Leading off today:
Given the unseasonably warm weather throughout the latter half of September, Saturday's McQuaid Invitational on a fast and flat three-mile layout in Rochester had the potential to be a sausage grinder of a cross country meet.
Fortunately, temperatures dropped in the days leading up to the meet and race-day conditions gave runners a chance to run at full speed with fewer consequences. The results were some blazing times.
Shenendehowa, the state's second-ranked large school, fought off No. 3 Liverpool by a 44-58 margin in the girls seeded Varsity AAA competition, East Aurora captured the Varsity AA title and Maple Grove coasted to Varsity A honors.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake was the top team story of the day in boys races. The Spartans, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class B, won the seeded Varsity AAA championship over a field that included Class A No. 5 Corning, No. 6 Ithaca and No. 8 Fairport. Xavier made its journey from New York City worthwhile by winning the Varsity AA trophy, and Elk County Catholic from Pennsylvania won the Varsity A race.
To put the depth of some of the fields in perspective, Ian Russ (East Aurora) and reigning NYSPHSAA Class B champ Nathan Lawler (Pittsford Mendon) ran in 14:46.7 and 14:52.1, respectively, to virtually match their times from a year ago but still slipped a notch on the podium as Thomas Witkowicz of Ontario (Can.) All Saints Catholic won in 14:33.9. Lawler, the recent Syracuse University commit fighting off a late-week illness, became the first competitor to post the meet's fastest Section 5 time of the day three times.
"Not the best race today, but it is what it is," he told the Democrat and Chronicle.
Michael Peppy of Maple Grove cut eight seconds off his fifth-place time of a year ago and took individual honors in the Varsity A race in 15:19.4 against a field with five of the top 15 finishers from a year ago competing.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, which was making the leap after winning Varsity AA in 2016 and coming off a dual win vs. Shenendehowa is searing heat Wednesday, placed juniors Tyler Berg (fourth, 14:57.2) and Evan Brennan (10th, 15:09.1) in the top 10 in its impressive victory.
"It was a great field with a lot of bigger schools, and we really ran well," coach Chip Button told The Daily Gazette.
Jenna Schulz (17.08.4) shaved more than 38 seconds off her fourth-place time of a year ago to lead Madison Neuner (17:21.2) a one-two Liverpool finish, but the Shen girls showed superior depth as Hannah Reale (17:32.6), Charlotte Hartman (17:4.8) and Olivia Lomascolo (17:50.3) took three of the next four positions in the big-school race.
Sophomore Faith Demars of Ballston Spa won the Varsity AA race in 17:38.7 over a pair of eighth-graders, Megan McLaughlin of East Aurora and Elizabeth Lucason of Camden. Tully freshman Brooke Rauber (16:52.4, fastest girls time of the day) won Varsity A over defending champ Hayleigh Palotti (17:39.0) of Livonia.
Palotti's win in 18:02.6 last year propelled her toward a NYSPHSAA Class C championship in November on the same day Rauber won Class D.