Well folks, that's it for the 2011-2012 seasons for Cross Country and Track and Field. With the conclusion of the World Junior Championships, all athletes are home for the season, and building towards either college or those cross country courses in the fall. We here at MileSplit NY have just finished our first year as well, as we became independent early last August. Since that time, you've viewed our page over 10 million times, and added to our growing Facebook and Twitter followings. We've had great performances, new breakout stars, and countless new state records. To put it lightly, it has been a great year for the Empire State. To commemorate the end of the season, we'd like to look back at our top 10 moments from the past year. These may not be the fastest times or best performances, but they were moments that were aided by the stories behind them, the rivalries established, and the accomplishments achieved. We'll be releasing two a day, with the top pick being released on Saturday night. While they are ranked numerically, their order is only slightly important. Each moment proved thrilling for the track fan, and we look forward to even more in 2013. And be sure to sound off in our comments for moments you think we missed, as cutting this down to a list of ten was not easy.
10. The Fight For Height
Pole Vault is not the event for the faint of heart. At a certain point in an athlete's career, he can very well be finding himself falling 15 feet out of the air onto a large blue mat. Two vaulters have established themselves as the "rising stars" in New York State. Greg Gallagher (Iona Prep) and Michael Brunoforte (St. Anthony's) have been vaulting against each other for years. After a 2011 season that was seemingly dominated by Jordan Yamoah (Arlington), 2012 seemed like a constant grudge match between the two seniors. They found themselves in a constant battle for Pole Vault Supremacy. The pair competed often, as their respective schools were both from the CHSAA. Brunoforte told us, ""Me and Greg are close friends when we are not in competition. It is nice to have some one to talk with about what your doing, and having them know exactly what you are going through. I feel it makes us both better."
The pair seemed to improve in 2012 in tandem. One would get a seasons best, and then it would be quickly answered the following week. Hitting 15' mid-season indoors, the two pulled away from the rest of the state, and were each determined to make it their event. The early season matchups seemed to be going in Brunoforte's favor, as he was capitalizing on misses to take competitions. However, at Indoor States, it was Gallagher to take the win at both States and Nationals, winning with a 15'6 and 15'8.25. The situation seemed to mirror itself outdoors, as Brunoforte again claimed a majority of the outdoor matchups, setting a new PR and eventual NY #1 at 16'1".
The number #10 moment comes from the Outdoor State Championships, over in the Pole Vault pits. All season, the two have been increasing their heights higher and higher. Jumping on a day that saw a slight wind, and a sunny sky, the two looked to provide a bookend to the seemingly year long competition. As the height of the pole kept increasing, more and more competitors were falling out of the competition. Soon, it was only Gallagher and Brunoforte. After three solid attempts, jumping on his own as the crowds had all but left the facility, Greg Gallagher would be the only vaulter to clear the bar, eventually getting up to 16'0, to win the competition. The pair both left their final seasons with something to call their own. Gallagher would have the state title, and Brunoforte would have the top mark in NY State for 2012.
9. Adversity Embraced, FM Tackles NXN
Being ranked the clear favorite in the preseason can be both good and bad. On the one hand, it shows you are a force to be reckoned with, with proven results to back up your claims. On the other, it paints a target on your back that the entire country can see. This was the position that perennial powerhouse Fayetteville-Manlius found themselves. They had lost only one senior to graduation, a notable Courtney Chapman but regardless, they were highlighted to reclaim their spot on the top of the podium at NXN. But in cross country, and in life, guarantees mean nothing in a sport where anything can happen.
And anything did happen to the top rated Stotans. Due to lingering injury or accident, Fayetteville-Manlius lost two of their top guns mid-season. Top seed Christie Rutledge, who had a breakout performance in 2011 at NXN finishing 2nd overall was out with a lower back soreness that was thought to be better preserved than to be rushed back into competition. Another senior, Heather Martin, who had a remarkable 54 second split in the DMR at Outdoor Nationals in 2011, was also sidelined after stepping on a rock at a weird angle, twisting her ankle. Both were ready to compete again, but the attentive coaching of head coach Bill Aris thought it better to preserve his runners future careers rather than rush them back to competition.
However, this did not stop the Hornets from their continued dominance on the courses of New York. In a true testament to the talent in Manlius, several underclassman stepped up when called upon to continue the legacy of their predecessors. Junior standout Jillian Fanning, aided by the quality running of teammates Katie Brislin and Katie Sischo, seemed to lead the underclassman to strong finishes at both the Manhattan Invitational and their Sectional Championship. But that is when the team was tested once more. Coach Aris, longtime head coach and integral part of the running community, lost his father after an ongoing battle throughout the cross country season. The girls decided to step up once more, dedicating the rest of their season to their coach, and pushing their team to another state championship.
The theme of overcoming hardships followed them all the way to the Nike Cross Nationals starting line. They had already proven themselves worthy, as they showcased their incredible depth and tenacity by persevering under the most testing of conditions. The only thing left was grabbing the title. But again, it wasn't going to be easy. Top runner Katie Brislin was tripped up at the start of the race, falling to the ground, only to get up to the backs of all 200 of the other runners. Pushing herself through the race, Brislin managed to pass 175 of those same runners to claim 25th overall, aiding the Stotans to their 6th consecutive national title and undefeated season. And all this in a year that seemed to not let them have it easy.