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Midway through the 2017 season, Benjamin Cardozo seemed well on its way to a repeat PSAL championship with four runners rated among the top 10 in the league. But then ace sophomore runner Sophia Muccini was lost for the season and a small Judges squad came up short at the finish, leading through three places but fading back to 7th by the time the 5th runner crossed the line.
Last year with Muccini and her freshman sister Siena and another newbie Ishil Kirkhan taking 3rd, 4th, and 5th and old hand Abigail Perez taking 7th, Cardozo had everything all but sewed up at Van Cortlandt Park even before sophomore Amari Lallemand put the capper on the meet with a 15th. Again the Judges only went five deep, but last year no serious injuries stopped them as they rampaged to a 34-93 win over reigning champ Brooklyn Tech. Susan Wagner, Millennium, and CSIHS-McCown filled out the 3rd to 5th places.
Although her BTech team was unseated as PSAL champ, junior Lucy Doogan made sure that the Engineers would hold on to the individual title won by Aziza Chigatayeva in 2017 as she out-kicked Susan Wagner sophomore Kathryn Altieri in a fantastic nose-to-nose battle down VCP's final straightaway. There is of course an Individual race for the runners on squads that did not qualify for the Team championship, and Beacon's Virginia Mullen won the race by 55 seconds.
Benjamin Cardozo returns lead runner Sophia Muccini as a senior and the speedy sophomore trio of Siena Muccini, Ishil Kirkhan, and Amari Lallemand from a championship team that lost just one runner, Abigail Perez. So the Judges should be a shoo-in for the 2019 PSAL championship, right? Maybe, but again, the Judges have lived dangerously for two years in a row by fielding just five high-to-mid level runners at the beginning of October, and two years ago that situation ended with a 7th place. No obvious returning candidate for the 5th spot was on last year's team, so as in 2018 a few more speedy freshmen will need to be brought in for a viable shot at a repeat.
Since 2015 Brooklyn Tech has been a kind of blue scholar squad of pluggers with a few stray elite runners, a combination that has led to two titles in the odd years and four straight finishes in the top 2. With PSAL champ Lucinda Doogan back for her senior year along with fellow seniors Christy Huynh and Chloe Isip, the deep Engineer squad could be strong contenders again in an odd-numbered year. Another Isip, sophomore Simone Isip, leads a swiftly-rising and young Millennium team that jumped ten places to 4th in the PSAL and has its top 6 back from last year to contend at the top in 2019. Susan Wagner behind junior Kathryn Altieri and CSIHS-McCown led by the top-15 PSAL finisher duo of Olivia Legowski and Julia Calvo need a few strong recruits to fill out contenders in the 2019 campaign.
The top 6 rated PSAL runners from last year are back, and it would not be a shock to see any of them as this year's winner. Reigning champ Lucy Doogan and her stretch run sidekick Kathryn Altieri are just getting better, and the Judges' trio of Sophia Muccini, Siena Muccini, and Ishil Kirkhan will all be pushing each other to the top. Bronx Science senior Zoe Cooper was a ways back in the PSAL race last year, but a strong track season could be a big boost upward this year. And since two freshmen finished in the top 5 in 2018, it is very possible that this year's winner could come from the big unknown area of last year's 8th graders. The only two runners gone from last year's top 10 are Riverdale-Kingsbridge's Faizah Khan and Benjamin Cardozo's Abigail Perez.