Flashback Friday: A Top Duel in Chenango as Witches Fly High

The races at Chenango Valley of Section 4 in 2016 were held in some of the best conditions at a state championship in recent times, especially for the girls in the morning. On a relatively flat course with few wet spots and nice running temperatures, the times were fast. For comparison, Fayetteville-Manlius's Claire Walters had the fastest time in 2015 on the brutally tough Monroe-Woodbury course at 17:53.5, while Saratoga's Kelsey Chmiel had the topper at CV that was 36 seconds faster at 17:17.5. Chmiel earned a higher speed rating than Walters for her run, but most of the difference in time was due to a fast course.

The girls B race went off first and Shoreham-Wading River beat reigning champ John Jay-Cross River for its first title in 30 years as junior Katherine Lee claimed the second of her three XC championships. The second race was Class C and Newfane won narrowly over Canton and Bronxville as Livonia's Hayleigh Palotti won the first of her two consecutive XC titles. The final race was the A race and FM racked up its 11th straight title by beating North Rockland 35-65, while Saratoga's sophomore Chmiel finished 19 seconds ahead of North Rockland freshman Katelyn Tuohy, as Corning senior Jessica Lawson and FM's freshman Claire Walters were a little further back in 3rd and 4th.

The third race was Class D and it featured a big changing of the guard at the individual level following the 2015 graduation of a storied class of seniors who had taken six of the top 10 spots at Monroe-Woodbury. They included Hamilton's Sage Hurta, Norwood-Norfolk's Kaycie Saucier, Seton Catholic-Plattsburgh's Margaret Champagne, Maple Grove's Hope Pietrocarlo, and Tully's Ashleigh Crawford and Ellen Jaworski along with Greenwich's Tori Spezio who finished out of the top 10 but was the fourth runner in for the champion Witches. The Magnificent 7 amassed seven team and four individual titles over six States meets, plus countless (okay, make that 24) top 10 finishes (and add 3 team and 3 individual T10s for MG's Megan Marsh who retired from XC after her freshman year in 2012).

The top two non-seniors in the 2015 D race were not yet even in HS, Tully 7th grader Brooke Rauber in 3rd and Greenwich 8th grader Brynne Wright in 6th. The champion Witches were insanely young then with a top three of 8th graders and also two freshman mixing with senior Spezio as they overthrew two-time reigning champ Tully. At CV, The Black Knights' Rauber and Witches' Brynne Wright were expected to have a showdown at the top, but Tully had been displaced in Section 3 by another young South Lewis team led by sisters Hali and Hannah Ielfield and Lexi Bernard. Greenwich's main rival appeared certain to be a Maple Grove team that had won three consecutive titles from 2010 to 2012 and had a trio of eighth graders Ava Crist, Christina Peppy, and Carling Lockwood joining veteran junior Grace Auer. Wright's Witches included her twin sister Brooke (fraternal, and 6 inches apart) along with fellow freshmen Emma Cronin and Quinn Collins and sophomore Annabel Gregg.

The race ran fairly true to expectations as Rauber and Wright went to the lead early and gradually separated from the rest of the field. Rauber opened up some ground in the second half of the race and sped home to a nine second victory over Wright at 18:30.60. As an 8th grader, Rauber was the second youngest Class D winner ever after Sage Hurta's win as a 7th grader in 2010. Cattaraugus-Little Valley junior Abby Gostomski challenged the top duo for awhile and finished 3rd, while Maple Hill's Monica Strain was the first senior in at 4th and Norwood-Norfolk sophomore Sidney Levinson completed the representation of five age-classes in the top 5 with her 5th.

Cronin, Gregg, and Collins joined Brynne Wright in the top 25 finishers overall and Greenwich built an 11-point lead through the first four places to hang on for Brooke Wright to seal the deal for a 53-59 victory over Maple Grove as Crist placed 8th and Peppy 18th for the Red Dragons. South Lewis set the tables for their upset of the Witches in 2017 with a 3rd place as Bernard was the first 7th grade finisher in 12th and Hali and Hannah Ielfield placed in the top 20. Harley-Allendale-Columbia duplicated its 4th place finish in 2000 in its second ever visit to States, and Trumansburg was 5th.

Interview with Brooke Rauber

Interview with Greenwich