After coming up just five points short in their bid for a second straight state title last season, the Fonda-Fultonville boys cross-country team returns to the state meet today looking to reclaim its crown.
"It should be a pretty interesting race for us," Fonda-Fultonville coach Mark Therrien said. "Two years ago, when we won the state championship in Pawling, we beat out Holland Patent by only two points. Last year, Holland Patent won by two points over Pawling and we were only three points behind them for third. I'm sure that this year will be just as close as Pawling is returning and I'm sure they aren't going to want to come up short again. However, neither do we. Between us, Pawling and a hard-charging Rhinebeck, it should be an exciting finish."
The Braves will bring an experienced group to Elma Meadows State Park as all but two of the seven runners have at least one state meet under their belts.
Fonda-Fultonville’s Matt Hoffman leads the pack at the Section II cross-country championships Nov. 2 at Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs. Hoffman and the rest of the Braves are seeking their second New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C championship in three years today at Elma Meadows State Park in Elma. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)
"We have a pretty experienced group of boys going this year," Therrien said. "All but two of them ran at states last year."
Senior Matt Hoffman won the boys class C race at last week's Section II Championships at Saratoga Spa State Park. Hoffman's effort helped the Braves win their fourth straight Section II Class C title. FFCS finished with a team total of 53 points, while Maple Hill was second with 88 points.
Hoffman will be making his fourth trip to states and he will be joined by fellow seniors Tyler Angioli, Jimmy Westman and Omijah Piening.
What: New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships
When: Today, 8:45 a.m.
Where: Elma Meadows State Park, Elma
Schedule: Girls Class B (9 a.m.), Girls Class C (9:30 a.m.), Girls Class D (10 a.m.), Girls Class A (10:30 a.m.), Boys Class B (11 a.m.), Boys Class C (11:30 a.m.), Boys Class D (noon), Boys Class A (12:30 p.m.)
Angioli, who was seventh in the Class C boys race last week, will be making his third trip to the state meet. Westman and Piening will both be making their second trips to states after finishing 10th and 37th, respectively, at the Section II meet.
Juniors Dalton Hunter and Cameron Gilligan, and sophomore Dylan DeSorbo round out the FFCS contingent.
Gilligan was 14th at sectionals, DeSorbo was 21st and Hunter was 29th.
Hunter will be making his second trip to states, while today's meet will be the first state championship race for DeSorbo and Gilligan.
"This is the first year of cross country for Cameron and Dylan, so it's their first time at cross country states, although Cameron does have state meet experience," Therrien said. "He participated on our 4x800-meter relay team at the outdoor track state championships last spring. Dylan DeSorbo is our only rookie, but he is running well and coming on strong. He should have no problem adjusting to the routine of a State Championship weekend."
Regardless of experience, one thing will be new for most of the area competitors - the course at Elma Meadows.
"The course is going to be new to everyone. Even the Section VI teams have not been able to get on it, that I know of," Therrien said. "The state meet has been there before and we have had kids at that meet. Like all state meet courses, it's a challenging one. We've looked at the video tour of the course and paired it with the course map, so we feel the kids have a pretty good feel for what to expect. [Assistant] coach [Mike] Benton has shown the kids elevation maps as well, so they know where the hills will be when they walk the course on Friday. Basically there shouldn't be any surprises for the kids to adjust to."
In addition to the Fonda-Fultonville boys team, Mayfield's Lidija Nikollaj, Broadalbin-Perth's Greg Bogdan, Fonda-Fultonville's Kimberly Geniti and Jamie Kasza, Mayfield's Tom McClellan and Gloversville's John Knox also earned state-meet spots at Elma Meadows, which is located south of Buffalo.
Bogdan, a junior, will compete in the Class C race with the FFCS boys after finishing fifth last week at the Section II Class C race. Bogdan placed 118th at the 2010 state meet in Pawling as a sophomore.
"It's a plus to be sending someone to states," Broadalbin-Perth coach Jeff Richards said at the Section II meet. "It's what our program needed because it shows that it can be done with hard work. Hopefully, the other kids start putting in the kind of work that Greg [Bogdan] does. Greg deserved it. He proved that hard work pays off."
Fonda-Fultonville also will have two girls in competition in the Class C race in Kasza and Geniti.
Kasza won the girls Class C race at the Section II meet last week, while Geniti was sixth to earn her fourth trip to states.
"I'm excited to be going with a teammate," Geniti said after the Section II meet. "It's good to know other people there."
Geniti placed 16th at states last season, while Kasza was 19th.
Mayfield will have McClellan and Nikollaj in action in the boys and girls Class D races today.
McClellan, a senior, was 22nd as a junior at the state meet and 26th as a sophomore. McClellan has finished no worse than second all season, placing second in the Class D race at the Section II meet last week.
Nikollaj, a senior, was 46th last year as a junior and 53rd as a sophomore. Nikollaj earned her third straight trip to the state meet by placing 10th at last week's Class D meet with a time of 20:37.95.
"Lidija and Tom both bumped up in the standings between 10th and 11th grade at the state meet," Mayfield coach Greg Ernst said. "Tom has been strong all season, while Lidija got everything together at sectionals. I hope they can continue that upward trend [today]."
Rounding out the local contingent will be Gloversville senior John Knox, who is make his first trip to the state meet.
"Section II is the consistent top level of cross country in New York in all classes. To be able to represent Section II is a great honor," Gloversville coach Bob Fisher said. "John has worked hard to be one of the top runners for our boys team. He's helped set a great example for our very young girls team, and has helped both teams in confidence and attracting new runners."
Knox placed ninth at the Section II Class B meet with a time of 15:56.40 to grab the final spot for the state meet.
"John has learned to run with the top part of the race, if he finishes in the top 10 percent that would be great. We are already proud," Fisher said. "Our program is in good shape for the next couple of years, but you still have to have a good assistant to get the middle school students involved or the numbers will reverse. I have Josh [Herod], he does a great job with the beginners."
The state meet is slated to begin at 8:45 a.m. with opening ceremonies.
The first race to take to the course will be the girls Class B race at 9 a.m. The girls Class C (9:30 a.m.), girls Class D (10 a.m.) and girls Class A (10:30 a.m.) will follow. The Class B boys race is slated to begin at 11 a.m., followed by the boys Class C (11:30 a.m.), boys Class D (noon) and boys Class A (12:30 p.m.) races.