Well folks, that's it for the 2013-2014 seasons for Cross Country and Track and Field. With the conclusion of the World Junior Championships next week, the majority of our athletes are home for the season, and building towards either college or those cross country courses in the fall. We here at MileSplit NY have just finished our second year under new management, and have made strides in bringing you the best coverage around. We've had new innovations such as Live Streaming and the incorporation of the NYS Archives, as well as nearly 14 million page views since September. In terms of athletes, we've had unparalleled performances, new breakout stars, and countless new state records. To keep it succinct, it has been another great year for the Empire State. To commemorate the end of the season, we'd like to look back at our top 10 moments from the past year. These may not be the fastest times or best performances, but they were moments that were aided by the stories behind them, the rivalries established, and the accomplishments achieved. We'll be releasing two a day, with the top pick being released on Saturday night. While they are ranked numerically, their order is only slightly important. Each moment proved thrilling for the track fan, and we look forward to even more in 2015. And be sure to sound off in our comments for moments you think we missed, as cutting this down to a list of ten was not easy.
No. 6 - Double Trouble
As many track sportscasters will tell you, "It's not how you start the race, it's how you finish." The same is true for the Fayetteville-Manlius cross country team season plan. While the early invitationals are good training, a State Title is the goal. It was a formula that had worked for the past seven years for the Stotans. One that would eventually work again, making it 8-straight Girls Cross Country Titles for the Hornets, gradually increasing their gain on Saratoga's legendary "9 titles in 10 years" streak. But this year wouldn't be the typical smooth sailing for the Stotans.
The rest of the nation had time to adapt to a team that had swept every major title in the sport for more than half a decade. Noticing FM's entry on the heat sheets for the McQuaid Invitational, Unionville entered the competition for the sole purpose of testing their squad against the Stotans. Led by Courtney Smith, the girls of Unionville would unseat the Hornets as team champions, striking from the gate early with a 45 to 79 point victory. The two would match up two weeks later, this time with the Hornets better prepared to perform, and the gap closed significantly, bringing the margin down to three points, Unionville 89, FM 92. As usual, as the season progressed, so did the Stotans. After Manhattan, the team returned to an insular focus, fending off challenges from teams in state, and again winning a state title by a significant margin. At NXN Regionals, they proved they were the top team in the region, and ready for Nationals.
There were many things different about 2013 for Fayetteville-Manlius. They had lost their top returner to a transfer during the summer, due to parental relocation for work. Competing for a separate team at NXN-Regionals, that athlete would finish 13th overall, despite the shift in coaching. In addition, the battle for XC supremacy was fought on two fronts. The boys XC team was almost equally talented, yet unlike the girls, their main competition would come from 15-mins down the road. Liverpool High School had seen a growth in talent, and the two squads would battle for League, Sectional, and Regional qualifiers. But this dichotomy would be the making of moment number 6. At the Nike Cross Nationals, the FM girls would take second overall, after a year long injury-plagued Anna French made an incredible jump in performance for Wayzata, placing in the top ten individually. As for the boys, who had qualified as well, they took home 4th place overall in one of the deepest years in recent memory. It would also stand as the second best program performance at a national meet ever, only behind 2005 Saratoga. Not bad for a team that would go on to only graduate one athlete per gender.
No. 5 - Kicking The Curves Of The Armory
To be fair to the field, at the time that the Millrose Games Trials Heat Sheets came out, everyone wrote off Luke Gavigan. He had taken second in the freshmen mile at New Balance Nationals two years ago. Since then, he had improved marginally during his sophomore season. Even in XC, he had only averaged 180 in the speed ratings. Good, but not great. But moment number 5 on our countdown can be pinned more precisely than most. At the 1500m mark, of the Millrose Mile Qualifiers, Luke Gavigan established himself as a National Force. He would kick down, at the time, the fastest miler from NY as well as NJ, and close the race in 12.3 seconds, PR'ing by two full seconds. Did we mention, he hadn't even started doing full workouts yet? Easy runs and stride outs were all that he had tackled in the rougher-than-usual winter season.
While his moment came early, the momentum never stopped. That winter, he would take every major in-state title New York has to offer. He ran the second fastest winning Millrose mark ever. He cruised through the state qualifier, and outkicked the field to win a state title. At New Balance Nationals, he would take second to Grant Fisher, the Foot Locker Champion. The momentum didn't stop outdoors either. He walked away with another state title amongst greater competition, as well as holding off another youth phenom at the Penn Relays to win. He took home the junior class state records in both the 1500m and the mile indoors. And he will be back next year.
The distinction between Luke Gavigan and other runners was the manner in which he executed his race. Each race was run with the same strategy. Start out slow, move up to 3rd or 4th on the penultimate lap, then outkick everyone on the final finishes. Even when athletes began to realize and adapt to the strategy, Gavigan adapted as well. When races began going out much faster, he would follow more closely to the leaders. When racing athletes with a more powerful kick, he would kick sooner. And again, he will be back next year, race ready, and championship sharp.