Manhattan Invitational Girls Eastern States Championship Race 2014 Preview

42nd Annual Manhattan Invitational Girls Eastern States Championship Race Preview

Saturday, October 11, 2014 --- Van Cortlandt Park --- 2:46 PM


The Eastern States is running express into Manhattan on this fast approaching Saturday, and there is just no excuse not to be there. Once again an exciting slate of teams, including some of the best in the nation will be blasting the Back Hills of Van Cortlandt Park and speeding down the final stretch of the Parade Grounds. The goal is to hoist a half-ton trophy for a photo op with the Tortoise-and-the-Hare, and no one will be making any excuses if they lose.

Winner of seven of the last eight national championships, Fayetteville-Manlius leads a sterling cast of teams that include double doses of Wildcats (Walter Johnson and West Genesee), Hornets (FM and Holmdel), Rams (La Salle and Randolph), and Flaming Arrows (Sachem East and North). Add in one truly unique team of Caseys (Red Bank Catholic), some Plainsmen or women (Shenendehowa), Emerald Knights (Champlain Valley), and a whole lot of Pride (Heritage), and a few others and you get eighteen teams running in Eastern States, and the crowds will be screaming for them all.

The lineup for this year's Eastern States includes the following:

* 3 of the top 25 ranked teams in the US.

* 5 states will have at least one of their top three ranked teams running in the Eastern States, including MD, NJ, NY, PA, RI, and VT.

* The US 7th ranked runner in the form of freshman Weini Kelati of Heritage (Leesburg).

* 2 of the top 5 runners from last year's Eastern States, Elizabeth Rego of La Salle (RI) and Annika Avery of Fayetteville-Manlius.

There is no place like the Manhattan Invitational to sink so blissfully into the crazed atmosphere of HS XC at its most extreme. The crowds will be relentlessly loud, the tee shirts will be awesomely entertaining, the huge expanse of portable toilets will take your breath away, the championship trophies will be bigger than some of the runners, and Lloyd's carrot cakes on the other side of Broadway will be disappearing fast. Can't be beat.

Fast History of Fast

During the four decades since the second coming of the Manhattan College Invitational, the meet has steadily grown to almost stupendous proportions. A hugely popular meet back in the 1920s (but without girls), the current version of the meet kicked off in 1973 and by the end of the decade, the girls had started to become a force on the heels of the exploits of runners like Stony Brook's Laura Whitney. The meet has steadily added races and become one of the top three invitationals in the country. One of the 40 scheduled races gets the gun every 5 to 12 minutes to keep the hordes of runners flowing through to the screaming masses perched on the Cemetery Hill overlook or forming a deafening gauntlet at the finish. The transformation has been especially huge for the girls, whose long-time featured Eastern States race has exploded from a high-status 10 team race just 7 years ago to a showdown of national powers with 18-20 teams slated to toe the mark nowadays.

The modern era kicked off in 2004 when the perennial girls national superpower Saratoga Springs won the Eastern States for the next to last time and the Blue Streaks' Nicole Blood broke the 14:00 minute barrier. The course has had many different variations over the last decade, so citing a record time is problematic, but in 2007 Carly Seymour of Central Cambria ran a 13:55 to set the lowest official time. Aisling Cuffe of Cornwall was a two-time winner of the ES, and in 2010 she ran a 13:58 and matched Blood's TR of 159 for the top rated score there. In 2011, Jillian Fanning of Fayetteville-Manlius took 1st and led her team to its 5th straight Eastern States title. The streak was broken in 2012 when Tatnall's Reagan Anderson captured the win and led her team to an upset of FM. Mary Cain of Bronxville posted the top time at the 2012 Manhattan in the A race when she ran a 14:03. Last year it was Unionville that bested Fayetteville-Manlius, and Kennedy Weisner of Elk County Catholic had the fastest time in Eastern States and Manhattan with a 14:09.

The Eastern States is rightly considered to have the kiss of gold for those with national championship aspirations. The team that has won the ES has gone on to take the national crown at NXN in 6 of the last 10 years. Likewise, the individual winners have done well in the nationals, and Cornwall's Aisling Cuffe ran to the Footlocker title after winning the ES in 2010, and Warwick Valley's Aislinn Ryan won the FLN in 2004 and followed it with an ES victory in a downpour in 2005.

Last year the order for the top 5 teams was: 1. Unionville, 2. Fayetteville-Manlius, 3. Assumption, 4. Pennsbury, 5. Oakton. The top two returning runners from last year's race are Eliza Rego of La Salle (RI) and Annika Avery of Fayetteville-Manlius.

Preview of Eastern States Teams

Though this year's Eastern States may not pack quite the same punch at the top as last year's classic duel between Unionville, Fayetteville-Manlius, and Assumption who went on to finish 7th, 2nd, and 16th at NXN Nationals respectively, there's still lots to love. Topping the list of what to watch may be the first visit of Heritage freshman Weini Kelati to Van Cortlandt, following up on an initial season for her where she seems to be pushing her ceiling a lot higher race by race. The battle at the top of Fayetteville-Manlius, La Salle, and Shenendehowa could also foreshadow a future duel at Nationals as all three teams will be very strong contenders for tickets to Portland. A side note for the FM team is that all but the first and last of its seven National championships followed a win at Eastern States, so though December wins are the most treasured, victories in October are an important marker also for what will happen seven weeks down the road.

Beyond the top three teams though is the battle by a pack of other teams for some proud milestones of finishing in the top 5 and top 10 at Eastern States. The contest appears wide open in the middle of the Eastern States pack, and there will be a lot of places won by a few points because a team's number 5 runner found a little extra tough stuff in her during the last half-K stretch to the finish line. Shedding the excuses and powering all the way to the end is what Eastern States is all about, and Randolph, Red Bank Catholic, Champlain Valley, Walter Johnson, West Genesee, and Heritage are just a few of the teams that will be finding out whether they can run like hares but still finish up with a tortoise's smile on Saturday.

Some Seriously Speedy Girls



Speed Rating (TR)

Weini Kelati

Heritage (Leesburg)


Eliza Rego

La Salle


Annika Avery



Samantha Levy



Danielle Jordan



Jenna Farrell



Carly Benson

West Genesee


Sage Hurta



Karina Tavares

La Salle


Sophia Ryan



Marin Warner



Sheridan Wilbur

La Salle


Alexandra DeCicco

Sachem East


Julia Zachgo



Emily Crounse



Olivia Ryan



Sophia Gorman

Champlain Valley


Nora May McSorley



Team Snapshot Overview

The snapshot view gives the basic info about the Eastern States field listed by general estimated TR (Tully Runners) speed rating averages. For the NY teams the TR score is fairly precise based on the 2014 action. For outside-of-NY teams the TR is the score for the team's last big meet and is thus less comprehensive than the NY teams' season-compiled scores and could miss runners who were not at the selected meet. Finally, as happened with a few teams last year, there are some squads that will likely only be putting a single top runner on the line, but in this preview all signed-up teams are treated as a unit.

The rankings cited are mainly from Milesplit national or state listings but also include rankings from coaches' polls in states like PA, NJ, NY, and VA that do actually post weekly updates for teams that are linked to on the Milesplit sites. Rankings are from last week.

The snapshot listing is not intended to be a prediction of the finish in the race. Some teams are extremely unbalanced with one or two runners at the top and a big gap to following runners, and these teams generally do not finish as high as their estimated TR would indicate if they are among the top teams where strong packs are good. The balance factor switches for teams in the bottom part of the results though, where having one or two high-flying runners can move a team up from say the 15th to the 13th spot. The Spread number following the TR average indicates the gap between the first and fifth runner numbers, with each point equaling about 3 seconds in a 5K race or maybe 2.67 seconds at VCP's 2.5 mile course.

The scores for some out-of-state teams may not include key runners who were not present at the big meet from which the team's score was calculated. TRs are general estimates of team strength, so use them here as just broad indicators of the range in which a team is expected to run. Based on a big database of past results, the TRs serve as remarkably accurate predictors for races that have enough associated team data, and they are many orders of magnitude better than the divining rods that are often used to estimate team strengths.


2013 Place

National and Regional Rank

TR Avg.

2014 Action

TR Top 5 and Spread ( )


2nd in ES

US #5, NY #2 or #3


2nd in McQuaid-AAA

138-137-136-130-121 (17)

La Salle (RI)

6th in ES

US #20, RI #1


2nd in Great American Race of Champions

138-131-127-111-105 (33)



US #13, NY #4


3rd in McQuaid-AAA

137-124-122-115-112 (25)



NJ #2


1st in Warwick-2

120-118-114-110-103 (17)

Red Bank Catholic


NJ #1


1st in NJ Shore Coaches-Invitational

114-108-105-104-101 (13)

Champlain Valley

8th in ES

VT #1


3rd in Wood's Trail

120-107-100-93-93 (27)

Walter Johnson

20th in Manhattan-C

MD #2


2nd in Oatlands-A

116-115-110-98-74 (42)

West Genesee

10th in Manhattan-E

NY-A #15


9th in McQuaid-AAA

135-114-93-88-82 (53)



VA #10


1st in Loudon County

142-113-88-87-73 (69)

Sachem East

3rd in Manhattan-F

NY-A #14


1st in Wild Safari-A

125-109-93-93-80 (45)


2nd in Manhattan-F

NY-A #18


1st in Xavier

115-98-95-93-91 (24)


15th in ES

NY-C #6


11th in Paul Short-Brown

117-106-100-98-65 (52)

Villa Maria


PA #8


1st in PIAA-Blue

114-105-90-89-88 (26)




10th in Battle at Ocean County


Sachem North

17th in ES


3rd in Suffolk Coaches-A

114-101-96-75-65 (49)

Ocean City



8th in New Jersey Shore Coaches-B

117-83-82-58-52 (63)

Friends Academy



4th in St. Anthony's

107-105-54-33-15 (-)




13th in McQuaid-A

134-45-38-37-2 (-)

Team Profiles - by Order in Race

Fayetteville-Manlius (NY)

Overview: The Hornets were 2nd in both Eastern States and at NXN Nationals last year, and this year they are ranked 5th nationally and there is some disagreement about what their state rank is. FM will be seeking its seventh Eastern States title in the last nine years.

Roster: Annika Avery (138), Samantha Levy (137), Jenna Farrell (136), Sophia Ryan (130), Olivia Ryan (121), Jessica Howe (113), Reilly Madsen (112)

Team Data: 132.4 TR. Finished 2nd in the McQuaid-AAA race behind Elmira, the Hornets' first loss to a NY team in 9 years.

Comments: After a dominating run in a seven year streak of national championships, FM has run into some setbacks the last two years. The 2014 team is loaded with talent, however, and in past years the Eastern States race has served as the starting point for the Hornets' run to the national title. With some of the pressure abated and a top trio of Annika Avery, Samantha Levy, and Jenna Farrell and a wealth of strong legs behind them, FM will be a heavy favorite for the Eastern States title again.

Friends Academy (NY)

Overview: The Quakers run for a small private school on Long Island.

Roster: Paige Duca (109), Isabella Pascucci (105), Catherine Sullivan (54), Anna Pappas (33), Katherine Pappas (15)

Team Data: 62.8 TR. Placed 4th at St. Anthony's.

Comments: Frontrunners Paige Duca and Isabella Pascucci should be among the top 40 finishers in the Eastern States, but it's not known whether the Quakers will field a full team.

Shenendehowa (NY)

Overview: The Plainsmen are ranked #13 in the US and #4 in NY and should be among the top three teams at Eastern States.

Roster: Danielle Jordan (137), Julia Zachgo (124), Emily Crounse (122), Hannah Reale (115), Caroline Rusch (112), Charlotte Hartman (112), Sarah Duclos (103)

Team Data: TR 122.0. Finished 3rd in the McQuaid-AAA close behind US #4 Elmira and US #5 Fayetteville-Manlius.

Comments: Though the Plainsmen do not have any victories this year, they have looked very tough in their battles with top ranked teams. Danielle Jordan, Julia Zachgo, and Emily Crounse give Shen a top trio that is capable of pulling an upset or two at Eastern States.

Red Bank Catholic (NJ)

Overview: The Caseys earned the #1 ranking in NJ by coming out on top in the Shore Coaches race last weekend.

Roster: Mary Kate McNamara (114), Caitlin O'Hara (108), Eryn Mills (105), Emily Rienzo (104), Megan Cronk (101), Gabriella Ferrigine (92)

Team Data: TR 106.4. Finished 1st in the huge New Jersey Shore Coaches meet.

Comments: The Caseys have been coming on strong in NJ and should be in the hunt for a top 5 place at Eastern States.

La Salle (RI)

Overview: The Rams are a perennial power in RI and have risen to #20 in the national rankings. Last year they were 6th at Eastern State, and this year they will do much better.

Roster: Eliza Rego (138), Karina Tavares (131), Sheridan Wilbur (127), Cianna Lynch (111), Audrey O'Neill (105)

Team Data: TR 123.2. Finished 2nd at the Great American Race of Champions.

Comments: One of three nationally ranked teams in Eastern States, the Rams look very ready to battle for the title this year. With a top trio of Eliza Rego, Karina Tavares, and Sheridan Wilbur pushing the pace, La Salle is a very dangerous team that has a similar makeup to the 2012 Tatnall squad that won an Eastern States title.

Westhill (NY)

Overview: The Warriors are one of the top teams in the small-school C class in NY.

Roster: Genny Corcoran (117), Alaina Kenny (106), Maddie Nowicki (100), Annibel Coolican (98), MaryKate Washburn (65)

Team Data: TR 97.8. Placed 11th in Paul Short-Brown race.

Comments: The far-travelling Warriors will be vying for a top 10 spot in the race, with Genny Corcoran having a chance for a top 20 finish.

Villa Maria (PA)

Overview: The Victors are unranked in PA but came out on top in the PIAA-Blue race to grab some limelight.

Roster: Claire Brown (114), Grace Trucilla (105), Alison Carson (90), Grace Brown (89), Carlee Constable (88)

Team Data: 97.2 TR. Placed 1st in the PIAA-Blue race.

Comments: Villa Maria with Claire Brown in the lead will have a shot at a top 10 finish at Eastern States.

West Genesee (NY)

Overview: The Wildcats are ranked 15th among the NY-A teams and finished 10th in the Manhattan E race last year.

Roster: Carly Benson (135), Grace Craig (114), Elise Dunshee (97), Kendall Dombroske (88), Maria Matkoski (82), Sarah Ferranti (77)

Team Data: TR 102.4. Placed 9th in the McQuaid-AAA.

Comments: Longtime frontrunner Laura Leff is gone, but freshman Carly Benson has stepped into the lead role for the Wildcats and led them to a nice surge to the point where they have a solid shot at a top 5 finish in Eastern States.

Ocean City (NJ)

Overview: The Raiders are centered around top runner Epiphany Grisbaum.

Roster: Epiphany Grisbaum (117), Emma Bergman (83), Rachel Stremme (82), Mackenzie Greene (58), Madeline Brady (52)

Team Data: TR 78.4. Placed 8th in the NJ Shore Coaches-B race.

Comments: The Raiders will be running towards the back of the Eastern States pack, but Epiphany Grisbaum has a strong shot at a top 25 place.

Sachem North (NY)

Overview: The Flaming Arrows are rated among the top 30 NY-A teams and finished 17th in the Eastern States race last year.

Roster: Elise Ramirez (114), Mackenzie Coleman (101), Gabriella Mott (96), Krista Goodman (75), Amanda carlson (65), Kaitlyn Licata (63)

Team Data: TR 90.4. Placed 3rd in Suffolk Coaches-B race.

Comments: The Flaming Arrows were a little out of their league last year in Eastern States, but Elise Ramirez finished 27th and both she and the team will be looking to move up this year.

Syosset (NY)

Overview: The Braves are ranked 18th in the NY-A class this year and placed 2nd in the Manhattan F race last year.

Roster: Reilly Siebert (115), Lauren Gruber (98), Tracy Go (95), Zoe Stricoff (93), Samantha DeStefani (91),Kayla Beovich (90)

Team Data: TR 98.0. Placed 1st at Xavier.

Comments: The Braves have a solid pack behind Reilly Siebert and should be in the hunt for a top 10 place..

Walter Johnson (MD)

Overview: The Wildcats are the #2 team in MD.

Roster: Kiernan Keller (116), Abigail Green (115), Emily Murphy (110), Katrione Kirsch (98), Melanie Cirillo (74), Janet Scott (63)

Team Data: TR 102.6. 2nd in Oatlands-A race.

Comments: The Wildcats have a strong top trio behind Keller, Green, and Murphy, and they may provide the team with enough top places for a top-5 finish..

Sachem East (NY)

Overview: The Flaming Arrows are ranked 14th in NY-A and last year were 3rd in the Manhattan F race.

Roster: Alexandra DeCicco (125), Valerie Romero (109), Rachel Ruggierro (93), Tiffany Ly (93), Karli Murphy (80), Ciara Murphy (84)

Team Data: TR 99.4. Finished 1st in the Wild Safari A race.

Comments: The Flaming Arrows project to finish in the top 10 with junior Alexandra DeCicco also vying for a top-10 place.

Hamilton (NY)

Overview: The Emerald Knights are centered on Sage Hurta.

Roster: Sage Hurta (134), Clara Lemal-Brown, Kaitlin Janczuk, Lauren Laruffa, Yasmand Koniewicz

Team Data: 53.2 TR. Placed 13th in the McQuaid-A.

Comments: Four year after becoming the first 7th grader to win a state championship, Sage Hurta is back in full form and will be vying for the Eastern States title after running the sixth best time in the McQuaid meet.

Champlain Valley (VT)

Overview: The Red Hawk runners ranked #1 in VT and finished 8th last year in Eastern States.

Roster: Sophia Gorman (120), Carly Neeld (107), Emma Putre (100), Meara Heininger (93), Jennifer Ireland (93), Abbie Keim (70), Maeve Higgins (67)

Team Data: TR 102.8. Placed 3rd in Wood's Trail.

Comments: Always a mainstay at Eastern States, CV will again be in the hunt for a top-5 place at Eastern States, and Sophia Gorman projects for a top-20 finish.

Holmdel (NJ)

Overview: Holmdel got top runner Marin Warner some experience going solo in Eastern States last year.

Roster: Marin Warner (120), Gypsy Cooper (103), Stephanie Sun (86), Rachel Hua (85), Mia Funcheon (81), Nicole LaGrua (81), Victoria Szczesna (80)

Team Data: 96.8 TR. Finished 10th in Battle at Ocean County.

Comments: Marin Warner was the sole Hornet at Eastern States last year and ran to a 28th place. Following up on a 3rd best time at the NJ Shore Coaches race, it appears that Warner may also have a team behind her this year as the rest of the Hornets are looking solid.

Randolph (NJ)

Overview: The Rams have had some impressive results while moving to the #2 spot in the NJ rankings behind Red Bank Catholic and enter Eastern States as the 4th rated team.

Roster: Nora May McSorley (120), Margaret Thomson (118), Brooke Olson (114), Kate Gihorski (110), Carole Harsch (103), Elizabeth Lansing (95)

Team Data: TR 111.4. 1st in Warwick-2 and 2nd in Bowdoin-1.

Comments: Randolph had by far the best results of the teams at Warwick a few weeks back and has a top level pack that should earn it a top 5 place at Eastern States.

Heritage -- Leesburg (VA)

Overview: The Pride were a late entry that instantly provided the race with one of the nation's top runners to lead the way on Saturday.

Roster: Weini Kelati (142), Georgie Mackenzie (113), Sarah Smith (88), Neal Fleming (87), Megan Collins (72), Malia Sample (71)

Team Data: 100.6. Finished 1st at Loudon County.

Comments: The numbers for Heritage are pretty old at this point and Weini Kelati may be rated higher up after winning her last race by more than a minute. The Heritage frontrunner looks ready to put on a show-stopper at Eastern States, and the Pride could run to a top 10 place.