Girls Class D Preview
At a time when Class D has shrunk down to a handful of competitive teams, last year's States proved that a two-team showdown can generate a lot of excitement. Maple Grove was seeking its first state championship since the Red Dragon streak of wins was snapped at 3 by Tully back in 2013. The Black Knights picked up a second title in 2014, but neither team had managed better than a 2nd place since then.
Tully star Brooke Rauber won States D individual titles in 2016 and 2017 as an 8th and 9th grader, and in 2018 in her sophomore year she finally had a solid enough team around her to compete for the team win. Tully entered the States race with higher speed ratings than Maple Grove, but the Black Knights' score was skewed by Rauber's big numbers, and the Red Dragons were co-favorites at race time.
Rauber flew far ahead of the Class D field with the 4th fastest time of the day behind the Class A race's top 3, and she finished more than 2 minutes ahead of Maple Grove frontrunner Christina Peppy who still finished 2nd in the team competition. But it was the Black Knights' 2-5 runners who won the day for Tully, as Alison Carr, Katie Edinger, Rachel Berry, and Lilly Fowler-Conner packed in between the overall 19th and 36th spots to earn them a 45-50 win. The key to the win was that Tully held pretty steady with its season's speed levels, but Maple Grove had a tougher time on Sunken Meadow's hills and ran well off of its standard.
In the team battle, Delhi, Norwood-Norfolk and Duanesburg finished 3rd, 4th, and 5th. South Lewis lost by 1 point to Tully in the S3-D Sectional, but the Falcons' Lexi Bernard, Hannah Ielfield, and Brynn Bernard took 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at States behind Rauber. Sophomores Madison Relyea of Mayfield and Jade Dening of Remsen were 5th and 6th.
Last year only 57 Class D schools were able to field full girls squads to place in their Sectionals meets as opposed to 114 (double) in Class A, and this year only three of the eleven Sections appear likely to be able to field even one team that can compete at even a minimal 30 TR level. 2017 D champ South Lewis has been moved up to Class D following on the heels of 2015-2016 champ Greenwich's departure last year, and now Norwood-Norfolk's move to Class C has left Section 10 without any level of representation. The upper BEDS level limit for Class D was a minimal 260 two years ago; and it now stands even lower at 239. In all likelihood, only teams from Sections 3, 4, 6 will have a place in this year's rankings.
Still, there is a championship to be won in Class D, and once again it is Sections 3, 4, and 6 that will be hosting almost all of the competition for a half dozen contenders. Reigning champ Tully lost two key seniors from last year's 5-deep team, so the Black Knights have some work to do to fight off an expected challenge from Beaver River in S3-D. Maple Grove has most of last year's squad back and will enter the season as the favorite for a fourth States title led by the strong trio of Christina Peppy, Ava Christ, and Abby Brunanavas. The Red Dragons could still get a stiff challenge for the S6-D title from a Clymer-Sherman-Panama team led by States 7th place finisher Kylee Odell. Section 4 appears likely to have the closest competition as last year's S4-D runner-up Elmira Notre Dame has its top 4 back led by States medalist Alyssa Walker, while reigning champ Delhi lost two key runners but has States medalist Sienna Dorr back.
Tully junior Brooke Rauber is extremely likely to win her 4th Class D championship, and she will be looking to return to Nationals after finishing 6th at NXN the past two years. Rauber raises Nubian goats on the side, which presumably gives her a big advantage since goats are known to eat anything, including any of those nuisance hills that get in their owner's way.
None of the top 13 runners and only 2 of the top 20 runners in the 2018 States D race were seniors, so there should be a lot of familiar faces in the race at Plattsburgh this year. South Lewis's top trio of Lexi and Brynn Bernard and Hannah Ielfield have moved to Class C however, and 13th place finisher Maddie Dineen of Norwood-Norlfolk has also gone up to C. Among the top runners following Rauber are Mayfield's Madison Relyea, Maple Grove's Ava Crist and Christine Peppy, Clymer-Sherman-Panama's Kylee Odell, Remsen's Jade Dening, and Elmira Notre Dame's Alyssa Walker.