By Christopher Hunt
KINGS PARK – The thing about chasing something intangible is that the chase never ends. Every step is like a climb of a ladder with no end.
“It’s never about winning,” Fayetteville Manliuus sophomore Courtney Chapman said.
“It’s always to pursue excellence.”
And the definition of excellence can change each weekend or everyday when an athlete decides that they want to be better than they were yesterday or even better than they were today. On Saturday at the New York State cross country championships, Chapman was the best runner on the best team. She broke away into a two-woman race with Suffern senior Shelby Greany that put the rest of the field into the rearview.
They disappeared into the woods at Sunken Meadow Park matching strides until they reached Cardiac Hill. Greany fell off pace. Chapman surged and decided the race with a mile to go. Chapman finished in 18:13.26, the second-fastest time for 3.1 miles ever run by a girl at Sunken Meadow Park. Greany finished second in 18:46.56 followed by FM’s Hannah Luber in 18:54.31 for third.
Fayetteville-Manilus (Section 3) won the Class AA championship with 22 points. Saratoga Springs (Section 2) finished second with 48.
“It was just a great team effort,” Chapman said. “This course worked well for us. We work well with the hills.”
FM put its top five among the first 15 finishers overall with Molly Malone sixth in 19:10.14, Meghan Anklin seventh in 19:16.91 and MacKenzie Carter 15th in 19:25.75.
“This is really our first very meaningful race since the Manhattan Invitational,” FM coach Bill Aris said.
“This was good. I say that now but I’m sure within the next 48 hours I’ll figure out a way to convince myself we sucked. But this was very good. I’m very proud of the way they ran.”
Roslyn junior Emily Lipari didn’t put away the race quite as early as Chapman did. But she certainly provided the most excitement of the day. Lipari fell behind early in a high quality race that included Cornwall sophomore star Aisling Cuffe and Queensbury’s Danielle Winslow, who separate themselves from the field in the first mile. Lipari said she heard spectators screaming she was five seconds behind. Lipari thought she was even farther back.
She pulled back in contact at two miles and the race turned into a mad dash over the last 500 meters where Lipari squeezed in the closing meters ahead to win her second straight Class A state title in 18:18.27. Cuffe finished second in 18:23.26 and Winslow third in 18:25.70. A reporter asked Lipari after the race at what point she thought she had a chance to win.
“Never,” she said. “I had no idea. I just kept trying to run as hard as I could.”
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake defended its team title with 23 points. Cornwall finished second with 57 and Pittsford-Mendon third with 86. With Burnt Hills having to fend off Saratoga Springs at the Section 2 Suburban Council championships two weeks ago and out-racing Queensbury last week at its sectional championship, head coach Shaun Zerf called the race at the state meet a tactical race.
“I wanted three girls in the top 10,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone challenging for the lead. We just wanted to come out and run a solid race. … They understand the big picture. We talk about goals. We ran nine meets against nationally-ranked teams. Nine. We weren’t going to come in here and take anyone lightly but at the same time we wanted to run together and simply have a solid race.”
The race worked actually as planned. Senior Sam Roecker finished fourth overall in 18:59.40 followed by Molly Pezzulo fifth in 18:59.77. Meghan Gregory placed eighth in 19:36.04, Riley Wilk 12th in 19:47.44 and Alyssa Drapeau 13th in 19:48.37.
“It’s a great step forward,” Pezzulo said. “It’s peak-time so hopefully we can pop a few good ones in the next two weeks.”
Bronxville started the season similar to Burnt Hills in respect to Class C. The Broncos began as the pre-season for their third state title in five years. But as the season progressed and the team deteriorated, both confidence and hopes started to dwindle. They started to question themselves, doubt themselves and grow increasingly frustrated.
All of that showed with they learned they had edged Rhinebeck for the Class C state championship.
“We all just started hugging and Tori (Flannery) started crying,” junior Caitlin Hudson said with her face still red from her own tears. “I can’t watch people cry.”
It was unclear who won when the race was over. Most of the Bronxville girls thought they’d lost but were waiting for official word until boys assistant Ed Stickles passed the message. Rhinebeck had its top three runners finish before Bronxville’s first. Hudson finished ninth for the Broncos in 20:12.11. Newark Valley’s Erin Cawley won the individual title in 19:19.73.
“I think we really came together for this race,” said senior Flannery, who became a member of her third state championship team.
Flannery was one of the team members of especially struggled this season until she learned two weeks ago that she suffered from anemia. Henrietta Miers was diagnosed with the same affliction the day before the race. Bronxville won 47-51 over Rhinebeck, which came four points short of its first state title in school history in any sport.
“I can forget the bad races,” Flannery said. “I’ll trade all those races for a state championship with my team any day.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.
all pic by Karen Ward and Tim Fulton
Fayetteville Manlius girls are awarded their NY State Championships plaque at the awards ceremony.
Photo by Karen Ward.