By Christopher Hunt
WAPPINGERS FALLS – Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake coach Shaun Zepf said his team wanted a nasty course. He said they hoped for rain and mud. They got both.
The rain ended before the race and left the course at Bowdoin Park slick, nasty and even tougher than normal. Just the way they like it.
“They like pain,” coach Shaun Zepf said. “The more it hurts the better they feel. If we go out run an 800 or 7x800, we’re going to get creamed by a lot of these teams. But give us a race where the whole thing is uphill and it’s raining and cold, we’ll be in good shape.”
The course wasn’t quite that bad but Burnt Hills still won with 69 points over Saratoga Springs at the New York State Federation championships, which placed second with 82. Queensbury was third with 98 and Shenendehowa fourth with 134. Saratoga Springs was the first team to have its top five runners finish but Burnt Hills strength from its front group – Sam Roecker finished fourth (18:40.1) and Molly Pezzulo seventh (19:05.4) – made the difference. They also got a tremendous race from freshman Alyssa Drapeau, who ran most of her race alongside teammate Meghan Gregory and finished 24th overall in 19:43.5. Gregory placed 22nd in 19:41.6. Riley Wilk finished 43rd for BHBL in 20:04.2.
“I was nervous because I knew the fourth and fifth runners are really important,” Drapeau said. “We just wanted to run the second half really hard. I just kind of tried to pass every person I could.”
Burnt Hills expected a close race with Saratoga Springs, which had turned in slightly better performance based on merged results at the Section 2 championships and the state meet last weekend. Saratoga was led by eighth-grader Keelin Hollowood, who finished 15th in 19:27.5. Sophomore teammates Sydney King (19:33.4) and Amanda Borroughs (19:34.2) finished 18th and 19th.
Burnt Hills has improved each week over the past month and has been growing confidence.
“Our training is geared toward running fast at the end of the season,” Roecker said. “We had a good amount of confidence coming in. It’s hard to be patient early in the season when everyone else is running fast. But you have to remind yourself this is the time that counts and that you’re going to start to feel better.”
Queensbury’s Danielle Winslow, Aisling Cuffe of Cornwall, Emily Lipari of Roslyn and Suffern’s Shelby Greany separated for the crowd straight from the start of the race. They ran together switching leads for two miles before Lipari claimed the pace. Greany slipped on a downhill around the picnic area into the last mile fell back. Winslow, Cuffe and Lipari took turns pushing surges in the pace as they were three-abreast with a half mile life until Winslow dropped back. Cuffe tried to pressure Lipari but Roslyn junior never faltered.
Lipari won the race in 18:15.4 with Cuffe second in 18:20.5. Winslow finished third in 18:27.1.
“I’m a little disappointed in my time but I know that the course was disgusting,” she said.
Lipari took control a lot earlier than she did last week at the state meet when she won the Class A race in the last 10 meters.
“I know this was a good field,” she said. “I knew that I could go in trying to wait until the end. I was going to have a go a little earlier.”
Cuffe was running in her first federation meet coming at the end of a stellar debut season. She said she was just happy to be in the race at all but never showed any reluctance to be aggressive even when Lipari and Winslow kept pushing the pace.
“I was sure I was going to get third,” she said.
But when Lipari made another move, Cuffe covered but she said Lipari looked too strong.
“I really thought she was just playing with me because she looked so relaxed,” Cuffe said.
The boys raced looked almost like a replay of the girls the way four runners had taken over the race by the last mile. Max Straneva of Chenango Valley led a pack that included Alex Leuchanka of Shenendehowa, Demetri Goutos of Saratoga Springs and Burnt Hills’ Otis Ubriaco. Throughout the race Straneva pressed the pace to string out a tight field until only he and Leuchanka remained.
Straneva led all the way until they disappeared up the final hill and behind the last patch of woods. But when they reappeared Leuchanka was in full flight and had taken the lead. He won in 16:21.8 with Straneva second in 16:23.6. Ubriaco was third in 16:28.1 and Goutos fourth in 16:31.0.
Leuchanka had been outkicked by Alex Hatz of Fayetteville-Manilus for the Class AA championship last Saturday.
“That was all in my mind,” Leuchanka said. “I was thinking I’m not going to get outkicked for a state championship this time. Not again.”
Leuchanka led a decisive win for Shenendehowa, which finished with 93 points. Burnt Hills finished second with 151 with Shoreham-Wading River third with 157.
“I think we were a little tired coming in to today,” Shen coach Mark Thompson said. “I didn’t tell them that. But I knew were going to be a little tired and some of them said they felt heavy.”
They didn’t stop them from finishing with a 17:01.4 average on a day when all the times were slow. Dan Harris finished 14th overall for Shen in 16:50.8, Mike Danaher 30th in 17:01.9, Brian Trainor 45th in 17:22.7 and Jamie Glover 54th in 17:29.5. With two weeks off, Shen will go back to Bowdoin for the NXN New York Regional meet Nov. 22.
“I think this gives us another chance to figure out what we did wrong and fix it,” Thompson said. “Every time you on a course you learn something. Some guys today thought they went out too faster or too slow.”
It was amazing that Straneva led most of the way since he fell in the first mile. He was in second behind Goutos before Shoreham-Wading River’s Bobby Andrews clipped his his front behind and they both went down.
“At first I was like, ‘Oh man.’ But I just got up really quick before I got trampled,” Stravena said. “I ran right back up to the front. I don’t think it really affected me. … I thought I had it on the last hill when I started to gap him a little bit but he came back and put in that big kick.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Times were slow but the races were great.