Verona, NY - Saturday marked the beginning of the competitive season for many of the teams in Section 3. With Sectionals returning to VVS in 2017, many teams took the opportunity to revisit the course. As the school will be undergoing major construction in 2018, it may have been the penultimate time for the harriers of the CNY to attempt course records on the current layout. Two in particular, did just that.
The fastest individuals on the day both hailed from Fayetteville-Manlius, and saw a striking synergy in their efforts. Geoff Howles, a recent Saratoga transfer, won the race boys race in 15:59.30. Claire Walters, Manlius' lead girl in 2016, took home the girls title in 18:14.3.Both athletes are sophomores, who broke into the Top 5 All-Time on the course record listings. Howles' mark takes him to #4 All-Time, behind only Ben Petrella (Liverpool) at 15:40.4, Bryce Millar (FM) at 15:42, and Pete Ryan (FM) at 15:53.2. Walters moves to third on the All-Time list, just behind Kaitlyn Neal (FM) at 18:07.50, and Carly Benson (West Genesee) at 18:13.1. Although Walters ranks higher All-Time, it was Howles who would get the Sophomore Course Record, besting the prior one set by Noah Affolder (Carthage) at 16:06.3. Benson was a sophomore when she set her mark, back in 2015.
For the girls, it was Brooke Rauber (Tully) who gave the best challenge for the lead, only four seconds off the leader. Rauber is coming off a middle-school career that saw her place Top 5 at Federations last fall, and is the reigning Class D State Champion. Manlius put two more girls under 19mins, as well as Liverpool adding Jenna Schulz.
For the boys, the top competition mostly came with Varsity Race 1. Howles was followed by senior teammate Ben Otis, the teams top returner from last year. Owen Walker of the home team, VVS, took third overall in the race, and the merge. Ranked as the third returner in Class C this year, he bested the #2 returner Gabe Planty (Watkins Glen) in the merge, proving he had a strong summer of training. Another notable entrant to the sub-17 club was 8th grader Colton Kempney (Beaver River). After running 10:27 for the 3k Steeple last spring as a 7th grader, Kempney debuted in his XC career with the 6th fastest time of the day at 16:52.2.
Returning all five of their top girls from their NXN-winning team of 2016, Fayetteville-Manlius scored 20 points in their race, and 32 points in the merge to be the top overall team. Liverpool was the only team able to get two girls into Manlius Top 5, and placed second in the merge with 77-points.
The Manlius boys team took home the win with 18 points in their race, and only 23 points in the merge. The team came into the meet as a bit of a mystery. Of their Top 5, only Ben Otis made the Sectional roster the year before. Younger brother Sam Otis had only started with the track team last winter, Peyton Geehrer had been on modified, and Geoff Howles was running for Saratoga. Combined, they had their 5th runner in before any other Class A runner in the Section.
Behind the Hornets, Baldwinsville boys took second overall, with the best compression of the day. Only four teams were able to dip under 60-second compression, and the Bees did so at 38-seconds. The next fastest was Jamesville-Dewitt at 47-seconds. Beaver River took 3rd overall in the merge, impressive for a Class D team.