Runners tackle challenging course at state meet
ONTARIO CENTER — Hundreds of runners from around the state gathered in Ontario Center on Saturday, and although they were supposedly taking on each other, each and every boy and girl had the same opponent: the course.
The 5-kilometer course, set up at Wayne Central High School, was either frozen hard as a rock or filled with ankle-deep mud. The boys, who started running early in the morning, battled rock hard ruts and ankle-busting, frozen footprints from training the day before. And as the sun rose and the girls got underway, the mud got worse, both on and around the course.
Both Lake Placid and Saranac Lake sent full boys teams, as well as individual girls, to the NYSPHSAA cross country championships, and Tupper Lake had a few runners competing as well. Lake Placid and Tupper Lake are both in Class D, while Saranac Lake was competing against schools in Class C.
Saranac Lake’s boys team, which finished the season undefeated at 24-0 while capturing the Section VII and CVAC titles, was projected before the race to finish in a three-way tie for third place. The team ended up fifth in a field of 11 other full teams.
As was usual throughout the season, junior Anderson Gray was the first across the line for the Red Storm, posting a time of 17 minutes, 48.9 seconds for a 28th-place finish. Glens Falls senior Chris Hughes (16:52.7) won the race by more than 10 seconds.
Saranac Lake senior Tyler Martin (18:16.1) placed 50th, while fellow senior Lauchlan Cheney-Seymour (18:27.5) was only four slots behind Martin. Freshman James Catania had a decent showing, crossing the line in 18:49.8 and Michah McCulley rounded out the team contingent with an 18:58.1 for 76th place in the field of 130.
Jacob Alberga (19:05.5) and Adam Hesseltine (19:21.7) also represented the red and white, placing 84th and 93rd, respectively.
Coach Bill Peer said his team came in about where expected, and couldn’t be happier about the season leading up to the state championships.
“They’re disappointed in how they did, but we’re proud of them,” Peer said. “It’s right where we were seeded. A couple of things could have broken differently for us that didn’t, but I’m very proud of their effort all year long.
“We’ll be back; we’re young. Fifth is not where we want to be and we can come back. This is a good experience for us and we consider the season a wild success.”
In the Class D race, senior Scott Schulz had the best showing of the day for Lake Placid, placing 20th with a time of 17:45.5. Like the Red Storm, all seven of the Blue Bomber boys finished in the top 100 out of 117 and the team earned a sixth place finish overall. Kal Lewis from Shelter Island won the race handily, besting second place by more than 15 seconds with a time of 16:44.6.
Lake Placid junior Jesse Izzo (18:12.2) took the 32nd spot, and sophomore James Flanigan (18:43.6) placed 53rd. Sophomores Michael Skutt (19:13) and Kai Frantz (19:22.6) made up the rest of the team while freshman Van Ledger (19:42.2) earned valuable experience and senior Tim Kelleher (20:50) placed 99th.
Schulz exceeded expectations with his top-20 finish, but Flanigan said the course was a nightmare.
“The course was a ton harder today,” he said. “Yesterday it was complete mud, you could barely run on it, you were just slipping around. And then it froze overnight and where people were stepping down it made tons of huge divots.
“I was just getting stuck in the divots and tripping. We’re definitely a hills team; we’re good in the hills. The flatness definitely gave the other teams advantages.”
Two Tupper Lake sophomores also competed in the Class D race, with Patrick Cote finishing in 21:04.5 and teammate Jayce Clement coming across the line not long after with a time of 21:33.9.
Corning won the Class A team title and Burnt Hills-Balston Lake won Class B. Saranac Lake placed fifth with 131 points, while Mount Academy won the team title with 50 points. Beaver River was the top school in Class D with 48 points, while Lake Placid placed sixth with 126.
On the girls’ side, Saranac Lake sent three runners and Lake Placid sent two, including eighth-grade standouts Evelyn Eller for the Red Storm and Annie Rose-McCandlish of the Blue Bombers.
The Saranac Lake girls were competing against Class C schools, while Lake Placid’s Sarah Rose-McCandlish and Sandra Kwasniak, the lone Tupper Lake girl, ran in the Class D race.
Eller had the fastest time for the Red Storm ladies, crossing the line in 22:10.5 for 37th place in the field of 131. Teammates Gwen Mader (22:50.8) and senior Madison Grimone (22:54.8) both finished in the top 70. Livonia’s Hayleigh Palotti won the race by a wide margin with her time of 19:24.6.
“I’m a little sad that it’s my last race, but I’m really happy with my results, so it’s a happy cry,” Grimone said as tears streamed down her face. “It was atrocious. (The trails) were so muddy, and if it wasn’t muddy it was frozen, so it was a battle.
“(I’m) happy with everything I’ve done throughout my career, but it’s good to move on to new things. (It’s) very bittersweet.”
Annie Rose-McCandlish, an eighth grader in Lake Placid, posted the fastest time of the local girls in the Class D race, placing 59th with a time of 23:07.6. Older sister Sarah Rose-McCandlish, a junior, had a surprisingly good run, coming in just six spots behind her sister with a time of 23:14.9. Kwasniak finished in the top 100 with a time of 27:16.8, while Tully’s Brooke Rauber won the Class D race with a blistering time of 18:51.6.
“There’s no grip or traction,” Kwasniak said. “I did what I could for that course. I admit I sort of gave up because it was a mental challenge. My ankles were sliding the entire time and I didn’t want to break something, so I just tried to coast through it.”
Fayettville-Manlius was the top girls team in Class A, while John Jay-Cross River ended the day atop the Class B schools. CBA-Syracuse won the Class C team title and South Lewis topped out the Class D teams.
Lake Placid coach Mel Frazer was pleased with her kids’ performances in the less than ideal conditions.
“I’m psyched for them,” she said. “Scotty (Schulz) has always kind of finished like 22nd or 23rd, never top 20 and he got top 20 so that’s really exciting for him since he’s a senior. As a coach, I’m happy with them.
“Class D is so fast now. They were way up where they needed to be.”
Frazer was also happy with the Rose-McCandlish girls’ races and noted that most of her girls will be back next season.
“The girls did great, Sarah Rose-McCandlish just had an awesome race. This kind of running condition, my team likes so they all pushed through.
“I think the girls have a goal that they want to be here as a team next year, and that’s definitely within reach. And the boys are psyched, they know that lots of teams in Class D have lots of seniors. They were hoping to podium, but they’re still all psyched and talking about next year.”