Local cross country runners headed for state championships

It was a day of hope, anticipation, and effort. For many it was their best effort and for other’s, it was their last chance to make it to the next level. All ten of the Foothills Council schools, and many local schools were well represented Friday afternoon at the Section 2 New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) cross country championships at Saratoga Springs State Park, and by the end of the day several athletes realized that chance to make it to the state championships.

A remarkable five trips to states

The majority of the competitors at Friday’s meet couldn’t say that they had been to the state championships even once. Aside from some of the larger Class A schools, a return trip to the state meet is difficult to achieve. But for Schuylerville’s Ashley Watson, a remarkable fifth trip to the state championships was at stake in the girls Class C-CC race. Over 160 runners made up the twenty team field in the largest race of the day for the girls, but only one would be the champion. Less than twenty minutes later Watson emerged into the open field in front of the Hall of Springs well ahead of the next runner and left no doubt to who the champion was. With a time of 18 minutes, and 51.30 seconds, Watson, a senior, earned a fifth try at the state championships in her last race on the Saratoga Springs State Park course.

“I was just thinking that it’s my last year, and it’s my race,” Watson said. “It started to hurt when I reached the hills at Ferndale, but my teammates kept shouting to me that it was my last time on this course.”

Watson had finished third in a division race at the Burnt Hills Invitational also at the Saratoga course in October, and was twelfth at the recent Foothills Council championships. But, on Friday Watson was true to form cutting more than twenty seconds off her time from the Foothills Council championships less than two weeks ago to beat Greenville’s Olivia Baumann (18:58.17) to the finish. It wasn’t easy and Watson needed all her strength and stamina to defeat her opponents.

“Nearing the end of the race, two girls caught up to me and one passed me,” Watson said. “But, I said to myself that I’m letting go that easily. I caught her and then passed her and just let everything go to the end. I wanted it. It was my race.”

During the last five years, Watson made it to the state meet once with her Schuylerville team, and the other four on her own. However, her running career will not end at the NYSPHSAA championships on Saturday, November 12 at Chenango Valley State Park. Watson said that she will be running cross-country in college, and will be announcing soon what school she will be attending. Over the years there have been a number of factors that have played a role in the making of a champion.

“Good coaching is definitely a part of it,” Watson said. “Wanting to put in the extra time and go those extra weeks in the season, and just working hard.”

Watson won’t be the only girl from a Foothills Council school headed to the state meet. South Glens Falls’ senior Regina Rosati finished second in the girls Class B race with a time of 18:12.35 to earn a second straight trip to states. Rosati, the 2016 Foothills Council varsity girls champion finished behind only Burnt Hill- Ballston Lake senior Eva Scott (17:44.69) who repeated as girls sectional Class B champion. Scott and her Lady Spartans teammates won the Class B crown with 34 points. Scotia- Glenville led by Juliana Geniti (19:25.53) finished fourth, South Glens Falls was fifth. Schuylerville was second in the Class C-CC race with 146 points. Freshman Sunni Labounty (20:00.56) also posted a top twenty finish for Schuylerville crossing the line in eleventh.

Watson’s five trips to state is a remarkable accomplishment, but she may one day have company. Mayfield eighth grader Madison Relyea finished third in the girls Class D race and punched her ticket to the state meet. Relyea’s 18:50.27 time trailed only winner Brynne Wright (18:12.82) of Greenwich, and Monica Strain (18:28.16) of Maple Hill among the athletes from small schools. Relyea has four more years of eligibility left on her Lady Panthers team, and if she continues to post times like she did this season, could one day equal Watson’s five appearances at the state meet.

The Mayfield girls finished eighth in the Class D race with 218 points. Greenwich Central claimed the girls Class D title with 30 points.

Fort Plain- Canajoharie girls win C title, sixth in overall C/CC

During the girls Class C-CC race on Friday, not one of the top ten finishers was from the Fort Plain-Canajoharie squad in the overall standings. But among Class C schools, junior Jordan Porter finished eighth ( 18th overall) with a time of 20:23.54, junior Cheyenne Munson (20:51.65) followed that in 13th place, next was freshman Micheala Stockwell (21:05.91) in 17th, and then junior Eliza Cechnicki (21:24.81) to give them four in the top twenty in Class C. Senior Lexi Veitch (21:44.27) wasn’t far behind in 22nd, followed by senior Amber Douglas (22:42.92) and junior Kendall Kennedy (24:03.02) in sealing the win with 74 points, five points better than last years champion Chatham Central. In the merged standings Cobleskill- Richmondville earned the trip to states. Fort Plain- Canajoharie was sixth overall.

The Fonda Fultonville Lady Braves finished ninth overall, sixth in Class CC. Junior Mariah Vanavery (19:54.89) posted a fifth place finish in CC, and tenth overall to lead the way for FFHS. Katie Dunham (20:23.81), and Hallie LaPratt (21:02.86) finished in the top twenty in CC. Senior Avery Cook (22:41.71) was also among the top fifty runners in Class CC to complete the 4908 meter course.

Johnstown girls fourth overall in C-CC, Gloversville girls 12th in Class B

The Johnstown Lady Bills finished fourth overall in the girls Class C-CC race scoring 158 points. Senior Aylene Newman led Johnstown with her second straight top ten finish at the Saratoga course, crossing the line with a time of 19:48.83, good for ninth place. Junior Julia Sarullo also posted a top twenty finish, coming in 15th with a 20:14.49 time. Senior Cassie Vanvalkenbergh (21:09.11) was 36th, and sophomore Julia Preston (21:09.88) placed 38th giving the Lady Bills four in the top 50 runners. Freshman Katie Romano (22:25.42), senior Lyndsey Fiore (23:53.89), and junior Lauryn Wilson (28:29.20) completed the field for Kohnstown.

The Gloversville girls team scored 287 points to finish tenth in the Class B race. Sophomore Daley Jo Christman was the first to cross the line for the Lady Huskies, finishing 27th with a time of (20:21.90). Freshman Rhea Winter (21:34.54) also posted a top 50 finish. Junior Brenna Wooster (23:37.65), sophomore Autumn Hardman (23:58.80), senior Veronica Peck (25:52.00), and freshman Sandra Snell (25:55.90) rounded out the Gloversville lineup.

Foothills Council sending four boys to state meet

The last three races that Glens Falls junior Chris Hughes has run at the Sartoga State Park course have had one thing in common: he was the winner. Hughes added to wins at the Burnt Hills-Balston Lake Invitational and the Foothills Council championships with a win in the Section 2 boys Class B event completing the course in 15 minutes 28.08 seconds. It was a race loaded with talent as the first six runners to cross the finish line all did so in less than 16 minutes.

“It was more like starting out strong with the competition,” Hughes said. “And then waiting to make your move, and then go for it with all you’ve got to the end.”

Hughes finished seconds ahead of Schalmont’s Fracisco Beltran (15:33.06), and Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake’s Evan Brennan (15:34.94). Hughes’ teammate Caeron Giordano (16:05.83) came in eighth, but qualified for states as three of the runners ahead of him were from the winning team, Burnt Hills Ballston Lake (35 points). Both Hughes and Giordano reflected on the chance to run at the next level.

“Just competing with all the good runners will be a good experience,” Giordano said.

“Seeing all the fast people and competing is pretty cool,” added Hughes.

Glens Falls totaled 76 points to place second in Class B. Ethan Wyman (16:38.90) also posted a top twenty finish for the Indians. Hughes and Giordano will have some company in representing the Foothills Council. Both Spencer Swoboda (16:32.27, 6th place), and Davante Jones (16:51.20, eighth place) qualified for states in the Class C-CC race. The Schuylerville boys finished second (152 pts.).

Johnstown boys fourth in C-CC, Gloversville 12th in Class B

The Johnstown Sir Bills finished in the top four in the Class C-CC race with 159 points. Senior Brandon Mraz led the way for Johnstown with a 17:11.30 time and a 11th place finish. Sophomore Alex Quillan (17:28.55) also posted a top twenty finish. Gabe Cole (18:03.88) was next for the Sir Bills in 38th, followed by Michael Simone (18:17.51), Mark Cwiakala (18:37.57), Zachary Ropeter (19:10.62), and Nathan Cotton (19:33.67).

The Gloversville boys were twelfth in Class B with 342 points. Sophomore Skyler Reed (17:44.84) led the way in 32nd place. Riley Lake (19:56.07) and Zachary Rocas (20:05.63) posted top 100 finishes.

Fort Plain- Canajoharie boys ninth in C-CC, Fonda – Fultonville 11th

The Fort Plain-Canajoharie boys team was ninth in the Class C-CC race with 240 points. Junior Michael Hoffman (17:47.35) led the way with a 26th place run. Junior Hunter Congdon (18:00.75) joined him in the top 40. The Fonda- Fultonville Braves totaled 265 points as a team and finished 11th overall in Class C-CC. Senior Clane Newcomer (17:50.58) led the Braves with a 29th place finish. Not far behind was senior Travis Geniti (17:59.31) in 34th place. Junior Aidan Zenzen (18:31.91) gave the Braves three in the top 50 runners.

In Class D, the Mayfield boys team totaled 233 points to place ninth. Senior Josh Febbie (17:25.57) led the Panthers in 15th place.Tyler Newkirk (17:47.33) was 23rd, Connor Akowicz (18:28.55) was 49th.

The NYSPHSAA cross-country championships will be held on Saturday at Chenango Valley State Park in Chenango Forks, NY.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.