SARATOGA SPRINGS — Maazin Ahmed couldn’t stop smiling, but knew his coach’s reaction would be much different.
“My coach is going to cry,” Ahmed said.
Just seconds earlier, Ahmed had become the first-ever Schenectady High School runner to win the Section II Class A championship race. Ahmed — a senior who finished in 13th place at last week’s Suburban Council Championships — is the first runner from a Schenectady public school to win a cross country championship since Ike Weston did it in 1979 for Mont Pleasant.
At first, though, Schenectady head coach Ed Menis just smiled Friday as he congratulated Ahmed — who won the race in 15:06.62, a personal-
record time of approximately 40 seconds for the course — on his race.
Menis, it turned out, did not initially know Ahmed had done more than qualify for the state championships. As Ahmed told him he’d won the race, Menis’ eyes instantly welled.
“Called it,” Ahmed said. “Told you he was going to cry.”
They were tears of joy, though, and Menis soon pulled out his cell phone. First, a call to the school with the news. Then, a call to his wife.
“Maazin won,” Menis said on the second call. “No, he won — first place.”
Later, he said: “She was shocked.”
The coach wasn’t.
“I knew if he was within range,” Menis said, “he was going to win.”
Ahmed hit the final stretch in strong position with one thought running through his mind.
“I’ve got to give everything I’ve got,” Ahmed told himself.
Ahmed won going away, topping the second-place finisher by nearly three seconds. The Schenectady senior never knew how close any of his trailing runners were to him.
“I didn’t want to look back because the moment I looked back, I would have lost a second or two,” said Ahmed, who recently committed to compete at Georgetown.
Instead, he kept charging ahead.
“I honestly cannot believe I won. I still can’t,” Ahmed said. “I have the patch in my hand and I still don’t think I won.”
When it was over, Niskayuna head coach Jason DeRocco sighed in relief.
His Silver Warriors went into Friday’s Class A race the favorite to win the sectional title and they did it, becoming the first Niskayuna team to win an area team title since 1981.
“When you haven’t won in 36 years, you can’t be the favorite,” DeRocco said. “That’s not territory we’re used to. I was feeling the pressure. I know I couldn’t sleep all week.”
Senior Donnovan Tucker led Niskayuna with a second-place finish behind Ahmed, while junior Marty Dolan finished in seventh and senior Colin Ross took eighth. Senior Joseph Quinn was Niskayuna’s fourth runner in 14th place, while senior Dom Favata completed Niskayuna’s scoring with a 20th-place showing.
“Dom Favata really stepped up,” DeRocco said, “and we needed someone to step up because [runner-up] Bethlehem ran amazing.
Favata posted a PR in the championship race.
“I changed up my style a bit,” Favata explained. “I went out a little slower and it really paid off.”
“And every single place mattered,” Dolan said.
Tucker said the Silver Warriors were confident heading into Friday’s race, but ready for the challenges ahead of them.
“This is the most competitive league in the country,” Tucker said. “We knew this would be tough.”
Burnt Hills dominates
As expected, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake dominated in the Class B race, as the Spartans’ top five runners all finished within the top seven.
“We were the favorite coming in, but there’s still something special about sectionals,” Burnt Hills head coach Chip Button said. “That’s something that can’t be taken for granted.”
Burnt Hills junior Tyler Berg won the Class B race to lead the Spartans, while Glens Falls senior Chris Hughes (Class C) and North Warren junior Brandon Olden (Class D) also were individual winners.
Albany Academy (Class C) and Maple Hill (Class D) also won team titles.
Ahmed, Maazin, Schenectady, 15:06.62; Tucker, Donnovan, Niskayuna, 15:09.56; Weilbaker, Shea, Saratoga Springs, 15:09.89; Dwyer, Tim, 12 Ballston Spa 15:13.33; Huber, Jack, Bethlehem, 15:19.70; Cavaliere, Matt, Bethlehem, 15:20.11; Dolan, Marty, Niskayuna, 15:21.64; Ross, Colin, Niskayuna, 15:30.17; Tindale, Noah, Guilderland, 15:31.32; Davis, Cameron, Bethlehem, 15:35.59.
Niskayuna 51; Bethlehem 68; Shenendehowa 103; Saratoga Springs 119; Guilderland 141; Ballston Spa 170; Colonie 177; Shaker 179; Schenectady 225; Columbia 240.
Berg, Tyler, Burnt Hills, 14:58.45; Gillooley, Aidan, Burnt Hills, 15:12.07; Brennan, Evan, Burnt Hills, 15:25.31; Beltran, Antonio, Schalmont, 15:48.87; Beltran, Francisco, Schalmont, 15:51.11; Metacarpa, David, Burnt Hills, 16:01.83; Hunziker, Nick, Burnt Hills, 16:04.48; Triolo, Frank, South Glens Falls, 16:08.58; Board, Kevin, Burnt Hills, 16:10.94; Beyerbach, Brian, Queensbury, 16:22.79.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 19; Queensbury 81; Scotia-Glenville 99; Schalmont 117; Mohonasen 145; South Glens Falls 157; Averill Park 170; Christian Brothers Academy 175; LaSalle Institute 227; Hudson Falls 313
Ensslin, Evan Voorheesville, 16:29.91; Yusaitis, Joe Stillwater, 16:52.96; Daley, Spencer Catholic Central, 17:17.11; Spring, Jared Greenville, 17:22.50; Calvo, Manuel Greenville, 17:23.48; Oliva, Dylan Mechanicville, 17:38.21; Roy, Nick Stillwater, 17:56.61; Zenzen, Aidan Fonda-Fultonville, 17:58.19; Scott, Aiden Hoosick Falls, 17:59.54; Viscosi, Shane Fonda-Fultonville, 18:00.24.
Catholic Central 66; Stillwater 76; Voorheesville 89; Fonda-Fultonville 103; Greenville 105; Mechanicville Central 123; Cairo-Durham 162; Corinth 192; Tamarac 240.
Hughes, Chris Glens Falls, 16:00.79; O’Leary, Marcus Albany Academy, 16:17.74; Graziano, Nick Albany Academy, 17:06.68; O’Brien, Conners Albany Academy, 17:12.39; Burch, Ethan Schuylerville, 17:15.03; Hada, Vishal Albany Academy, 17:36.44; Dwyer, Max Schuylerville, 17:38.56 7; Verstandig, Chris Albany Academy. 17:48.27; Christian, Alex Ichabod Crane. 17:49.92; Dion, Tyler Cohoes, 17:55.21.
Albany Academy 23; Schuylerville 71; Ichabod Crane 88; Broadalbin-Perth 146; Johnstown 153; Ravena 181; Cohoes 182; Cobleskill-Richmondville 198; Catskill 213; 10 Glens Falls 218.
Olden, Brandon, North Warren, 16:20.68; Cronin, Kevin, Saratoga Catholic, 16:25.98; Drescher, Andrew, Duanesburg, 16:30.16; Albanese, Noah, Maple Hill, 16:31.05; Goca, Henry, Rensselaer, 16:47.50; Mulvey, Kenneth, North Warren, 16:48.00; Lynch, Boone, Duanesburg, 16:54.10, Mannion, Nate, Maple Hill, 17:03.83; Yacobucci, Andrew, Fort Plain 17:06.25; Rollo, Nick, Lake George, 17:06.53.
Maple Hill 53; North Warren- Johnsburg 105; Saratoga Catholic 136; Duanesburg 137; Hadley-Luzerne 140; Greenwich 163; Fort Plain 184; Berlin 216; Lake George 233; Hoosic Valley 288.