2017 High School Cross Country Preview: Off and running
Talented veterans ready to lead local cross-country teams
Local cross-country teams and runners have risen to the top of the standings in the early-season invitationals.
Mayfield’s Madison Relyea and Amsterdam’s Olivia Lazarou both have notched individual victories, while the Canajoharie-Fort Plain boys claimed the team victory at the 40th Annual Fort Plain Cross Country Invitational.
Among the changes at the end of the season events will be the reclassification of some teams.
Amsterdam and Queensbury will be dropping from Class A to Class B for the sectional competition, while Canajoharie/Fort Plain moves down from Class C to Class D.
Gloversville remains in Class B, while Broadalbin-Perth, Johnstown and Fonda-Fultonville stay in the Class C mix and Mayfield, Galway and Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville will compete in Class D.
Another change this season involves the 45th Annual Galway Invitational. Instead of being run at the Bob’s Trees course this Saturday, the event switches back to Galway High School for the first time since 1989.
Olivia Lazarou has been a top runner for Amsterdam throughout her career. Now starting her senior campaign, Lazarou is looking to make her fourth straight trip to the New York State and Federation championships.
She is joined on the Rams squad by a veteran group of runners who have their sights set on moving to the top of the Foothills Council standings.
“Our team goals include placing first in the Foothills Council South and in the top four of the Class B sectionals,” veteran Amsterdam girls coach Stu Palczak said.
Returning to the course for the Lady Rams are senior Kayla Dzikowica, juniors Lauren Santiago and Gabby Feliciano, sophomores Kayla Sondrup, Skylar Graybos, Brooke Marshall and Emma Kelly along with freshmen Gaby Maroto and Sydney Sczezpanik.
The Amsterdam boys return three runners, Ryan Kamanu, Daniel Bublak and Trevor Dzikowicz and are looking to gain experience and momentum as the year progresses.
“With a youthful team, the Amsterdam boys look to make major improvements over last season,” coach Kevin Wilary said.
Last year the Broadalbin-Perth girls posted a perfect 4-0 record in the Foothills South and placed third in the Section II Class CC championships.
However, the Lady Patriots graduated four veteran runners, but coach Jeff Richards has a core of returning runners he is looking at to step up and fill the spots.
Returning for the Lady Patriots are seniors Jordyn DeNeuville, Mackenzie DeZolt, Jessie Brooks and Brooke McClarren along with junior Gabrielle Larsen and freshman Samantha Murphy.
The Broadalbin-Perth boys will field a young roster with only one returning senior, Evan Smith. He is joined by juniors Devin Becker and Wyatt Couperus as the lone returning runners for the Patriots.
“Cross country truly is a team sport and I am hoping that these kids will realize this,” Richards said. “I want them to see daily that our success will only come by being one, not a bunch of individual runners. Finally, we are attending more local meets to keep us rested. We have a great group of returners and many newcomers with talent. If this new mix of kids believe in the path I have set in front of them, we will have a good year. More importantly, our returners will finally realize their potential and our newcomers will see that hard work pays off.”
Low numbers will hamper the Gloversville cross-country team’s scoring in the big meets but the individual talent is solid.
The Huskies are led by veterans Skyler Reed, Riley Lake and Zack Rocas and are joined by newcomer Devon Pinckney.
On the girls side Brenna Wooster, Daley Jo Christman, Autumn Hardman and Rhea Winter return for Gloversville.
“We are a hard working group and will look to improve on our performances at the Foothills Championships and Sectionals. We are excited to see this group improve throughout the season.”
The Johnstown boys and girls teams both lost their top two scorers from last year in Brandon Mraz and Alex Quillan for the Sir Bills and Aylene Newman and Casey VanValkenburgh for the Lady Bills.
However, a large group of returning runners for both squads will keep the Johnstown harriers in the thick of the competition in both the league and section.
Gabe Cole, Mike Simone, Zach Ropeter, Mark Cwiakala and Nate Cotton all return for the Sir Bills.
“We have a strong group of senior leadership,” Johnstown coach Bryan Yager said. “If the team works hard and is motivated they can replicate last years results.”
Julia Sarullo, Julia Preston and Katie Romano provide a solid core of experienced runners for the Lady Bills to build around.
“We are young,” Yager said. “the girls have the ability to be competitive. they need to believe in themselves as a team and individually.”
As an eighth-grader Relyea won the WAC championship, placed third at the Section II Class D championship meet to qualify for the state meet where she placed sixth in the Class D portion of the meet.
Now a freshman, the Mayfield standout has already shown she is ready to make another run at the titles. Relyea won the WAC championship last year with a time of 18:32.66 over the Fort Plain cross-country course. Last Saturday she lowered that time to 18:15.98 over the same course.
The Panthers numbers are down this season with Relyea the only girl on the squad, while senior riley Mykel, junior Adam Liebers, sophomore Shawn Allen and seventh-grader Michael Mullarkey comprise the Panthers squad.
“We have a small team but they are all very hard workers and great kids,” first-year coach Rebecca Newkirk said. “We are looking forward to an excellent season with many personal bests.”
The Canajoharie-Fort Plain boys have shown they have improved from last year, claiming the team title at the 40th Annual Fort Plain Cross Country Invitational last Saturday.
A veteran Hilltoppers squad that features seven seniors — Andrew Yacobucci, Mike Hoffman, Louis Calbet, Jason Huang, Sean Staples, A.J.Sullivan and Hunter Congdon — along with returning junior Mike D’Arcangelis and sophomores Eric Elliot and Trevor Howard, provides plenty of competition amongst the team to push each other during the season.
“We are hoping that our experience with the addition of the newcomers will hopefully give us some solid quality and depth,” veteran coach Charlie Karker said.
The Lady Hilltoppers lost five runners to graduation from a squad that went 11-1 in dual meet competition last year and won the Class C sectionals while finishing sixth in the combined C-CC standings.
Jordan Porter led the Fort Plain girls at the sectional meet returns for her senior season along with juniors Eliza Cechnicki and Emily Marsh and sophomores Michaela Stockwell and Hannah Robinson.
“We need to try to replace two spots in our top five and hopefully the youngsters can do that,” Karker said.
The Fonda-Fultonville boys and girls squads have a good balance of experienced and newcomers this season.
Aidan Zenzen, Anthony Gatto and Anthony Carcaci return for the Braves, who finished second in the team standings last year in their return to the WAC championships.
The Lady Braves will be paced by veterans Mariah VanAvery, Katie Dunham, Alyson Shirley and Hailie LaPratt.
“Both the girls and boys squads have a great mix of newcomer and experienced runners,” coach Mike Benton said. “it should be a fun season.”
In their second season of competition, the Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville Wolfpack is in a rebuilding season.
“This is the second year for the team, however, we only have one returner from last season as nearly the entire team were seniors last year,” coach Matthew Battisti said. “The introduction of modified cross-country this fall and the merger with Fort Plain for track and field in the spring has created excitement for running sports in OESJ. We intend to use that excitement and momentum, coupled with last year’s successes to continue to build our program.”
Jazmin Mumford is the lone returner for OESJ. Madison Richardson, Armand Root, Chris Mayton, Skyler Barker, Deegan Eggleston and Braiden Fredericks join the Wolfpack this season.
The Galway Golden Eagles are looking to move up in the WAC standings for both the boys and girls squads. The girls placed fifth at the WAC championships, while the boys were sixth.
The Geoff Maliszewski-coached Golden Eagles will be looking for junior Ryan Ingle to lead the squad along with seniors Brandan White, Tim Oliver, Philip Marchese and Ben Lefreniere and sophomore Holden Decker.
Natalie Zempsch will lead a strong group of returning runners on the girls squad. The two-time WAC all-star is joined by Siela Zepsch, Ashlyn O’Neil, Lindsey Gileski, Ella Decker, April Carlson and Vanessa Colangelo.
“The girls could contend for the WAC title if Ashlyn O’Neil can get healthy,” Maliszewski said. “The boys could also contend. We are deeper and in better shape than we have been in a very long time.”