Class A Preview
|2018 Season Overview for Class A|
Last year with a team rated one of the best ever entering the preseason, Fayetteville-Manlius exerted complete domination at Manhattan Eastern States, Section 3 State Qualifiers, States, and NXN-NY. Then the Hornets went to NXN Nationals and won their 11th title in 12 years, though they barely survived a strong challenge after food poisoning left a key runner in bad shape.
Also at NXN was FM's constant Section 3 sidekick Liverpool which has its way blocked to States but in 2017 for an inaugural trip to Nationals, where last year the Warriors placed 13th. One spot behind at NXN at 14th was the happy surprise of an at-large pick team Saratoga, as the Blue Streaks lost their streak of sectional titles to Shenendehowa but still qualified for a twelfth Nationals. NY's top Class A runners just blasted NXN, as Katelyn Tuohy hit the 172 TR rating in 1st place, Kelsey Chmiel was at 159 TR in 2nd, Claire Walters scored a 149 in 6th, and Phoebe White in 15th and Jenna Schulz in 19th were both at 145.
Other 2017 highlights included Shenendehowa's win in the prestigious McQuaid AAA race, with Liverpool's Jenna Schulz and Madison Neuner finishing 1-2 ahead of Shen frontrunner Hannah Reale. FM won the Eastern States race at the Manhattan Invite with Claire Walters, Sophie Ryan, and Phoebe White finishing 1-2-3. Katelyn Tuohy spent last year obliterating the course records everywhere she ran, among them the hallowed marks at Bear Mountain, at Schenectady's Central Park for the Grout Invite, at Van Cortlandt Park during her win in the Manhattan C race, at Bowdoin for the Federation meet, and at NXN. Tuohy became the first NY runner since Aisling Cuffe in 2010 to finish the season undefeated in all races.
The postseason saw the ending of the Blue Streaks' streak in Section 2, and FM held down its States score to a stingy 24 by placing four runners in 3rd through 6th (add Rebecca Walters to the Manhattan trio). The battle at the next three States spots was very close, as Shenendehowa edged a resurgent North Rockland team by 79 to 83, while Monroe-Woodbury was in 4th at 95. Katelyn Tuohy amd Kelsey Chmiel got to run together for the first time on the season at States, and their 1-2 finish would be repeated three weeks later at NXN Nationals. Chmiel's XC season would be extended after NXN, as she ran with the US squad at the World Juniors championship in Edinburgh, Scotland, and she came away with the win.
For the eleventh time in twelve years, the XC team competition ended with Fayetteville-Manlius raising the Nike Cross Nationals championship trophy.
For the first time since 2013, Fayetteville-Manlius starts the season with less than five returning runners with a TR rating of 110 or higher. 2013 was the only year in the past twelve that FM did not win at NXN, but even then the Hornets entered the year with four runners at 110+ and started the year ranked number 1 in the nation. This year FM has just three runners above 110 and are not rated among the top 5 teams in the nation.
Doe that mean that other powerhouse teams in NY's Class A see 2018 as the year that they will break through and end FM's 12-year reign of States titles? Certainly the hopes are stronger, but the question always is how things look when the November rolls around and the postseason grind begins in earnest. Elmira defeated FM at McQuaid in 2014, but the Hornets still moved on to win at States and NXN. The Hornets picked a good year to show up a little depleted in preseason since last year's three closest rivals all suffered key graduation losses and need to do a lot of development work of their own.
Saratoga with senior Kelsey Chmiel at the top and a trio of emerging 8th graders in its top 5 could be very dangerous in November, but another Section 2 powerhouse Shenendehowa learned how diifficult is the road through a five-meet major schedule including McQuaid, State Qualifiers, a draining States, Federations and then NXN-NY. Liverpool will be battling FM in Section 3 every step of the way, but the ultimate goal for the Warriors may be now focused on again getting seven tickets to Portland. Katelyn Tuohy will be leading an already strong and intact North Rockland squad whose varsity entering the preseason includes no seniors, so ultimately the Red Raiders may be NY nemesis that is the biggest challenge to FM at Sunken Meadows this year when the Hornets might be going for 13 state championships in a row. And finally as maybe a dark horse candidate, Niskayuna also finished ahead of Saratoga in S2-A last year, and though the Silver Warriors lost four of 2017's top 6 and include three freshmen in this year's top 5, they are also the only Class A team with five returning runners rated at 100+ TR.
In the end for what appears to be a highly competitive XC season coming up, it would not be surprising if two NY teams that were not "good enough" to earn a spot at their state championship are whooping it up again after getting their tickets to NXN.
Though the depth of NY's XC teams has dropped in recent years, never has there been a more highly rated top 3 for the Class A girls entering the season than the trio that went 1-2-3 at States last year. Katelyn Tuohy's undefeated 2017 season on the road to a national championship leaves few possibilities for improvement other than lowering her own records, repeating as champion everywhere, leading her North Rockland team to a return of its 2016 visit to NXN, and maybe pushing her final TR rating over the 170 mark. Kelsey Chmiel likely has many goals in her senior season, and many will be focused on leading an overall very young Saratoga team to many championships, but she also has a World Juniors championship to defend if she is still ready to hit the trails in January. Claire Walters was the Manhattan Eastern States winner and also was the first runner in for champion FM at NXN, and she will be faced with some extra challenges this year while leading the defense of the Hornets' many titles.Four other runners who survived the bogs at the state championship to finish in the top 10 there include Phoebe White of FM, Jenna Schulz and Madison Neuner of Liverpool, and Sarah Trainor of FDR. A pack of others who likely are still cleaning the States mud off their spikes and are likely to battle for a top 10 spot at Sunken Meadows include veterans such as Suffern's Mary Hennelly, Middletown's Dana Lynch, North Rockland's Haleigh Morales Ballston Spa's Faith Demars and Baldwinsville's Justus Holden-Betts, and young newcomers like Bethlehem's Rylee Davis, Niskayuna's Liyat Kebedde, and Shaker's Kaleigh Higgins.
North Rockland's undefeated star Katelyn Tuohy (155) flies out at the start of the Class A race with Saratoga's reigning champ Kelsey Chmiel on her shoulder at a muddy States championship.
|Top 5 Teams at 2017 States|
|Projected Top 5 Teams for 2018 from Returners' 2017 TR Ratings|
|Projected Next 15 Teams for 2016 from Returners' 2015 TR Ratings|
The NXN-NY runners are led out by Katelyn Tuohy as Fayetteville-Manlius, Liverpool and Saratoga all earned team selections to Nationals.