No. 1 - The Season of Dreams
In 2004, a small team from upstate New York blew up the National Scene. They were Fayetteville-Manlius, and they had just put five athletes ahead of national powerhouse CBA at the Manhattan Invitational. Later that season, they would make a run at Feds, then the end-all, be-all of XC in NY, and would make their claim for the greatest single performance by an XC team ever. But the storybook season would end in defeat. Going up against another All-Time Greatest Team in York of '04, FM couldn't find the magic twice. They would finish runner up in the first Nike Team Nationals in history. The FM story would continue, with another qualifying boys team in 2005. By 2006, the legacy of the FM girls was just beginning. Flash forward 8 years later, and seven national titles later on the girls end, the stars were about to align again.
There was a reason why a dual meet in the first week of competition gained national attention. It was one of the only dual meets to ever be speed rated. The newspapers were on the scene, the FAT timing was set. Fayetteveille-Manlius was kicking off their season against in-section rivals Liverpool. All the preseason previews made note why this would be exceptional. The girls, rebounding from a rare loss on the national stage, were looking to return to form. On the other hand, the boys were looking more dominant than ever, returning five seniors in their Top 7. Not only that, but their competitors in the meet, would be Nationally ranked Liverpool boys.
The battle would be fierce, but the Manlius boys would prove why they warranted the pre-ranking they had. For the girls, it was much of the same, dominating the local competition with 8 of the top 10 finishers. Both teams were primed for the season. Their seasons started officially with the VVS Invitational. The boys looked unstoppable, scoring 21 points in the merged results. The girls were no less, as they scored 22 points in the merge. An unusually early league meet saw equal dominance, both teams coming away with clear cut titles. It was time for something bigger.
The McQuaid Invitational kicks off a stretch of Mega-Invitationals in late-September through early October. Easily up to 8000 athletes could run at a single event. The boys were defending champs, the girls were not. In 2013, Unionville had made the trek from PA for the sole purpose of challenging the reigning national champs, coming away with a rare victory over the FM girls. In 2014, both teams were looking to triumph. The meet brought unusually hot conditions for the later part of the season. The boys ran away with the show, dominating the seeded race, and coming away with a 40 point victory in the merge. But the girls would be caught off guard by a surging Elmira, who would take the win in the team scoring. FM would inversely take the merge by one point, but it was clear there was work to be done before they enter Manhattan, in two weeks time.
At Manhattan, against a field made up of some of the best teams on the East Coast, the FM girls came back with a vengeance. They scored an incredible 53 points in the merge. That was 110 points ahead of nationally ranked, second place La Salle of Rhode Island. For the boys, it was business as usual, dominating the field, and the course record, in unbelievable fashion. On one of the most storied courses in XC lore, they had dropped the Five-Man average by more than 12 seconds, all while running a relaxed Pete Ryan. (Had Ryan run an equivalent speed rating to some of his other races, the average would be 12:28.36). For both teams, the train rolled on. They were unchallenged at both the Sectional and State Level, as the girls scored 20 points at states, and the boys hit 24. At Regionals, the boys may have made the competition to close for comfort in rough, snowy conditions, but the girls dominated with 34 points to move on to Portland. The Nation knew the potential for a sweep was rising.
On the line at NXN, the stakes were clear. The FM boys had never won a National Title, the FM Girls had almost never not. The girls would be up first, and would see their toughest competition in Great Oak of California, whom many had predicted in the early season to be untouchable. Wayzata, the team that had dethroned them the year before, were also in the field. As the gun went off, any question as to who was the best team in the nation was answer. Manlius led from start to finish with in unprecedented fashion. At the 1k, they only had 38 points. Through the conclusion of the race, they would only gain 30 more, nearly half of the runner-up squad. The Manlius Girls were back on top of the podium, but most of their minds were still focused on the next race. The boys would have the tougher race, seeing close competition from an equally strong American Fork, La Salle Academy, and the two NY teams that had put pressure at the Regional. From the gun, the Stotans took out. At 1k, Bryce Millar was in second place. At 2k, he had moved to first. He had a string of course records throughout the season, and it was clear he would be a force on the national scene. But the early pace took a toll. And yet, like any good team would, the surround teammates would pick up the pace. Pete Ryan would see the struggle, and use that to propel him to an All-American finish. Millar would take second for team, running side by side by Kyle Barber through the line. As the five trickled in, the waters were murky. In a sense of cruel irony, the unheralded Wayzata boys had put two ahead of Pete Ryan, then another came in right behind Barber. It wasn't until an announcing slip-up, that a sigh of relief could be released. For the first time in the history of the event, and maybe even in the sport, a single team were the best Boys and Girls Teams in the Nation.
|Girls Final Scores
Girls Split **Split 4 Scores**
Girls Split **Split 3 Scores**
Girls Split **Split 2 Scores**
Girls Split **Split 1 Scores**
3) HIGHLAND VILLAGE-138
Boys Final Scores
3) NORTH SPOKANE-178
Boys Split **Split 4 Scores**
2) AMERICAN FORK-179,
Boys Split **Split 3 Scores**
3) AMERICAN FORK-182
Boys Split **Split 1 Scores**
The Case for No. 1
There was a lot of discussion and arguments as whether this, or moment No. 2 deserved the top spot. Upon reflection, it was Fayetteville-Manlius that revolutionized what could be possible in the sport. The only other teams that have ever come close to such an accomplishment were Saratoga, and FM themselves, when they achieved a first place on one side, and a second on the other. But this was different. The Manlius girls, with few track credentials at the time, beat the field by more than seventy points, the next total double that. The boys had been undefeated all season, and had nearly had their top 4 at or above a 190 speed rating. Their seems to be an expectation that FM is always going to be in the hunt to win, which sometimes takes away from the difficulty of it. They were the third smallest team in the field at NXN, nearly 4000 kids less than the top end. To put that in perspective, it would be as if a mid-class D school routinely won the NY State Meet Merge every year. They routinely have less than 20 kids per gender try out for the XC team each year. But year after year, they produce some of the greatest XC teams in the Nation. It doesn't matter which course they run on: the hills of Bowdoin Park, the mud of Portland Meadows, or the pristine golf course of Glendoveer, the Hornets know how to produce. While some teams may come down in the future and sweep NXN, or break course records, it will forever be the Stotans of 2014 who did it first.
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