By Christopher Hunt
PAWLING – Shaker junior Mike Libruk said his team knew what was coming. He joined a few teammates over the summer in visiting the course at Lakeside Park in Pawling. He knew the nearly 500-meter uphill that meets runners after the first mile was the kind that could feel like a punch in the mouth.
“We wanted to back off a little bit in the beginning,” said teammate Jon Vallecorsa. “We knew the hill was coming.”
The result was Libruk and Vallecorsa virtually making their moves on the hill that will define the course at Lakeside Park, the site of this season’s New York State championships, and finishing 1-2 as the Bison earned a crushing victory in the championship section at the Green Mountain Lake Invitational Saturday with 45 points.
Libruk won in 16:16.08, the fastest time of the day. Vallecorsa followed closely in 16:27.56. Casey Gilboy was 14th for Shaker in 17:01.01 while the Bison posted a 58-second 5-man compression.
“We ran very, very strong,” Libruk said. “We wanted to put something down. We definitely wanted to come out here and run well.”
Connetquot finished second in seeded race with 106 points while Arlington, which coach Steve Arnett said fell victim to an ambitious start, placed second with 124.
The first mile of the course could be deceiving since it’s dead flat leading to a quarter-mile uphill that can rock top runners who chose to blitz the opening mile. That’s why Libruk and Vallecorsa hung back early. They knew being too aggressive at the start was a mistake.
“Coach (Ed Springstead) told us there would probably be guys that go out here in 4:40 but those guys are probably going to come back (in the last mile) in 6:40.”
The meet served mostly as a chance for area teams to preview the state meet course early in the season but there’s no question that for some, like Shaker, it was a chance to make a statement and build confidence on the course where they’ll try to win a state title in November. But some others come just to get orientated with the course. North Rockland, which joins Shaker among the top teams in contention for a state championship, brought its varsity team to the meet but only to perform a workout on the course.
The Red Raiders instead raced their junior varsity in the Division I varsity race and finished second. Monroe-Woodbury scored 41 points to win the team title. Carmel sophomore Eric Holt won the race individually in 16:49.88. He led nearly from the gun.
“It was really hard halfway through the race,” Holt said. “I thought that the kid in second place was going to get me. Once I got through with the hill I just started pushing. I didn’t want him to catch me.”
The victory was a first for Holt in a varsity race. Carmel co-head coach Eric Schwark says it could just be the beginning for the sophomore.
“He’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever had,” Schwark said. “He’s a beast. You can’t shut him down. He’s a big over-strider but he’s just a bull. He’s so strong. When the speed is there he’ll be ready to go.”
Holland Patent twins Dylan and Cody Racha went 1-2 in the Division III race. Dylan won in 16:48.08 followed by Cody in 16:57.02. Fonda Fultonville won the team title, led by Zak Godfrey (17:35.71) and Matt Hoffman (17:40.63), who finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Fonda Fultonville outdueled Holland Patent, 60-71. Miller Place won the Division II race, 53-63, over New Paltz. Brian Busby won in 17:06.03 for New Paltz. But Miller Place scored four runners in the top 10, led by Nick Juliano in fourth in 17:46.34.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.