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Signature Hill plays major role in titles

Cardiac Hill decides crowns

Saturday, November 8, 2008 - Sunken Meadow State Park NY

John Nepolitan on site

Having a signature hill is a characteristic of many cross country courses.  There are the famous Back Hills, Freshman Hill and Cemetery Hill of Van Corlandt Park, the Bowl of Holmdel(NJ), The Switch Backs and Reservoir Hill at Mt Sac(Ca), and the Camel Backs of the NXN Portland Meadows Course(Or).  Right up there with them is Cardiac Hill of Long Island’s Sunken Meadow State Park.  Hopes and dreams can be crushed or realized on these hills, some will fly over them while others will struggle to the crest.  At the New York State Public Cross Country Championships at the Sunken Meadow 5000 layout, just about every one of the ten individual titles and many of the team crowns were decided on this climb.  

Girls C – Newark Valley’s Erin Cawley wasted little time putting herself at the front of the field and toured the course alone from the gun to claim the first state title of the day.  While Cardiac had little effect on the individual title, it did play a role in the team battle.  Bronxville year in and year out produces one of the  best 4 x 800 and distance medley relays in the state of New York.  A team that is made of 800 meter runners always puts outstanding performances on the board over the 2.5 mile Van Cortlandt Park course, but has struggled to match those results at times on the longer 5000 meter tests.  Knowing that the middle of the Sunken Meadow course included the famed Cardiac hill, Bronxville appeared to go out under control while Rhinebeck was up front attacking.  Slowly moving through the field Bronxville slowly started to eat into Rhinebecks lead.  Coming off Cardiac with nothing but downhill and flat running the Bronxville runners started to pick off one after another runner who were now suffering due to the hill.  Rhinebeck would put 3 runners over the line before the first Bronxville runner finished, but now the Bronxvill pack would pour over the finish line.  After 3 runners for each team had crossed the line the score was Rhienbeck 9 to Bronxville’s 19, but the final 2 runners for Bronxville would make up the 10 points and add a 4 point cushion for the title.

Girls D – In 2007 Greenwich was a slightly larger school and was up in Class C, a small drop in population would move the Albany area school down to Class D.  In that 2007 race Greenwich would beat out Bronxville for the team crown, now down in Class D the end result would be the same.  Never really under stress, Greenwich would easily claim the team title with a 61 point victory over Geneseo.  The individual crown would be the only question mark as the runners headed up Cardiac.  Leading in the early stages Roxanne Henningson (Greenwich) looked to run away from the field.  Hanging just off the hot early pace was Amanda Moreland(Bloomfield).  As Henningson started up the early stages of Cardiac she had a comfortable lead, but when the leader came into sight coming off the top of the climb Moreland was now in control and would continue to pull away all the way to the finish.

Girls AA – Coming into the race there was a question of could anybody challenge US#2 Fayetteville Manlius, but there was little doubt that the two time defending NTN Champions would really have trouble retaining their crown.  From the start the Fay Man team in the section 3 yellow shirts was prominent at the front and although the final score with Saratoga would be close this was more  a result of the small field and the two teams just about locked in a dual meet.  While the team crown was looked upon as a 1 team affair, the individual crown  could be any one of seven runners.  Right away two runners established themselves at the front.  Courtney Chapman (Fay-Man) and 3 time Footlocker finalist Shelby Greany(Suffern) were locked in a battle.  Chapman would take the lead with Greany tucked in right behind her.  As the two worked their way up the early stages of the climb, Greany pulled along side Chapman and even started to push the pace.  Over the top of the hill and heading for home though Chapman went to the front and pulled away all the way to the finish.  Crossing the line in 18:13.26, Chapman would have a 33 second cushion over the NON Steeple champion and the #3 time in course history.

Chapman and Greany locked side by side (photo by John Nepolitan)

Girls A
– There was little doubt that Burnt Hills would not be the winner of the team title.  With one of the nations best 1-2-3 punch, the Albany area school would put all 5 scoring runners in the top 7 (scoring runners) to easily beat Cornwall 23-57.  The individual race would be a showdown of the defending Federation Champion, Emily Lipari(Roslyn) and the new hot shot of the state Aisling Cuffe(Cornwall).  Not to be forgotten would be Danielle Winslow(Queensbury) who has been moving up the ranks of the states elite.  From the start Winslow and Cuffe would be out front pushing the pace.  Lingering just off the front two was the home town favorite Lipari.  Slowly closing the gap on the front pair, Lipari headed up Cardiac(photo right by John Nepolitan) in 3rd and would come down in the same place, but would be dangerously close.  Coming into view of the finish Lipari was still in 3rd, but as soon as the finishline came into view she would swing wide and pick off both Winslow and Cuffe with 100 meters to go to on to the 2nd fastest winning time of the day.

Girls B
– Following the tactic that Lipari used in the race just before, Brenna Symoniak(Amherst) stayed back off the hot early pace.  Up front the freshman pair of  Lauren Mullins (Johnson City) and Samantha Nadel(North Shore) would be running side by side.  As the race approached the slight incline through the picnic area on way to Cardiac, Symoniak had tucked herself right behind the pair.  Up and over the climb Symoniak would move to the front and continue on for a 5 second win with a big smile as she crossed the finish line.  The team battle was billed as a 3 team fight with defender East Aurora trying to hold off the challenge of Pearl River and North Shore.  After each team had 2 runners over the line North Shore held a slight edge.  East Aurora who has been ranked at the top of the class all season then started to gain a slight edge as each teams runners came in.  In the end East Aurora would pack all its scorers in the top 15 (among scoring finishers) for a comfortable 20 point win over Pearl River.  Of the combined 21 runners for all 3 teams there are only 4 seniors among them so look for a rematch of these three teams next year.

Boys Class C
– Using the same tactic as Erin Cawley did in the girls Class C race, Max Straneva(Chenango Valley) jumped right to the front and pulled away from the field for a wire to wire win.  While the individual crown was never in doubt, the team battle would come right down to the wire.  Newark Valley and Holland Patent would be locked in a nip and tuck battle with Newark Valley getting the 1 point win.  After each team had 2 runners in Newark Valley held a 3 point lead (12-15).  Adding 1 more point to the lead after 3 runners it was then when things began to get tight.  Robert Baird(Holland Patent) would just nip Devin Crispell (Newark Valley) to close the gap to 3 points and then when CJ Morgan quickly crossed the line he was able to nail down the win for Newark Valley.

Boys D – Early on Michael Champagne(Seton Catholic), younger brother of former state champ Mary Kate, and Jon eng(Norwood Northfolk) would lock up in a dual.  The two would pull away from all others and run side my side until they started up Cardiac.  Once again the hill would come into play and Champagne would come down in the lead and cross the line with a 28 second cushion over Eng.  The team battle simply saw Beaver River beat Barker man for man for a 56 – 81 win.

Boys AA – Shenendehowa had won everything within the state of New York in 2007.  They were tabbed as the top team coming into the 08 season, but the addition of transfer Alex Leuchanka would make Shen look unbeatable.  Though the entire 08 season so far Shen had beaten every New York team they had faced, but now they would be locked in a dual with Fayettville Manlius who had the up front power to match Shen.  In the end the overall depth of Shen would be the difference between the two team and Shen would remain as the State’s top team.  The individual battle would be the closest of the day.  A pack of four, including FM’s Alex Hatz, Leuchanka, Demetri Goutos(Saratoga) and John Muller(Arlington), would form early and stay together until the climb up Cardiac started.  On the early stages of the climb Hatz would start to push the issue.  Goutos and Muller would pay the price of going with the lead and fade back to 8th and 11th at the finish.  Coming down off the climb Hatz and Leuchanka would be locked in a dual.  Around the moat and into the final straight it looked liked Leuchanka would swing wide and kick hard just as he did two weeks earlier to come from behind to take the Suburban Council Championship.  With about 100 meters to go Leuchanka did get a step, but Hatz was not done and dug down deep to get the lead back and break the tape a few inches ahead of Leuchanka for the day’s best time.

Class A – Joe Whalen(Hamburg) was tabbed as one of the Federation contenders at the start of the year, but seemed to struggle through the early stages of the season.  Now into the championship season Whalen has re-established himself as a contender.  Looking smooth and powerful from the start, Whalen just kept on putting more and more pressure on those behind him until he had built up a 26 second cushion at the finish.  
When there is any talk of Burnt Hills cross country it is normal to think of the girls team, but the boys group are making their own mark on the cross country world.  Just like the girls team they simply went out and dominated the competition for an easy 18 point win over Pittsford Mendon.

Doing what ever it takes to grab a point
(photo by John Nepolitan)

Class B – Year in and year out the intensity of the NYSPHSAA Championships takes a major jump up when the “AA” races are on the course.  The crowds are bigger and more vocal and then during the other classes there seems to be a small lull, not in 2008.  Yes the crowds were big and loud during the “AA” runs, but with local teams and individuals in the running for gold, the crowds remained and kept the energy up during the “A” races.  Emily Lipari gave the crowd what they wanted in the girls “A” race with an individual victory, now with NY #2 Shoreham Wading River the favorite to claim the title and the teams Bobby Andrews also having a chance at the individual crown the last race of the day would be the loudest.  In the race within the race as fans sprinted from viewing point to viewing point standing on the picnic tables that lined the course creating a small grandstand along most of the route trying to urge on the local boys.  At the front what most felt would be the best individual race of the day was developing.  Four of the states best were locked side by side.  Mike Hickey(Pearl River, Chris Stogsdill(Marcellus), Andrew, and defending champ Joe Dier(Honeoye Falls Lima) would move as one through the first 1-1/2 miles.  Starting up the early stages of Cardiac Stogsdill would take a look at his competition (photo right by John Nepolitan) and then start his hard drive for the finish.  Just as he had done at the McQuaid Invitational in late September, Stogsdill would force the pace in the middle mile to split apart the lead pack.  Coming off the hill Dier was the only one of the field that could hang close, but Stogsdill had a cushion that would be difficult to overcome if he held together to the finish.  Making the final turn into the finish straight Stogsdill looked in control and then things started to go downhill.  Over the final 100 meters the hard effort started to take its toll on the leader and he started to struggle in the final meters.  Dier started to charge hard, but would run out of room.  Stogsdill would be completely spent at the finish and it would be long after fans, officials, and runners had left the park for the award ceremony that he would be able to walk away from the finish area under his own power.