system, he’s fitting right in with the Plainsmen.
“It was actually fairly easy,” he said. “These guys are great people to be around, they’re funny and cracking jokes all the time, so it makes it more fun to run with.
Going from a good team, I wanted to go somewhere where I could excel again.
“I feel great. I feel stronger than I ever have before. There’s a lot less mileage, but a lot more stength-based workouts, so that feels good, right now.”
“It was kind of a mystery,” Thompson said. “Last year, he had a great New York state public high school meet. He ran awesome, he beat our entire team that day. By Nike Team Nationals, we had five ahead of him. So we thought he would fit into the mix, we weren’t really sure whereabouts.”
“At first, we didn’t think he was really coming. It was talk, like a rumor,” Harris said. “Then when he showed up, we didn’t really get to see him the first couple of days because he didn’t have a physical. Then once he started to run with us, he instantaneously became one of us.
“I think he knows pretty much everybody’s name now. I don’t even know if I can do that.”
The Plainsmen wanted to use the Grout Run as a momentum-builder for next weekend’s Manhattan Invitational, where they’ll see Queensbury again, and that’s exactly what they got.
The Spartans, meanwhile, can look forward to regaining the services of Kevin Sprague, who missed the meet while taking the SAT exam, and are hopeful that Sheldon Reeves, their No. 2 man last year, will continue to regain fitness
after suffering some leg problems last spring.
“Wow. Shen ran great,” Queensbury coach Kevin Sullivan said. “They’re a tremendous team. They’re tough across the board.
“But it was good. Our guys ran very well today.”
Queensbury won the girls’ Division II title by 47 points over Shaker, followed by Broadalbin-Perth, one of the top-ranked Class B teams in the state that held its own against a bunch of Class AA and A teams.
Twins Danielle Winslow (15:10.19) and Brittany Winslow (15:45.12) went one-two, respectively, for the Spartans. Emma Risler (16:10.78) was fifth for the Blue
Bison, and Gina Cristaldi (16:13.76) was sixth for Broadalbin-Perth, which beat Washingtonville by one point.
In Division I, Niskayuna’s Chelsea Trant won in 16:14.15, followed by Glens Falls’ Ekeka Kuhn, Guilderland’s Kelly Camardo and Schenectady’s Erin MacBeth.
“I don’t have a very good kick, so I just tried to get out as fast as I could,” Trant said. “I wanted to make sure I was out in front before the first mile.
“It means a lot, because last year, I came in second, and it was me and this other girl, and she outkicked me in the end, so I just wanted to make sure I got out ahead of everybody early so it wouldn’t happen again.”
Guilderland rolled to the team title over Niskayuna.
Greenwich, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class D, beat Rhinebeck, one of the top Class C teams, by one point in Division C.
The Witches were led by Roxanne Henningson in first (15:43.29), and Brittney Lane, Betsy Edinger and Britney Henderson also cracked the top eight.