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Friday, Nov. 16, 2018: Federation cross country meet canceled due to weather

   Leading off today: I neglected to take note of who made the observation this morning on social media, but Mother Nature has taken the victory lap at a Federation cross country meet that will not be run this weekend.

   Citing the winter storm that hit much of New York but really belted many downstate communities, organizers have called off Saturday's scheduled Federation meet at Bowdoin Park in Dutchess County.

   "It has been determined that the course will not be a suitable championship course for athletes and spectators," the committee said in an announcement late Thursday. Clearing eight inches or more of snow from the starting line and much of the 3.1 miles of uneven terrain would have been challenging. Factor in parking for a couple thousand people and clearing spaces for viewing the race and the job would have been immense.

   It marks the first time the meet, which brings together competitors from the state's four major scholastic sports sanctioning bodies, has been canceled. The 1987 meet at Fayetteville-Manlius was famously shut down before its conclusion due to brutal conditions. (More on that later.)

   Moving the races to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx would have been a tough sell with the ECAC/IC4A championships already scheduled there for Saturday, and Sunday's forecast is calling for rain, snow and temperatures that might not make it out of the high 30s.

   Moving the Federation meet back a week would also be a no-go because regionals for Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker are already locked in for Nov. 24. In addition, some teams are already scheduled for the Staten Island championships slated for Tuesday at Clove Lakes Park.

   More schedule changes: The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced two schedule changes for Friday due to weather considerations.

   The start of the girls swimming and diving championships at Ithaca College was pushed back from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday's start time of 10:30 a.m. is not affected.

   Meanwhile, the Class D football semifinal at Middletown High School between Moriah and Haldane will be moved from Friday to Sunday at noon. Friday's Class A semifinal between Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Cornwall, scheduled to start at 8 p.m., is unaffected.

    • Thursday night's Suffolk Division IV championship football game between Shoreham-Wading River and Mount Sinai was pushed back to Friday at 4 p.m. at Stony Brook University because of the forecast.

   Stepping down: Rob Valenti has resigned as head football coach at Springville-Griffith Institute with a 7-21 record as coach in 2014 and the past two seasons.

   SGI was 0-10 this season.

   Valenti, 36, has four children under the age of 7 and commuted from Hamburg.

   "Ultimately it just comes down to the commitment of time it takes to do this and the sacrifice of family time that is a result of it," he said.

   He's not a fan: The current five classifications in many sports and a proposal to add a sixth class to some do not suit The Post-Star's Greg Brownell. He wants the NYSPHSAA to expand to 45 playoff classes.

   "If you want fairness, the 45-class system is the way to go," he wrote, tongue firmly in cheek. "All schools will be playing opponents almost exactly the same size as their own school. As a bonus, you can start the postseason in the sectional championship game. Maybe even the state quarterfinals.

   "(There may be instances where teams have to play sectional semifinals, which will be stigmatizing for the teams involved and lead to much complaining about the broken system that could force this extra game -- but let's gloss over that for the moment.)


   "Think of the benefits. Almost every student-athlete will have the excitement of playing in a sectional championship game, or beyond. There will be hundreds of sectional- and state-level games, and at $6-10 per ticket, that should be quite a boon for the organizers."

   A vote on going to six classes in sports with a large number of teams could come early next year. My read on the situation is that there probably is not enough support at this time to make it happen, and some of the support that does exist is rooted in the belief that there's money to be made for sections that have been noticing a decline in postseason attendance the past couple of years.

   In reality, though, several sections already have sub-classes in sectionals for some sports. Adding a new class could reduce the number of sub-classes with trophies at stake, arguably making the proposed expansion revenue-neutral. At the state level, facilities become an issue as an


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  • expansion in basketball would grow the championship weekend to an unwieldy 18 games. That probably requires adding a fourth day of competition or splitting games between two venues.

       Thankfully, Brownell has a solution:

       "Here's my idea: shut down the Northway from exit 18 to 19 and line it with temporary basketball courts to accommodate the 135 semifinals and finals. Thousands of student-athletes will play in the state tournament (the midnight games in the southbound lanes are always popular). And it's all good, because everyone gets a trophy."

       You can read the whole column here.

       More about 1987: From almost the moment that word began circulating last night that the Federation cross country meet was being canceled, people began recalling the nightmare that was the 1987 meet at Fayetteville-Manlius.

       People who were there will suggest we were lucky that no one died that day. If they're exaggerating, it's not by much. Runners were taken by stretcher to the school gym, where some shook so fiercely from the effects of hypothermia that they appeared to be having seizures.

       Only three of the four races -- boys and girls had team and individual races -- wound up being conducted that day as temperatures in the high teens and six inches of snow, at times driven by wicked winds, over- whelmed ambulance and fire department medical personnel with casualties.

       Dennis Webster of Clarence was coming off a second-place finish in Class B at the previous weekend's NYSPHSAA championships and remembers the Federation meet vividly.

       "Before the racing began, the meet officials made the announcement that they were waiving the uniform rules and runners could wear whatever they wanted to stay warm. Many runners were unprepared and still ran in singlets and shorts and the results were catastrophic," he recalled in a text message Friday. "After the first race the F-M gym was a sea of moaning and frostbitten runners.

       "After my race I recall being gathered around a locker room sink with a number of other runners nearly in tears trying to thaw out our hands even though I had warm, thin running gloves. ... The local EMS resources assigned to the meet surveyed the scene and declared they couldn't provide additional services if another race flooded them with more runners needing help. The meet was over at that point."

       By that point, the medics were treating as many as 50 runners simultaneously, with six shipped off to area hospitals to be treated for hypothermia or frostbite. One Tottenville girl remained hospitalized for two days with frostbite in both hands.

       Astonishingly, meet organizers intended to send competitors in the final scheduled race to the starting line until Manlius Fire Chief Paul Whorrall was called to the scene and demanded an end to the meet. The meet committee relented only after being advised that they faced insurance liability issues by ignoring the fire chief's order.

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