Being a fan of the Archbishop Molloy XC squad takes patience. Like 43 years worth. But in a league where teams like Saint Anthony's and Chaminade have hoarded away lots of trophies over the years, patience is a necessity. The Stanners' fans actually had a pretty short wait for their sixth overall title in 2018 compared to Xavier's 85 years wandering in the desert of defeat after 1931 before winning again in 2016.
At the beginning of September last year, the prospects for an Archbishop Molloy championship did not seem very strong since the Stanners rated only 7th in the preseason. Saint Anthony's behind the CHSAA top duo of Matthew Payamps and Brendan Dearie and reigning champ Xavier were supposed to battle for the title.
Early on in the fall, the season took a big turn. Saint Anthony's struggled with injuries to the back line and fell out of the rankings for a while. Xavier ran far ahead of the rest of the CHSAA pack, and by the end of October the Knights were settled in the 6th spot in the Class A rankings, the Friars were back up to 16th, Monsignor Farrell was at 23rd, and Archbishop Molloy with a group of new and improved runners was in 32nd.
The NY-BQ-CHSAA sectional at Van Cortlandt Park and NSCHSSA meet at Sunken Meadow set the tables for the CHSAA championship. Saint Anthony's won the NSCHSAA as easily as expected with Payamps and Dearie far out in front, but there was a huge gap to the rest of the runners that would mean a lot of points lost in the CHSAA. Xavier took the far stronger NY-BQ-CHSAA group, but Archbishop Molloy was a close 2nd behind James Loeffel's 1st place and Monsignor Farrell just a little ways further back in 3rd.
Though Xavier remained a clear favorite going into the CHSAA meet, Molloy knew that it had a chance if it could get the speed ratings higher and firm things up in the 5th spot where Xavier had run far ahead at the NY-BQ-CHSSA. There was a semi-secret weapon to be unleashed in the Stanner's 5th spot, as Matisse Barreira had gotten a three-weak rest beforehand in his first XC season and was now ready to fly.
As it turned out, the Stanners turned on the jets at the CHSAA meet and just crushed, beating a game Monsignor Farrell squad by 61-94, with Saint Anthony's taking 3rd at 105 points led again by Payamps and Dearie in 1st and 2nd. Xavier's Oliver Branham-Upton had a huge day in 3rd, but the rest of the Knights ran way under their season's averages as the Knights sank to 4th, a little ways ahead of Chaminade in 5th and Regis in 6th.
43 years after the last Molloy CHSAA win, James Loeffel, John Ostling, John Loeffel, Demir Degirmenci, and Matisse Barreira all placed in the top 20 and along with Chris Marina and Chris Tracy carried the Stanners to a surprisingly dominating victory.
St. Joseph's Collegiate assumed its customary spot atop the Monsignor Martin All-Catholics championship for the Buffalo schools led by junior Evan Hilbert in 2nd. Canisius made it very close though and led by 25-29 through four places before losing 43-44. Tom Appenheimer of Cardinal O'Hara claimed his third straight individual title.
The Federation meet was cancelled by the snow, so the 2018 XC season was pretty much over for the CHSAA teams. Archbishop Molloy made a token appearance at the NXR-NY, and a few runners tested out the Foot Locker NE regional.
16 0f the top 30 runners from last year are back, so the CHSAA starts from a relatively flush position in comparison to last year when only 11 were back. Of course some teams such as Saint Anthony's, Archbishop Molloy, Chaminade, and St. Joseph by the Sea were hit much harder than others, so there will be a reshuffling of the deck this year as we launch into the 2019 XC season.
Xavier looks to rebound from last year's 4th place finish and take its third CHSAA title in four years with a team that has five of its top 6 back. The Knights start the year running more than 10 TR points ahead of their rivals and have a balanced squad that includes a lot of younger runners that could help keep Xavier ensconced among the top two teams in the state overall along with Fayetteville-Manlius. Fueling a potential drive for an NXN spot are a quintet of seniors Oliver Branham-Upton, Ethan Rice, and Calvin Flett and juniors Owen Hassler and Michael Tuffey. But the Knights are much deeper, as Flett's sophomore brother Quincy was last year's CHSAA JV champ with a remarkable time, and a number of other guys from the JV squad could be ready to bust into the big time.
A pack of five teams enter the season about 10-15 TR points behind Xavier at around the 150 TR mark. 2018 runner-up Monsignor Farrell is again sitting 2nd with 8th-place finisher Christopher Paxis leading a group of seniors in a bid for the Lions' first title in 25 years. Iona Prep has its scoring 5 back from last year's 8th place team including senior top-10 finishers Pedro Bravo and Brendan Mulvany on the lead. Fordham Prep ended even further back in 9th place but has its top 5 back including 6th place finisher Eamonn Sullivan and 11th place guy Niall Ryan. Regis was 6th last year and has a nicely compacted team led by 16th place finisher James Gallagher and has five of the top six back. St. John the Baptist has its top 5 back from last year's 7th place team led by senior John O'Connell.
Two other teams need to be mentioned. Saint Anthony's starts from 7th ranking in the CHSAA preseason ratings after losing Matthew Payamps, Brendan Dearie, and Matthew Reda from the Friars' top 3 along with three other guys -- Michael Barbaro-Barnett, Hunter Vierling, and Philip Polo -- whose injuries kept them from joining the varsity 7. But Archbishop Molloy won the title from the CHSAA preseason 7th position last year, so who knows? Saint Anthony's always has a big group of JV guys coming back, and the Friars do want to get that 20th CHSAA title. And Archbishop Molloy starts one further place back in 8th this year, but after last year's charge and with John Ostling and Matisse Barreira returning from last year's top 20, you can't count the Stanners out for a repeat title.
Out in the Monsignor Martin competition, St. Joe's has five of its top 6 returning including top guy Evan Hilbert, and the Marauders look to have maybe a small amount of breathing room in the battle with Canisius.
Xavier's Oliver Branham-Upton finished 3rd last year behind Matthew Payamaps and Brendan Dearie, and he will enter the season as a small favorite in a crowded field. Both Iona Prep's Pedro Bravo and Branham-Upton's teammate Owen Hassler were a ways off their usual pace at last year's race, but they will be among the favorites this year after strong track seasons. Three other guys to watch who had single-digit places at the CHSAA last year include Iona Prep's Brendan Mulvany, Fordham Prep's Eamonn Sullivan, and Monsignor Farrell's Christopher Paxis.
St. Joseph Collegiate's Evan Hilbert is the favorite for the Monsignor Martin meet after taking 2nd last year, but Canisius's Lucas Beyer looks ready to put up a stiff challenge.
Top 10 Teams at 2018 CHSAA Championship
|Archbishop Molloy 61||Monsignor Farrell 94||Saint Anthony's 105||Xavier 117||Chaminade 127|
|Regis 152||St. John Baptist 192||Iona Prep 197||Fordham Prep 197||St. Joseph b.t. Sea 261|
Top 5 Teams at 2018 Monsignor Martin CHSAA Buffalo Championship
|St. Joseph's Collegiate 43||Canisius 44||St. Francis 76||Cardinal O'Hara 123||St. Mary's 129|
Top 12 Teams from Last Year's Speed Ratings (TR) and Compression
|Xavier 163.4 (20)||Monsignor Farrell 153.0 (26)||Iona Prep 152.8 (46)||Fordham Prep 150.6 (36)||Regis 150.0 (23)|
|St. John the Baptist 149.6 (22)||St. Anthony's 146.4 (14)||Archbishop Molloy 145.0 (39)||Chaminade 144.6 (18)||St. Joseph's 138.8 (48)|
|St. Peter's 137.6 (23)||Canisius 137.2 (47)|
Top Returning Runners by Last Year's Speed Ratings (TR)
|Name||Team||Grade||CHSAA Place||Season TR|
|Evan Hilbert||St. Joe's||12||2 (MMA)||173|
|Predro Bravo||Iona Prep||12||10||173|
|Eamonn Sullivan||Fordham Prep||11||6||171|
|Niall Ryan||Fordham Prep||12||11||169|
|Christopher Paxis||Monsignor Farrell||12||8||166|
|John Ostling||Archbishop Molloy||12||12||165|
|Brendan Mulvany||Iona Prep||12||5||164|
|Lucas Beyer||Canisius||12||4 (MMA)||164|
|Anthony Bentivegna||Monsignor Farrell||12||20||160|
|Johnny O'Connell||St. John the Baptist||12||19||159|
|Matisse Barreira||Archbishop Molloy||12||17||158|
|Paul Siconolfi||Monsignor Farrell||12||35||155|
|Michael Destasio||Iona Prep||12||47||154|