By ROB JONAS
Three Section 2 teams are among the favorites to claim titles at Saturday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island.
The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys team has its sights set on the Class B title after completing an impressive regular season, capped by a dominating performance at the Section 2 Championships Nov. 2. The Spartans claimed five of the top six places and had seven runners finish in the top 10 to breeze to the Sectional title by a margin of 65 points.
After missing last year’s state meet, Saratoga Springs is back to challenge Fayetteville-Manlius (Section 3) for the Class A girls championship. The Blue Streaks possess one of the premier individual runners in New York with senior Kelsey Chmiel, who is coming off a Sectional record time of 16:34.02. Saratoga will need strong performances from its younger runners – freshman Ella Kurto, seventh grader Emily Bush and eighth grader McKinley Wheeler – to unseat Fayetteville-Manlius, which has won 12 consecutive state titles.
The Greenwich girls team is competing in Class C this season after dominating Class D. The move up hasn’t fazed the Witches, who took seven of the top nine individual places at Sectionals to ease past the competition. With Sectional champ Brynne Wright and fast-rising freshman Nina Sgambelluri leading the way, Greenwich will be in the hunt for a state title once again.
Every team will have to contend with the challenging Sunken Meadow State Park course, which includes a pair of steep hills. The first is Snake Hill, which comes early in the race but is a short climb. The second is Cardiac Hill – one that is well known within cross country circles as one of the toughest in New York to conquer. Between the half-mile climb to reach the base and a steep 200-meter ascent to the top, Cardiac Hill challenges even the most seasoned runners.
“I’ve never raced at Sunken Meadow, but from what I’ve heard, it’s crazy,” said Section 2 Class B individual champion Rory Graham of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
The NYSPHSAA Cross Country Championships start at 9 a.m. at Sunken Meadow State Park.
Section 2 teams at states
Boys – Shenendehowa (Class A), Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Class B), LaSalle (Class C), Maple Hill (Class D)
Girls – Saratoga Springs (Class A), Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Class B), Greenwich (Class C), Duanesburg (Class D)
Individuals representing Section 2
Class A – Shea Weilbaker (Saratoga Springs), Matt Cavaliere (Bethlehem), Marty Dolan (Niskayuna), Ezra Ruggles (Saratoga Springs), Nick Logan (Queensbury)
Class B – Antonio Beltran (Schalmont), Francisco Beltran (Schalmont), Gabriel Winters-Bona (Scotia-Glenville), Nathan Belcastro (Mohonasen), Nick Graziano (Albany Academy)
Class C – Henry Goca (Rensselaer/Doane Stuart), Evan Ensslin (Voorheesville), Sebastian Mills (Johnstown), Peyton Howard (Greenwich), Joe Yusaitis (Stillwater)
Class D – Brandon Olden (North Warren/Johnsburg), Andrew Drescher (Duanesburg), Holden Decker (Galway), Erik Schreiner (Hadley-Luzerne), Griffin Day (Saratoga Catholic)
Class A – Faith DeMars (Ballston Spa), Kaleigh Higgins (Shaker), Leoni Griffin (Shaker), Liyat Kebbede (Niskayuna), Jada Dennis (Shenendehowa)
Class B – Kate Sherman (Mohonasen), Mya June (Schalmont), Logan Barsalow (Averill Park), Skylar Dailey (Emma Willard), Katie Culliton (Glens Falls)
Class C – Tess Fitzmaurice (Greenville), Sunni LaBounty (Schuylerville), Megan Vianese (Schuylerville), Gabrielle Larsen (Broadalbin-Perth), Sarah Smith (Johnstown)
Class D – Madison Relyea (Mayfield), Angelina Pusateri (Maple Hill), Michelle Puzulis (Berne-Knox-Westerlo), Lily Czub (Hoosic Valley), Elizabeth Radyn (Lake George)