2019 High School Cross Country Preview: Chasing championships

Fonda-Fultonville’s Shane Viscosi heads for the finish line on his way to winning the boys varsity race at the Fonda-Fultonville Invitational on Sept. 14. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

With the strong early-season showings from the local cross-country teams and runners, there will be several harriers competing well into the season-ending championships in November.

Fonda-Fultonville senior Shane Viscosi has hit his stride in the invitationals this season and is poised to be a contender for a state championship.

Mayfield’s Madison Relyea, who has made the trip to the state meet the past three seasons, has yet to hit the course due to an offseason injury.

The Mayfield squad has struggled with numbers over the past couple of seasons but have turned it around this year.

The Lady Panthers, without Relyea competing, brought home a team title from the Tartan Invitational and will be a factor for a Western Athletic Conference and Section 2 championship at the end of the season.

Relyea, a junior, is expected to make a strong return in the heart of the season, is joined by second-year varsity runner and WAC All-star Fianna Halloran, a freshman, who is also seeing playing time on the Mayfield girls soccer team. The Lady Panthers have added a strong group of talented newcomers including juniors Delaney LaFontaine and Tatjana Bjelica and freshmen Lilliana Powers, Olivia Michalski and Marley Ruliffson.

“We are thrilled to be fielding a complete team this season,” Mayfield coach Rebecca Newkirk said. “If we stay injury free, we hope to do very well at the league level and sectionals.”

The Mayfield boys are also picked up runners who will make their presence known as the season progresses.

Shawn Allen returns for his senior season and will lead a youthful group of newcomers on the squad including sophomore Brayden Jourden and freshmen Trevor Ruberti, Cameron Abdella, Christian Scunziano, Brice Williams, Dylan Merk, Michael Smigen and Jackson Levine-Grace.

“Almost our entire team is made up of newcomers,” coach Newkirk said. “They are all really hard workers. Our goal is to have a great time and improve throughout the season. Shawn Allen has been improving his times every year leading up to his senior year. He is hoping for his best season yet.”

Several of the Panthers are pulling double-duty with five of the nine runners also playing soccer at Mayfield.

Experience has been key for the early-season success of the Fonda-Fultonville boy’s squad.

The Braves captured the 2018 WAC championship and placed third at the Class C sectionals and return a solid core of runners.

Viscosi has led the way so far this season by winning all the meets he has competed in so far, while Bennett Melita has come on strong finishing behind Viscosi as veterans Trevor Cline, Christian Pearce, John Hall Charlie Susi and Ryan Schopmeier are joined by newcomers Mathieu Dettenreider, Ty Sanges and Tristan Cline.

Haley Clear has stepped forward as the top runner on a Lady Braves squad that is looking to improve on its fourth-place finish at the WAC championships and seventh place finish at the Class C sectionals.

Clear is joined by returning runners Delena James, Kianna Hanson, Avery Cusack, Kimberlee Snell, Kaylee Freeman and Madison Thomson, while newcomers Emma Charboneau, Kaitlyn Stearns and Gabby Sahler are pushing for spots on the varsity team.

“Seems to be a good recruiting year for both the squads,” Fonda-Fultonville coach Mike Benton said. “The kids have been working hard and I think we will have very good results during the season.”

Benton is joined in the coaching ranks this season by Joe Geniti.

Holden Decker returns for his senior season for Galway.

Decker has shown his is on track for a return trip to the state championships this fall and joined by junior Ben Jordan, sophomore James Hilton and freshman Thomas Villano on a team that is recovering from the loss of five senior runners to graduation.

Emma Jordan missed a trip to the state championships by a single position last year and by her early-season times, is poised to make the trip this season.

The freshman runner is joined on the Golden Eagles squad by senior Vanessa Colangelo, junior Morgan Droin and freshman Emma Mariani.

“Unfortunately, we are incomplete for both boys and girls,” Galway coach Geoff Maliszewski said. “Our hope is to take at least two runners to the state meet this year. Both Holden and Emma were among the top cross-country runners in the league last year. We are projecting they will move up after both having such strong spring track campaigns.”

A large turnout for Canajoharie-Fort Plain has veteran coach Charlie Karker looking for the team to improve on the boys third place finish in the WAC and seventh at sectionals and the girls sixth-place sectional finish.

“The girls are young and inexperienced and need confidence,” coach Karker said. “The boys are doing a better job running somewhat together. We would like to finish in the top three teams and have two or three kids make the All-Star team.”

Eric Elliott, Trevor Howard and Fallon Wells are seniors on the boy’s squad. Junior Ty Perue has turned in strong performances so far this season. He is joined by fellow underclassmen Seth Wintermute and Mike Barlow; sophomores Mike Harris, Kurt Sunderland and Connor Hill and freshmen Martin Kretser and Jacob Sweet.

Senior Taya Yacobucci joined the C-FP girls’ squad this fall and joins fellow senior Kym Terwilliger, junior Ella Robinson, sophomore Emma Karker along with freshmen newcomers Samantha Barlow, Natalie Thibodeau and Natalia Downs.

The Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville squad continues to build on the recently introduced program with a youthful team with no seniors on the roster.

“I think I have a very determined and competitive team who is ready for the season and they will do great because they never give up on themselves no matter how tough it gets,” OESJ coach Austin Van Avery said. “”That’s all I can ask for as a coach and I am proud of them. This season’s all about making sure they enjoy competing in the sport.”

Competing for the Wolves this season are junior Trenton Stevenson, sophomores Liam Callahan, Zach Grant and Matthew Sterle and freshmen Michael Green and Orion Pratt.

Junior Trinity Chromczak leads the Lady Wolves along with sophomore Maggie Christensen, freshmen Arianna George, Stephanie Austin and eighth-grader Ashlyn Strobel.

In the Foothills Council, Broadalbin-Perth is looking to improve throughout the season and make runs at the season-ending league and sectional championships.

“Last year, our team took a big step forward as we once again found ourselves near the top at sectionals,” coach Jeff Richards said. “However, we were not able to make that final leap to the top. The foundation was laid, though, and now our goal is to complete the journey. This journey will not be easy for our returnees as we lost some very good runners to graduation. Fortunately, though, the hole left by our seniors was filled by one of the largest group of newcomers we have ever had.”

Returning for the Patriots are senior Kyle Henry, Antonio Zevola, Micah Smith, Jordan Perna, junior Daniel Dylong, sophomore Gabe Leone and Connor Couperus.

They are joined by newcomers Jon Simmons, Nick Musillo, Logan Zara, Aiden Snyder, Joshua Hughes, and Thomas Holland.

Junior Samantha Murphy leads a strong group of runners for the Lady Patriots that returning sophomore Bianca Ropeter, and freshmen Lauren Phelps and Emma Frasier. They are joined by newcomers, Carolyn Iannotti, Ava Tyler, Sarah Smith, Emily Mickan, Erica Lin and Grace Smith.

“Despite their lack of actual cross-country experience, this large group of newcomers have proven themselves to be physically and mentally tough on the track and have shown nothing but the same during practice,” coach Richards said. “If our returners continue their growth from last year, and our newcomers adapt to the 5K distanced, we just might have the perfect mixture to reach our goal of winning a sectional title.”

A good turnout for Johnstown has fourth-year coach Ashleigh Scott looking at a promising showing from her team this season.

“We are very excited for a young and upcoming team,” coach Scott said. “This team is very excited and has shown great work ethic already. We are excited to see all the great things this team will accomplish with the leadership of our veteran runners.”

Despite losing a large group of runners, including sectional champion Sebastian Mills, who also finished 25th at the state championships, to graduation, the Sir Bills return Alex Cwiakala, Cody Draper, Justin Ferrara and Jake Wesley.

They are joined by newcomers Josh Peck, Max Gyldenvand, Vinnie Rizzo, Tyler Downing, Garrett Bobowski and Elijah Petrelia.

Low numbers will hurt the Gloversville squad this season.

“We are currently in a rebuilding phase of the program” first-year coach Andrew Ficilli said. “I am confident in the athletes returning. I am also excited for the newcomers to the program and their continued success the next four year.”

Rhea Winter and Dylan Phillips return to compete for the Huskies and are joined by Tyler Rando and Andrew Ryder on the varsity squad.

The numbers are improving for the Amsterdam teams.

The Rams are led by veteran distance runner Trevor Dzikowicz, who clocked a 16:59 over the SPAC championship course last year, Joseph and Justin Santiago, Daniel Bublak and Matt Stachnik along with newcomers Brady Naish and Tyler Rodecker.

“With young returning runners, the Amsterdam boys look to place higher in the Class B sectionals,” veteran Amsterdam coach Kevin Wilary said. “Dzikowicz will be in the mix for a possible state meet qualification.”

Olivia Rehm takes over the head coaching duties for the Amsterdam girls’ team and is looking for leadership from her returning runners.

“After losing our number one runners Olivia Lazarou in 2017 and Lauren Santiago in 2018 to graduation, the Amsterdam girls are looking for someone new to step up and lead the team,” coach Rehm said. “With leadership from the upperclassmen, Amsterdam is looking to have its underclassmen help improve their position at sectionals this season.”

Returning for the Lady Rams are Skyler Grybos, Kayla Sondrup, Emma Kelly Sydney Szczepanik, Josie Smith, Brook Marshall, Alinah Marinov and Makayla Brown. They are joined by newcomers Briana Kelly and Rosie Sculco.

The Dolgeville Blue Devils have a solid group of returning runners as they compete for a Section III and Center State Conference title.

Returning for the boys’ squad are senior Andrew Ashe, and sophomores Camaron Jackson, Ethan Humphries, and Will Raynolds. Newcomers Jay Countryman, Colton Seymour and Isaiah Rockwell will look to secure spots on the Blue Devils’ varsity.

Freshman Ainsley Billings is competing for the Lady Blue Devils.

“Many newcomers should allow the boys to field a full team,” coach John Huddleston said. “Camaron Jackson will be a strong runner and Ainsley Billings will have a good season for the girls, She did well in the summer meets.”

By Paul Wager

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