Tomorrow morning, area harriers will take to the course for the final race of the season, as the Section V Cross Country Championships are set to take place across the region. Several local teams and individuals appear in the running for a sectional title, although projecting the competition this season has been a tall task. Section V eliminated all non-league meets and weekend invitationals this season due to concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and in turn, that’s forced those looking to secure championship hardware to guess which teams and individuals will also be vying for their class crown.
Batavia’s Jonah Epps has been a boon for the Blue Devils this season, showing massive improvement from where he was a season ago. Epps put his hard work on display in one of Batavia’s recent meets, a win over Greece Athena in which he finished the race second overall with a time of 16:33. A slew of underclassmen also helped Batavia to a solid finish to the regular season, as eighth-graders Cooper Konieczny and Grant Gahagan, along with sophomores Nathan Canale and Cody Harloff, have each recorded several top-10 finishes. Batavia coach Rich Boyce projected Canale to be the Devils’ top runner this season, but an injury sidelined him for the first few meets of the year. He has since returned and appears to be back near 100%.
“Our guys are healthy and excited about the opportunity to race at sectionals. They have all been working very hard since the beginning of the summer just for this opportunity and now that it’s here, I’m excited to see what they can do,” said Batavia coach Rich Boyce. “We’re not projected very high in Class B this year after losing three out of our top four from last year’s championship race, but I’m confident we will show up and run our best race.”
On the girls’ side, Sydney Konieczny is the top runner for the Devils and recently recorded a time of 20:46 during Batavia’s race against Athena. Against the Trojans, Melanie Quinones (21:25), Makayla Andolora (21:26), Naomi Peck (22:31), and Lydia Evans (23:30) all contributed to their team’s 15-49 victory.
“I’m very excited to see what the girls’ team can achieve at sectionals,” said Batavia coach Bill Buckenmeyer. “The girls are focused on giving everything they have in their last race of the season. They have developed toughness throughout this year, and I have no doubt they will leave it all on the course.”
The Batavia boys will be looking to keep pace with a favored HF-L squad, while HF-L, Pittsford Mendon, and Pittsford Sutherland are all historically strong on the girls’ side.
Every local team within Class C took part in the LCAA/GRAA meet this past weekend, with Livonia’s Owen Hensler winning the Div. I boys’ race in 18:21, and Avon’s Izzy Marzec winning the Div. I girls’ race in 21:24. Hensler and Marzec each will challenge for a blue patch this weekend.
For reference, in cross country, a blue ‘sectional’ patch is awarded each race’s first-place finisher, while other top-10 finishers in each class receive a blue/white patch. Team champions receive a white patch.
On the boys’ side in Class C, Livonia’s Luke Lawton came in just behind Hensler and finished third in Div. I with a time of 18:45, while fellow Bulldog Christian Tewksbury placed fifth after crossing the finish line in 18:54. Both Lawton and Tewksbury join Hensler as contenders for a Class C patch.
This past weekend, the Lady Bulldogs were led by Cameron Rode, who finished fifth in Div. I with a time of 22:23. Rode is hoping to finish near Avon’s Marzec, who is expected to be a pace-setter this weekend.
Elsewhere for Avon, Colin Farmer ran a solid race of 18:52 to finish in fourth in the Div. I boys race. Farmer has shown significant improvement on the boys’ side for the Braves, and he, Marzec, and the rest of a talented Avon squad are looking forward to competing alongside some of the best that Section V has to offer.
“This year has been especially difficult to see how teams stack up against each other,” said Avon coach Scott Forrest. “I hope runners like Izzy and Colin can finish pretty high in the individual standings as their high school careers come to a close.”
Le Roy is also paced by a dynamic duo, as Erik Schwab has been a stalwart for the Knights the past few seasons, and Charlotte Blake has also been one of the top girls in the LCAA/GRAA for a few years now.
“Erik has been looking great this year. He missed a trip to last year’s state championship by 15 seconds, and even though there isn’t a state meet this year, he has used that to fuel his training,” said Le Roy coach Jay Laitenberger. “Charlotte went to the state meet last year and is looking to continue her strong running at this season’s sectional meet.”
Schwab finished just two seconds behind Livonia’s Hensler in the LCAA/GRAA Div. I boys’ race, recording a time of 18:23, while Blake placed third in girls’ Div. I after crossing the finish line in 21:53.
“Our boys’ and girls’ teams have had a great regular season. The boys went 15-2, and the girls were 14-3. We are excited to see how all of our hard work this season pays off competing against the best runners and teams in Sec. V,” added Laitenberger. “It will be our first time racing against more than 40 people at a time (this season), but we have strong veterans that have been working with our young runners to understand the feel of a big race.”
Another LCAA/GRAA Div. I runner to watch in Class C will be Dansville’s Maggie Bacon, who finished in second place at the league championship meet with a time of 21:49.
“In Class C, Livonia will certainly be very competitive, and Waterloo, Hornell, Penn Yan, and Bloomfield historically have strong teams,” said Avon’s Forrest. “Class C will be extremely competitive, and we are all thankful to have sectionals in our sport this season.”
Here is where things get a little more complicated.
On the boys’ side, Class D is split in two, with all LCAA/GRAA Div. II teams all falling under Class D1, and all Div. III teams falling under Class D2. On the girls’ side, there is only Class D, which includes all 13 teams from Div. II and Div. III, and 33 teams total across the section. Compare that against Class B, where there are only 12 teams vying for the sectional crown, and you begin to gain a little perspective on just how difficult winning the championship will be for a Class D girls’ team. While in most classes, the top-10 finishers will receive sectional patches, in the girls’ Class D race, the top-15 finishers will receive patches due to the broad field.
One of the favorites to take home the individual title in Class D is Pavilion/York’s Alexa Wolcott who, despite not participating in this past weekend’s LCAA/GRAA Championships, carries with her a championship pedigree. Wolcott previously won a sectional title in 2018, her freshman year, and followed that up with a runner-up finish at sectionals a season ago. Red Jacket’s Madalenn Fee edged Wolcott out in last season’s sectional race, and both are back to stage a rematch this year.
Four area runners join Wolcott near the top of the heap in Class D, including three from the same school - Geneseo. Catherine Staley (20:58), Addy Capel (22:20), and Mallory Rice (22:26) finished 1-2-3 respectively at the LCAA/GRAA Div. III Championships this past weekend and are expected to challenge for the top-three slots once again at sectionals.
“The team is ready to go and excited to have the opportunity to compete. It’s going to be exciting to see how the different teams, many who haven’t raced each other, will match up in one race,” said Geneseo coach Chris Morens. “For our girls, several teams are deeper through their top-five, but Catherine, Addy, and Mallory will set the tone upfront, and we’re excited to see how we stack up against Sec. V’s best.”
Joining Geneseo’s talented trio as those in contention for a Class D blue patch is Oakfield-Alabama/Elba’s Fanny Venegas, who took home the LCAA/GRAA Div. II crown with a time of 22:06. O-A/E’s McKenna Johnson is another top contender in ‘D’, having finished just under a minute behind Venegas with a time of 22:50 at the Div. II Championships. One benefit Venegas, Johnson, and the rest of the O-A/E girls’ and boys’ squads enjoyed last weekend and will again enjoy this weekend will be a home field advantage. Oakfield-Alabama will be hosting this weekend’s Class C-D sectional races for the first time in school history.
“We’re looking forward to representing our school and community in the best way possible,” said Hornets’ head coach Pete Beuler.
O-A/E’s Brooke Kennedy ran a time of 23:28 and finished sixth in LCAA/GRAA Div. II, while the Hornets’ Kayla Harding did not participate at the Div. II Championships due to a minor injury, but is back this weekend as she and Kennedy hope to work their way up the ladder.
“The girls are in one big race with a lot of great teams,” added Beuler. “Last year, we finished sixth and are looking to do even better this year.”
Elsewhere in Class D, Pembroke’s Leah Filter is a contender after placing fourth at the LCAA/GRAA Div. II meet with a time of 23:12, while Alexander’s Laurel Kania was third after crossing the finish line in 22:50. Holley’s Adriana Botello placed fifth in Div. II and is another runner with a chance at a patch this weekend.
“I expect Class D to be competitive” said ND’s Geitner. “The (team title) race will be between Addison, Red Creek, Honeoye, and Geneseo.”
The Cal-Mum girls will field an incomplete squad, which won’t allow them to compete for a team sectional title, but two Raiders are in the running to finish inside the top-10. Aaliya Kocher and Emilie Haire placed fourth and fifth respectively at the Div. II Championships and will be looking to improve upon times of 22:51 and 23:48, respectively.
The Class D1 and D2 boys’ races will feature several local runners in contention for a patch, with a high volume of those coming from two Genesee Region schools.
The Notre Dame boys are coming off back to back sectional titles as a team and feature three of the top runners in Class D2. Last weekend, Ben Skalny won the LCAA/GRAA Div. III race uncontested, finishing in 18:06, which earned him his second consecutive divisional crown. He will be looking for his first blue patch this weekend, as will ND’s Zack Babcock, who took second in Div. III with a time of 19:10 and Andrew Ricupito, who placed third last weekend in 19:15.
“We are going in with a great attitude. Our boys are a good team, going against a good team in Honeoye who will be their top competition for a team title,” said Irish coach Eric Geitner. “We have to focus on our race plan, do our best, and we can be proud of the season we had and the times we had together.”
Jordan Welker missed the LCAA/GRAA Championships due to a sore leg, but will be ready to go for sectionals.
“Ben Skalny should be at the front of the race,” added Geitner. “Zack, Andrew, and Jordan are hoping to mix up with Honeoye’s middle pack, and Harry (Schafer) will give us that finish.”
Rounding out the list of contenders in Class D2 is a strong contingent from Kendall, including Ethan Kuhn, Braxton Zarentine, and Owen Hirschman, all of whom finished inside the top-10 at this past weekend’s LCAA/GRAA Div. III Championship meet. Kuhn finished fifth in 19:42, Zarentine placed sixth in 19:57, while Hirschman placed seventh after crossing the finish line in 20:18.
Cal-Mum’s Tyler Brabant finished just ahead of Kuhn at the Div. III Championships, placing fourth with a time of 19:41, and is looking forward to contending for a patch this weekend. Geneseo’s Nick Staley (21:03) placed ninth at the Div. III Championships but is hoping to improve upon that time this coming weekend.
“Nick is ready to battle the front group for a chance at a patch,” said Geneseo’s Morens.
Oakfield-Alabama/Elba will be one of the top teams in Class D1, with LCAA/GRAA Div. II Champion Zack Hall leading the way. Hall, who has surprisingly never won an individual sectional title, is coming off a run of 17:02 at the league championship meet and highlights a long list of talented O-A/E harriers. The past few seasons, Hall has watched two of his teammates come away with championship hardware but has yet to take home a blue patch for himself.
“We’re excited for Zack, one of our senior captains,” said O-A/E’s Beuler. “To have an opportunity to compete at a cross country championship for the last time as a high school student-athlete, it’s a great opportunity.”
Connor Domoy is another O-A/E runner to watch this weekend, as he finished inside the top-three at the Div. II Championships with a time of 18:21, while Kyle Porter (19:13), Jordan Schlagenhauf (19:16), and Colton Yasses (19:19) all crossed the line within seconds of each other to record sixth, seventh, and eighth-place finishes, respectively. All three have been improving steadily this season and are looking to put their best foot forward this weekend at sectionals.
O-A/E hopes to contend for a team title in D1, while Arkport/Alfred-Almond/Canaseraga, and Addison are also expected to be significant players for the championship.
“The Class D1 Boys Race will be very competitive. Arkport/Alfred-Almond/Canaserga won it last year and are very strong this year as well,” added Beuler. “For us, it’s a total team effort. From our first guy to our seventh, we must be running hard and pushing for each other.”
Pembroke’s Sebastian Kitt is another LCAA/GRAA Div. II runner in line for a Class D1 patch this weekend. Kitt is coming off of a second-place finish at the league championship meet with a time of 17:46, and elsewhere in Class D1, Warsaw’s Mitchel Felix ran 18:58, which was good enough for fourth at the Div. II Championships, while Byron-Bergen’s Lincoln McGrath joins him as those with an outside chance of finishing inside this weekend’s top-10. McGrath recorded a top-five finish at the Div. II Championships (18:58.6).
“Each team has worked a long time for this meet, and we are at the best we can be,” concluded ND’s Geitner. “Some have very strong teams, and some are building for the future. Either way, this meet will add valuable experience to their journey as a high school athlete.”
It all begins tomorrow morning at Oakfield-Alabama High School, starting with the Class C boys’ race at 9:30 a.m. and finishing with the Class D2 boys’ race at 3 p.m. The Class B races will be held at Wayne High School starting with the boys’ race at 2 p.m.