2015 team champions: Section VI -- Clarence, Class A; Pioneer/Holland, Class B; East Aurora, Class C; Maple Grove, Class D. Monsignor Martin -- Immaculata.
2015 individual champions: Section VI -- Katrina Patterson, Clarence (Class A); Sam Peterman, Sweet Home (Class B); Sophia Tasselmyer, East Aurora (Class C); Hope Pietrocarlo, Maple Grove (Class D); Monsignor Martin -- Rachel Luczak, Immaculata.
2015 All-WNY first-team underclassmen: Molly McLaughlin, East Aurora; Patterson, Clarence; Peterman, Sweet Home; Maisy Webster, East Aurora; Naomi Wistner, Williamsville North.
Still good: East Aurora won the state championship last season, and the Blue Devils have plenty of talent coming back. They did lose the area’s runner of the year, Sophia Tasselmyer, as well as Fiona Danieu, but McLaughlin, Webster and Tori Klimowicz are back. The jump to Class B shouldn’t bother them. Newfane is ranked second in the state and is the favorite in Niagara-Orleans.
Loading up: Pietrocarlo has left, but don’t shed any tears for Maple Grove. The Red Dragons figure to be good again this year, and the next year, and the next year. Four Maple Grove runners return from the first team of CCAA Small Schools, and there are no seniors in the group. Grace Auer is a junior, Bryn Mozzi is a sophomore, Riley Caskey is a freshman and Carling Lockwood is an eighth-grader. Second-teamer Kristin Keleman is in 10th grade.
Speaking of youth: The story is the same among Buffalo schools. Brittany Higgs of Olmsted was the lone senior on the all-star team. That makes Emily Booth of Hutch-Tech the veteran of the group, as she was the only junior on the squad in 2015. Hannah Murphy (10th grade) is back for City Honors. Three second-teamers from Olmsted haven’t reached 11th grade yet.
Running in different colors: Two runners who were Buffalo Public Schools first-team all-stars have transferred: Morgan Lewis (11th grade) is attending Hamburg and Ella Dileo (ninth grade) is attending Nardin.
Short season: It is striking that the cross-country season only lasts a little more than a couple of months. In fact, summer recess is about that long. However, most area coaches give their runners a workout program to follow through the summer. Team captains often organize workouts for the team. In addition, many of the runners take part in indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring, so running is a year-round avocation for them.
What’s new: Immaculata Academy, which won the 2015 Monsignor Martin title, has closed its doors. One of the ripple effects is that coach Charlie Planz has moved to St. Mary’s of Lancaster. That might open the door for Buffalo Seminary to take charge, with two All-Catholic runners returning in Zoe Knauss and Sam Burlow. Nardin could be a factor as well.
Save the date: McQuaid Invitational on Oct. 1.
Championship Time: Section VI championships on Nov. 4 at Beaver Island State Park in Grand Island; All-Catholic championships on Nov. 6 at Knox Farms; state championships at Chenango Valley State Park on Nov. 12; Federation Championships on Nov. 19 at Bowdoin State Park in Wappingers Falls.
Prep Talk Player of the Year: Peterman has received national attention for her running while coping with Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS), which causes her to pass out at the end of runs. She was named the top junior last year, so she has to be considered the favorite. But it’s a big year for returning underclassmen. Only two of the seven All-WNY first-team picks have graduated, and there are also five returning runners from the second team. That makes it wide open, although McLaughlin was the region’s top sophomore last year and figures to be Peterman’s top challenger.