By Christopher Hunt
NEW YORK – Outside of the construction and some changes to the course, not much changed at the Manhattan Invitational. At least not much in the girls Eastern States championships.
Fayetteville-Manilus won handily. Somehow it seemed like no one on the team realized that the Manhattan Invitational is a pretty big meet. And head coach Bill Aris reminded anyone that asked that his team, the two-time defending national champions, haven’t accomplished anything. Not yet. Not this season.
“This was basically a mid-term exam,” Aris said. “We did okay.”
What that really means is that Fayetteville-Manilus went 2-3-4-5-8 in the biggest invitational so far this season and overpowered the Eastern States race with just 22 points. Hannah Luber led the team in second in 26.16 on the 2.5-mile course at Van Cortlandt Park, followed by Courtney Chapman in third in 14:26.73, Molly Malone fourth in 14:37.70, Jillian Fanning fifth in 14:39.79 and MacKenzie Carter eighth in 14:46.80.
“We all did a great job leading each other out,” Luber said. “I could feel a girl on my team on my back the whole time.”
With a 20-second spread, FM came across the line like a herd and had been that way from the start. Even Chapman’s pace had towed Luber up the last hill with about a mile left. With nearly half the field size of last year’s race FM still managed to put 58 points between itself and a very good Saratoga Springs team that finished second with 80 points.
“We were expecting a smaller field but just as much competition,” Luber said.
Cornwall’s Aisling Cuffe continued her remarkable start to the season, winning the individual title in the Eastern States race in 14:03.28, by far the fastest time of the day. Cuffe gave an “aw shucks” sort of motion when she finish line. She aimed at 13:54, trying to break Central Cambria (Pa.) standout Carly Seymour’s record of 13:55.30 set two years ago, before the construction to Van Cortlandt moved the starting line and made the finishing stretch longer.
“I figured that the course record time would have me running out by myself,” Cuffe said. “I didn’t know what time I was running. I didn’t hear any splits. I felt like I was running pretty fast like I’d better be running course record pace.”
Cuffe, a junior, is in the middle of a dream season. She had already run the second-fastest times ever on the courses at Bowdoin Park, at the Bowdoin XC Classic last week and at Paul Short in Pennsylvania a week before. In the first month of the season, Cuffe went from a runner that belongs on the national stage to one the best in the country.
“Every race I got into boost my confidence,” she said. “I’m doing better than last year. I set my own goals but when people say something like, ‘She could break the course record.’ It’s like, hey, that’s a good idea.”
Saratoga Springs had strong performance in second led by senior Brianne Bellon in seventh place, finishing in 14:44.66. Freshman Keelin Hollowood was ninth in 14:47.21. Brittany Winslow led Queensbury’s third place finish. She crossed the line in sixth in 14:43.48. Twin sister Danielle Winslow was 10th (14:48.38).
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.