In a year of dramatic turns and extremely close competition, four teams lined up for the 2018 CHSAA championship race with solid shots at the title on November 10th. Two weeks before, the Long Island based NSCHSAA teams had battled to the end with a 6th place tiebreaker needed to give Sacred Heart the win over Kellenberg, with St. John the Baptist close behind in a 41-41-46 brouhaha. They were set to face off against a four-time defending champ Notre Dame team that was the big preseason favorite and easy winner of the city-based NY-BQ section but lacked the depth of past years' teams.
Sacred Heart led the CHSAA championship through the first four positions with juniors Maggie Maier and Shannon Thieke finishing 1st and 2nd, but in the end Kellenberg's senior quartet of Maureen Lewin, Maya Richardson, Brianna Lausev, and Madeline Lay plus sophomore Ashley Minns was not to be denied as the Firebirds packed in five runners between the 6th and 15th places to take a 54-56 win over the Lady Spartans. Notre Dame placed their top three of Sierra Dinneen, Giavanna Comerford, and Alyssia Brown in the top 7 but was 3rd with 65 points, and St. John the Baptist finished 4th with 69 points by placing five runners in the top 25 led by Hailey Marcello, Kerri McCormack, and Meredith Haberfield.
Out at the Monsignor Martin championship in the Buffalo area, Nardin Academy captured its third straight title led by freshmen Mary Katherine Hartigan and Heidi Khuu and junior Ella Dileo all packed in between the 3rd and 8th spots as the Gators took a 38-66 decision. In 2nd was a Sacred Heart Sharks team led by sophomore Brigid Christ. Buffalo Seminary senior Zoe Knauss finished 1st, and the Nichols Academy duo of sophomore Holly Arrison and freshman Gabriela Gallen-Kallela-Siren placed together in 2nd and 3rd.
10 0f the top 25 runners from last year graduated, including all but one of runner from the top 5 of CHSAA champ Kellenberg, so there are are going to be some huge changes in 2019. Still, the first four finishers from last year's championship are back split between Sacred Heart and Notre Dame, so 2019 is shaping up to be a showdown between the favored Sacred Heart squad with six returning runners and a Notre Dame team with its top 3 back but with a need for an infusion of youthful depth.
Sacred Heart was a slight favorite entering last year's championship and took the top two spots behind Maggie Maier and Shannon Thieke, but with the next four spots finishing between 16th and 22nd, the Lady Spartans did not place high enough to repeat their tie-breaker win over Kellenberg in the NSCHSAA. This year however Sacred Heart has returning depth behind seniors Maier and Thieke, as Helen Moloney, Marie Naudus, Bridget Rosso, and Kathleen Healy are all listed in the CHSAA's top 15 for 2019.
Notre Dame has great strength at top as it seeks its fifth title in six years with Sierra Dinneen, Giavanna Comerford, and Alyssia Brown all resting in the preseason top 5, but the Gators need some fresh young legs behind the top trio to match up with the deep Sacred Heart team. St. John the Baptist graduated four seniors from last year's team and has only two of its top 6 back, so a rebuilding job behind 8th place finisher Kerri McCormack with some promising young talent is in the works. A young St. Anthony's team has its top 6 back from last year's race led by junior Kylie Maddalena, and the Friars could be making big strides back towards the top in 2019. Kellenberg took its second CHSAA title in school history in a departing shot for four seniors, but juniors Ashley Minns and Margaret McLoughlin are back from last year's top 25 and provide a good base for the Firebirds in 2019.
In the Monsignor Martin conference competition around Buffalo, Nardin Academy looks like a solid bet for a fourth straight MMA title since the top 5 Gators are back led by senior Ella Dileo and sophomores Mary Katherine Hartigan and Heidi Khuu. Buffalo's Sacred Heart Sharks should be in contention if they can bring in a little more depth, and Nichols Academy has a great tandem of Holly Arrison and Gabriele Gallen-Kallela-Siren on top but needs to fill out the rest of the team
On the question of the individual champ, the top four from 2018 are back, so Lady Spartan teammates Maggie Maier and Shannon Thieke and Gator teammates Sierra Dinneen and Giavanna Comerford are expected to be in the hunt. Notre Dame's Alyssia Brown will be a sophomore this year, so she could well be on the rise. The battle to replace Zoe Knauss as MMA champ is likely to revolve around Nichols' Holly Arrison and Gabriele Gallen-Kallela-Siren and Nardin's Mary Katherine Hartigan unless another young runner enters the fray.
Note: We are including the runners of Nichols Academy in the CHSAA review because though the school is nondenominational, it participates with the Catholic schools of the Buffalo area in the Monsignor Martin championship. The Vikings do need to be recognized somewhere. And again, the Feds Qualifier column is just being used this year to indicate if a team or runner qualified in 2018 since the meet was snowed out.