By Christopher Hunt
NEW YORK – Fayetteville-Manilus coach Bill Aris had a curious way of describing the girls Eastern States championship at the Manhattan Invitational. He called the “physiologically illogical.”
In the others, the way most run the race doesn’t much sense compared to most cross country races.
“It’s a 2-mile sprint with a hill in the middle,” he said of the 2.5-mile race. “It’s constant surging and passing. No one runs their best here.”
Now that doesn’t take away from the quality of the meet. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. An infectious aggression runs through the field and refuses to allow anyone to settle into a comfortable rhythm and instead the race becomes to endless fight to hold position or simply hold on for dear life. Either way, FM got what they came for: a win.
Fayetteville-Manilus, the top-ranked team in the country, dominated the Eastern State championship girls race with 55 points, much the same as most expected. Tatnall (Del.) finished second with 112 points, Queensbury third with 155 and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake fourth win with 168.
Aris and his son, assistant coach John Aris, said they were satisfied with the team’s performance. They were looking for a team average around 14:30. They team’s average was 14:40.26. Sophomore Courtney Chapman led the squad in second place, finishing in 14:14.30. MacKenzie Carter finished seventh in 14:32.85.
Fayetteville-Manilus has won races on every stage a high school cross country season can offer. They won’t spend much time celebrating.
“This is nice but it’s a whole new season on Monday,” Aris said.
Voorhees (N.J.) senior Melanie Thompson won the individual title in 14:12.17. She passed Queensbury’s Danielle Winslow in the closing stages of the race and held off Chapman in the stretch. Thompson said she took a more serious approach into the race which meant that she put more faith in herself that she could run with the leaders. Thompson wasn’t in the majority of the talk of the favorites to win.
But she tucked in fourth for most of the race and used her superior sprint speed to break the tape first.
“It feels great obviously,” she said. “I came in trying to win so I’m pretty happy. … I actually got out a little slow. I was in fourth or fifth until around the bridge. In the end it came down really to who was having the best day.”
Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) surprised everyone by winning the boys Eastern States championship with 154 points. Danbury (Conn.) finished second with 170 and Shenendehowa third with 186.
“When we first came through we didn’t know we won,” said senior Leighton Spencer, won finished seventh in 12:38.51. “We thought we were fourth or fifth. We all were upset and hanging out heads.”
No one could tell immediately who won the race. Even Don Bosco coach Kevin Kilduff was disappointed at first.
“To be quite honest, I thought we ran poorly,” Kilduff said. “Much to our surprise, I thought everyone ran poorly. It was an out-of-control race. No one could find a comfortable pace. People were all over the place and there were a lot of position changes on that last straightaway.”
Joe Rosa of West Windsor Plainsboro North (N.J.) won the boys individual title in 12:19.99. Andrew Colley of Virginia’s Jamestown placed second in 12:20.61 and Alex Hatz of Fayetteville-Manilus finished third in 12:26.55.
Solomon Haile of Sherwood (Va.) provided the most thrilling individual performance of the day. He broke an all-time course record at Van Cortlandt. The Nike Indoor and Outdoor 5,000-meter champ won the boys Varsity E race in 12:06.61. Haile said that the field tried to race with him early but midway through, he was all alone.
“I didn’t just come here to win the race,” he said. “I wanted to break the record. With more competition I think I could have run faster. There was good competition in this race but I won so I’m happy.”
North Penn, PA opted out of the Eastern States race. Instead they won the varsity B race in with 19 points and the best team average on the day - 13:04.23. With a lot of team championship meets coming up soon, the coach felt it was the best choice for them. Wherever they ran, they looked impressive sweeping the top 4 places.
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
all pics by Pat Montferat/njrunners.com