NYSPHSAA New York State Public School Champs
Saturday, November 11, 2006 - Sanfordville School, Warwick Valley, NY

Coverage and photos by John Nepolitan

Results from tullyrunners.com (include tullyrunners speed ratings)
Tullyrunners notes: NOTE ... these results are OCR scans of hard-copy ... they will have some typo-type errors...

Class AA-A Results -- Class B-C-D Results

In the boys AA race, Tommy Gruenewald of Fay-Man had the lead in the first part of the race, but Steve Murdock of Shen pulled away later. Photos John Nepolitan



Plenty of Upsets in NYSPHSAA Battles

Story by John Nepolitan

Course Records ( 5,000 meters)
Boys – Steven Murdock (Shenendehowa)                   15:07.6  2006
Girls – Aislinn Ryan (Warwick Valley)                            16:55.2  2005

Mid week, after over 2” of rain hit New York’s Hudson Valley it seemed that muddy course conditions would impact the outcome of the New York State Public HS Championships (the New York Federation is split into 4 division – public school, catholic schools or the CHSAA, New York City Public Schools also known as the PSAL, and the Independents), but two days of sun and a well maintained course welcomed many of the states elite teams and individuals to fight it out for titles.  

Besides determining state titles, the championships selects most of the public schools who will qualify for the New York Federation Championships next week and, over the last 2 seasons, has had an impact on which teams would make the trip west to the Nike Team Nationals. 

The 2006 Championships once again was sure to have a say on which teams will toe the line in Portland as NTN NE # 5 Fayetteville Manlius upset current #1 Saratoga and #2 Hilton to claim the Class AA (largest schools) title in a close 3 team battle.  There may have not been any shuffling of NTN Northeast teams on the boys side, but many of the Footlocker Northeast contenders came together to do battle with Steve Murdock (Shenenedehowa) winning the title he lost in 2005 in the closing steps as he upset Tom Gruenwald (Fayetteville-Manlius) for the AA title.

Overall, the course was in great condition, with only a few muddy patches at the lowest point on the course around the 1 and 2 mile posts. But it would be the unseasonable warm temperatures that would cause many to struggle home over a course which has very little flat running.

Boys AA(school population 1060+ -grades  10 through 12)     –

Right off the line, the highly anticipated Boys AA Championship was quickly down to a 2 man battle.  Tommy Gruenwald (Fayetteville – Manlius) and Steve Murdock (Shenenedehowa) broke away from the field with a very fast 4:28 first mile. 

Sitting back about 20 meters off the fast early pace was defending champ Brian Rhodes-Devey(Guilderland), banking on the fast starting duo crashing and burning and being able to pick up the pieces.  As the two leaders flew past the 1-3/4 mile post, Murdock made his bid for victory and opened up daylight over Gruenwald, the new Van Cortlandt Park course record holder, and seemed to be headed to a runaway victory with 1200 meters to go. 

Coming down the final 200 meter straight, it looked as if the warm weather was starting to get to Murdock as Gruenewald began to close, but Murdock (who lost the 2005 championship in the final steps to Rhodes-Devey) would hold on for the win. 

Regarding his win Murdock said, I was 4:26 for the mile, and 9:26 for the 2 mile, and then I kind of fell off pretty bad.”  That falling off allowed Gruenwald to start to close, but Murdock did not really notice.  “ I really had no idea, I was in so much pain coming in. I have had this stomach virus and all during the race I felt bad I just wanted to finish pretty much.” 

Murdock felt racing the course prior to the race was an advantage over the competition. "A lot of people here have not raced here before, and I could see it in my head better than they could, so I probably had an advantage." 

Behind the top two, Rhodes-Devey would struggle late in the race and end up 8th, but is sure to be back in the mix when a trip to San Diego for the Foot Locker Nationals is on the line. 

As Murdock was claiming the individual title, the rest of his NE#2 teammates ran with control and confidence to record a solid 42-66 win over #4 Smithtown, who earlier in the year upset the then #1 team in the region.    Besides the individual winner “Shen” placed its next four runners in the top 10, but Smithtown would keep things interesting through 3 runners trailing only by 3 (16-19) at that point. 

“Shen’s” 4th and 5th runners, Mike Danaher and Tom Soeller, would seal the win.  The race all together featured 4 teams in the NTN Northeast rankings as #6 Liverpool, who had defeated #7 Fayetteville Manlius to earn the trip to these Championships, would get 3rd -- just 3 points ahead of hosts and NTN Northeast # 8 Warwick. 

Warwick would be the first team to have 2 scores over the line as Zack Price(2nd in team score) and Terence Prial(3rd in team score), but would not have the depth needed on this day to challenge Shenendehowa and Smithtown. 

Boys A (school population 680-1059- grades 10 through 12) –

Coming on late to take the lead, it was not until the last steps that Matt Flynn (Victor) felt he had a chance to win, “I took the lead with about .1 to go and finally felt I had a chance to win with 100 meters to go," he said.  " I took a fast glance back and he was not right on me so I was like 'OOOO YEA!!'” 

A large pack was still together as they passed 1200 meters with defending champion Charles White (Garden City) at the front.  White would lead the first half of the race and at that point Matt Flint (Queensbury) took control, but Flynn was starting to move through the field and work his way to the leaders. 

Running a very strong last 800, Flynn took the lead at the 3 mile point and powered his way to a close win. That started the ball rolling for his Victor teammates as he and Ben W. Hall accounted for 4 team points.  But the team battle was far from over as top ranked Queensbury, although behind in the early stages, would place 4 of its scores ahead of Victor’s #3 and #5 before Victor's #4 for a 44 – 59 victory. 

Boys B(school population 460-679- grades 10 through 12)   –

Back in September at the Warwick Wave Mania XC Festival, O’Niell’s Cory Reed went out fast trying to burn the field and faltered. But he took that early season lesson and turned it into a victory.  “I rehearsed this race so many times in my mind, this went exactly as I had planned it.  I went out way too fast the first race here (Wave Mania in September) and I kind of died off, so I wanted to let the other guys take the lead. I planned on taking over going up the hill and put in a surge from there and I guess it worked” said the race winner of his performance. 

Defending team champion Pearl River did not make it through sectional competition, as they lost a close battle to Byram Hills. Thus, Byram Hills assumed the favorite role coming in.  A fast early pace would find Byram Hill #1 man Max Kasak with the leaders and in line to claim the individual crown.  Having missed the Pre-State meet race on the Warwick course with a slight injury, Kasak was running in unfamiliar territory. He suffered over the late stages of the race and struggled home in 29th place, hurting any chances Byram Hills had for the team title. 

Slowly moving through the field as the race unfolded were the Mohawk-wearing Honeoye Falls-Lima lime squad.  As the runners crossed the finish line Honeoye Falls- Lima’s Alex Deir (3rd in team score), Steve Mangan (7th, and Robert Gardner (8th) provided too much for other teams to overcome.  With Matt Marion in 14th and Sean Keyes in 18th, HFL ran to a 19 point victory.

Boys C (school population 290-459-grades  10 through 12)   –

Passing 1200m, Tom Reubens (Wilson) was sitting in 7th place. But a strong move in the middle mile broke up the field and found Reubens on the lead, which he would maintain to the finish.  Always among the leaders was Pawling's Colby DelBene, who had missed the previous week's sectional championships with a slight injury. His 2nd place finish would start his team's drive for the team title, but would not be enough to overcome the superior up front strength of Tully.

The top ranked team in the class, Collegiate, was at the Independent schools championships and not at Warwick, so this left Tully as the team to beat.  With Mike Heymann (3rd), Scott VanderMolen (4th) and Chris Burke (6th), there was little doubt of the team outcome as Tully went on to a 39-78 win over Pawling. 

Boys D (school population 0-289-grades  10 through 12)    –

While the fans were getting ready for the highly anticipated AA race, one of the closest races of the day was being fought down to the wire.  A small group of 3 had established themselves at the front as the race closed in on the 1200 meter point.  The group would stay together until just under 1 mile to go when Lee Berube (Ticonderoga) made a bid to win with a strong move. 

Not in a panic was Christian Thompson (Candor) who slowly pulled Berube back and finally caught the leader as the two closed in on the finish line.  “With about 1300 to go, Lee put on a surge," he said. "I thought I could get back to him and I was truly hoping he did not have another one left in him. Then I caught him with about 20 meters left. 

“My coach made a video of the course and I watched that every night so I had it in my head and that helped out a lot," he added.  " There are so many turns and if you just made straight lines ... I think that is what won i - I would just run straight lines."

During the season, few of the small schools had faced each other and it was difficult to have a true handle on which teams were really the top.  The last rankings heading to Warwick had Franklinville sitting in 14th and Cooperstown on top.  When the final scores were announced, Franklinville had pulled off maybe the meet's biggest upset with a 65-77 win. 

Girls AA (school population 1060+ -grades  10 through 12)    - 

The large school race for girls was supposed to be a battle between NTN NE #1 Saratoga and #2 Hilton for the team battle, and between Eastern States Champion Hannah Davidson (Saratoga) and Shelby Greany (Suffern) for the individual honors. But somebody forgot to tell #5 Fayetteville-Manlius and Allison Sawyer (Hilton) what the outcomes were supposed to be. 

Going to the front as most expected, Davidson and Greany separated themselves from the rest of the field early and battled over the first 2 miles of the course.  Hanging back a bit, having learned from her mistake when she ran this same Warwick course back at the Wave Cross Country Mania in September, Sawyer slowly started to move up and with 1200 meters to go was close enough to think she might be able to pull off the upset. 

Attacking the last downhill on the course would bring Sawyer to Davidson’s side with 800 meters to go and she would simply go right by.  Working hard to the finish, Sawyer was rewarded with her 1st state title to cross the line in 17:36 for the fastest performance of the day.

“We ran the Wave Mania Invitational here in September and went out way too fast," said Sawyer. "So my coach said to go out a little easier for the first mile and try and maintain that pace up the hill.  I was planning on staying behind her (Davidson), and I was staying that distance, and I could tell that she might be getting a little tired. So I passed her with 800 to go."

The team battle would also be an upset as Fayetteville Manlius knocked off defending state champion Saratoga and defending NTN champions Hilton with a 67-71-73 nip and tuck battle. It shaped up as follows:

Scores after 1 runner had crossed the line
Hilton                          1
Saratoga                      2
Fayetteville Manlius    6

Score after 2 runners
Hilton                          5
Saratoga                      13
FM                              13

Score after 3 runners
Hilton                          18
Saratoga                      25
FM                              27

Score after 4 runners
Hilton                          43
FM                              44
Saratoga                      46

Final Scores
FM                              67
Hilton                          71
Saratoga                      73

Now the NTN games can begin.  In 2005, after a 1 point lose to Saratoga at the State Class meet, Hilton sat out the Federation Meet and banked on the strength of what they had accomplished all year and the hope that Saratoga would dominate the final meet in New York.  When Saratoga won by 85 points, Hilton got swept into the Portland meet and went on to win the national title. 

If Fayetteville was to sit out the 2006 Federation meet, and if Saratoga and Hilton take the top 2 team places, it would be difficult to deny FM a trip to Portland, having defeated both.  It is doubtful that FM Coach Bill Aris will hold his girls team back, and will have them on the line at the Federation meet to earn their trip to Portland.

Girls A (school population 680-1059- grades 10 through 12)

Jillian King (Scotia-Glenville) would set the tone for 3 of the following girls races as she went to the front early and just held that lead to the finish for a comfortable 4 second win over Meaghan Gregory(Burnt Hills).  On her wire to wire win King said, “It was just kind of gradual, there was no real point where I broke away, it was just gradual."

Since the 3rd week of the season, Burnt Hills has sat on top of the New York State Class A rankings. With the team who had held the top slot at the start of the season not making through the qualifying process (only one team from each of the state's 11 sections earn the trip to the state meet in each class), it looked like an easy run to the state championship was on tap. That is exactly what happened.  Placing all 5 of its scoring runners in the top 20 (among teams) the team battle was never really in doubt as the Albany area school scored a 34-67 victory over Horace Greeley.   With all 7 of its runners returning, it looks like it will be a few years that Burnt Hills could be battling for top honors.

Girls B(school population 460-679- grades 10 through 12)  –

 Nobody felt that defending champ and 2005 Footlocker Finalist Liz Deir (Honeoye Falls-Lima) would be challenged for the win and she did not disappoint.   Powering up the first major hill on the course Dier was in the lead and simply pulled away for an easy 15 second win over Paige Mullins (Johnson City).  “My plan was to get out really strong and just do what I do like normal.  I knew that they would be right there for a while, but I just didn’t want anybody to pass me basically," she said.

East Aurora had come to Warwick as the top team in the class and did what a top ranked team does - comes to town and takes care of business.  With the solid base of two runners in the top 5 (Catherine Lussardi-3rd and Jenna Hulton-4th) East Aurora went on to a 49-62 win over Deir’s Honeoye Falls- Lima team.  #2 ranked Shoreham Wading River of Long Island would struggle and slip to a distant 4th slipping behind Pearl River (a team making its 28th straight trip to the State Championship).

Girls C (school population 290-459-grades  10 through 12)   –  

Caitlin Lane (Greenwich), who had previously raced for Argyle and the powerful Saratoga team before running unattached in 2005, ran to an unchallenged win leading her Greenwich team to the title as well.  Now at her 3rd high school, she is reunited with many of her former Argyle teammates. She went to the front early and was never pushed on her way to her 1st individual state championship.  “It was really exciting coming down the home stretch," she said.   "I had some of the greatest times of my life the year I ran unattached, but these are my friends since 6th grade, and my best friends. It is great being on a team with them again." 

With Lane leading the way, her Greenwich teammates -- currently ranked #7 in the NTN Northeast -- responded and overpowered defending team champions Bronxville to take a 29 to 46 victory. 

Girls D(school population 0-289-grades  10 through 12)    –

At the 2005 championships Mary Kate Champagne (Seton Catholic-Plattsburgh) went storming out and was caught late, but was able to rally back for the victory.  The 2006 race started much the same as Champagne went directly to the front and built up a large lead before beginning to falter in the last mile, but would have enough of a cushion to hold on to retain her title.   

“I got halfway through the race and got a stitch, and my 3rd mile felt real slow. And then Wendy Paulus (Tupper Lake) was close to me in the last mile” said the winner of her race. 

The first close team race of the day was reserved for the race that brought together the smallest of the states schools.  Top ranked Thomas Edison HS had a lower placer in Sarah Palmer (3rd among team finishers), but LaFayette would put 3 runners in the top 10 with a 4-5-9 placing to take the early lead.  Through 3 runners LaFayette still held onto an 18-26 lead over Edison. But a 17th and 19th place finish by Jessica Stanton and Caitlin Sullivan of Edison, compared to the 24th and 27th by LaFayette, was just enough for the top ranked Edison to claim top honors. 

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