Today's Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association (CCAA) boys cross country race at Long Point State Park has the making of being one of the most competitive county championship races in recent memory. With multiple teams packed together in the regular-season standings, it literally could be anybody's race.
"The boys teams are very interesting because there are about seven teams that have very competitive programs this year," Silver Creek coach Mike Janisch said. "In essence, the team that shows up (today) has an excellent chance to do something."
"The boys this season have been the most competitive in recent years," Fredonia coach Carol Zirkle said. "A lot of teams have run very close races, so it's going to very competitive. I'd say going in that Southwestern is probably the favorite, but (the rest of the teams) have all been very competitive this year."
Dunkirk, who finished right behind Southwestern in the league standings, has a chance to knock off the Trojans and capture the league championship.
"My boys team is poised to take second place if not win the league, so it's going to be tight," Dunkirk coach Kurt Warmbrodt said. "It's just a matter of how people run and how they feel."
The seven teams Janisch is referring to are, Southwestern (11-1), Dunkirk (10-2), Sherman (9-3), Maple Grove (9-3), Silver Creek (8-4), Fredonia (8-4) and Gowanda (8-4).
Maple Grove's Corey Wefing comes in as the hands-down favorite in the boy's race. Wefing is the defending CCAA champion and he has had another excellent season this year by winning the Queensbury Invitational Varsity Division 1 race in 16:01.76, as well as finishing first in the McQuaid Invitational unseeded varsity A-2 race in 16:17.
Wefing is the individual favorite, but Janisch believes the winning team will be the one that can pack in as many runners as possible behind the leaders.
"It's not going to be won by the front runners, it's going to won by the third, fourth and fifth runners on each team," Janisch said.
Battling for position behind Wefing will be Javier Soto (Dunkirk), Matt Kruszka (Gowanda), Owen Barber (Allegany-Limestone), Jordan Powers (Southwestern), Josh and Dan O'Dell (Sherman-Clymer-Panama) and Ryan Hetrick (Southwestern).
Weather could play a factor in the race. Although course conditions have remained favorable throughout the week, today's forecast calls for temperatures around 40 degrees with a rain/snow mix.
"The weather is going to be unfavorable," Zirkle said. "I expect the course to be muddy and I expect it to be cold and wet conditions, but the thing is that every kid runs on the same course so you just have to go out and persevere and run the best race you can in those conditions."
"Long Point is a very competitive course and is one that is a rustic style course because it's not spectator friendly in most areas," Janisch said. "I haven't heard anything in the last day or so, but the conditions at the beginning of the week looked like it would be a little soft. There is a lot of hardpan up there so it should be in pretty decent shape if the snow doesn't hit us."
In the girl's race, it is another Maple Grove runner favored to win.
Sophomore Hope Pietrocarlo has been dominant all season and has helped her team to a 12-0 record and a No. 2 ranking in the state. Trailing Maple Grove in the girls standings is Gowanda (11-1); Sherman-Clymer-Panama (9-3); Fredonia (9-3); Silver Creek (9-3); Jamestown (7-5); and Allegany-Limestone (6-6).
Right behind Pietrocarlo is a host of other girls expected to finish near the top. These runners include Fredonia's Michaela Tramuta, Gowanda's Colleen Steward, Silver Creek freshman Emma Seiders, Maple Grove's Caroline Benson and Taylor Norris and Holly Eliason of Sherman-Clymer-Panama.
The league championship will be decided in today's race, but in many ways this meet will serve as a measuring stick going into next Friday's Sectional race. Sectionals will also be held at Long Island State Park so today's race should provide the coaches and runners with a good idea of what to expect next week.
"We're hoping to see where we are going to be stacking up for the Sectional race next week," Janisch said. "It's not going to be a preparatory race but it's going to be one where we scout out the competition and see where we are and what we might want to talk to the kids about for their run there next week."
"(Today) is really important to us, but we're almost looking past tomorrow to next Friday," Warmbrodt said. "The Sectional meet, who goes to states, that's really what the whole year is about."