Class A Preview
|2017 Season Overview for Class A|
Last year, Fayetteville-Manlius swept through the season in completely dominant fashion on the way to a 140 point winning margin at NXN Nationals. So if the running gods were fair to all the other teams in New York and the US, they would have sent a plague of widespread graduation against the Hornet squad. But being extremely perverse deities, they gifted FM the highest preseason speed ratings in the last seven years while smiting all the rest of the main competition with big losses.
Life has never been very fair to the teams running behind top team in New York's biggest class, but they will all shrug off the temporary pain, and proudly concentrate on all the battles they can win, such as a sectional title, a McQuaid Invite AAA race championship (maybe), a Federations title, and a slot at NXN Nationals. There should be many competitive sectional showdowns, as Sections 4 and 11 are rated virtually dead even in preseason, and things could easily tighten up, even in Sections 1 and 9 that have the largest ratings gaps outside of S3-A between the top two teams. Additionally, Section 3 is seeing a renaissance among the top teams chasing FM, even if they are still running far behind.
FM's top 5 of Claire Walters, Sophie Ryan, Phoebe White, Palmer Madsen, and Rebecca Walters could be making their own history and laying down new records this year, even if a perfect 15 score at States (FM 2009 and 2010) is hugely unlikely and bettering the 2010 team's score of 27 at Nationals or even last year's 41 will be no easy feat. The Hornets would also be far more secure with a 6th runner with ratings nearer those of the top 5, so there is some drama even for the Hornets this season as they attempt an 11th national and 12th state championship.
For the teams running in FM's wake, there is a fair amount of uncertainty. Saratoga will again start the year rated as the second best squad and is shooting for an 18th straight sectional crown, but the makeup of the group behind NY's top rated runner Kelsey Chmiel is a bit fuzzy. Shenedehowa will be challenging Saratoga once again in Section 2 Class A after riding a late season surge all the way to Portland for NXN, but the question is still whether in Hannah Reale's senior season it can use last year's success to earn its first ticket to States in 22 years along with a second trip west in December. North Rockland has lost steeplechasing wiz Alex Harris from a big top 3 that also included Katelyn Tuohy and Haleigh Morales, and now the Red Raiders need to find a strong enough top 5 to again get to Portland as they did in 2015. Niskayuna is the third rated team out of the toughest state sectional conference in the country and one of only three teams in Class A with five runners rated at 100 TR or higher, and Abigail Spiers' Silver Warriors could well be lining up a dark cloud for the other teams' chances for NY's second NXN berth.
Eight of the top 11 finishers at last year's States A race are back -- with only Jessica Lawson, Sammy Watson, and Amanda Vestri moving on -- so the sprint for the finish line could be crowded at the top this year. Two runners who have set themselves a bit apart and who finished 1-2 last year also won national track titles in June, so Kelsey Chmiel (2 mile) and Katelyn Tuohy (mile) are looking strong again. But last year's 4th place finisher was FM's 2015 champ Claire Walters, and on a team famous for packing together, she might pull top-7 teammates Phoebe White and Sophie Ryan in to mob the finish line.Finally, in the toughest battle of all, the one centered on keeping track of which teams changed classes from last year, try to remember that Queensbury and Hamburg have moved back down to Class B, and Canandaigua and Manhasset are the most prominent among the girls XC powers who have been sent up to Class A, and both won sectional championships in Class B last year.
|Saratoga's Kelsey Chmiel opened up a big lead early in the Class A race at States, and she won by 19 seconds over a very talented field.|
|Top 5 Teams at 2016 States|
|Projected Top 5 Teams for 2017 from Returners' 2016 TR Ratings|
|Projected Next 15 Teams for 2016 from Returners' 2015 TR Ratings|
Two runners who made huge marks in their senior year in 2016 were Jessica Lawson of Corning and Amanda Vestri of Webster Thomas, shown here powering to 1st and 2nd in the McQuaid AAA race.