Believe it or not, East Aurora’s McLaughlin sisters don’t always get along.
You just wouldn’t be able to tell by watching the finish of their race at the Section VI cross country championships on Friday.
Senior Molly McLaughlin, the reigning champion in Class B, and eighth-grade sister Megan were neck-and-neck as they entered the final stretch of the course at Bemus Point Golf Club.
Scoring officials joked to watch closely for hand-fighting and any physicality, but there would be none of it.
Each sister’s competitive spirit wanted the win, yet neither wanted to leave the other behind. So Molly and Megan crossed the finish line side-by-side at the same speed they entered the chute.
“I know she has a good kick, so I’m just trying to stay with her and just try getting the best time possible,” Molly said. “Throughout the race, we really just tried to work together and just help each other get a better time. A few times I thought I might be holding her back, so I was like, “Come on, let’s go,” because we wanted to try to get the best time of the day.”
— Corey Desiderio (@cpdesi1) November 3, 2017
Technically speaking, Molly’s time of 18:49.05 edged out Megan’s time of 18:49.11. But in the eyes of father and coach Walt McLaughlin, they both deserve the title.
“In the last 800 (meters) anything can happen on any day, but they’ve definitely made each other better, and that’s really what it should be about,” Walt said. “Today, if someone beat the other one by a half-a-second difference, it’s no difference. It’s really a tie, and it’s a credit to both of them.”
“They show good leadership to their team by modeling that to their other sister (Maggie) that’s there, and as a team we come out and do the best we can do and you live with the results. I’m proud of the whole group. They showed up today and raced as a team.”
The Blue Devils continued their prowess on the Western New York cross country scene by repeating as boys and girls team champions, a feat the program has done more often than not during the past two decades.
East Aurora’s boys title was led by senior Ian Russ, who ran the fastest overall with a time of 15:48.75 in the Class B race. He finished second last year behind teammate Pat Murray and was pushed this year by Grand Island senior Ryan Buzby. Buzby’s 15:56.74 was the only other time that broke 16 minutes.
“Having somebody who’s that good is great to have in a race with me because it keeps me on the whole race,” Russ said. “I don’t ever settle because I know that I can’t, so it just keeps you in motion the whole time.”
Lockport freshman Sydney Nowicki won the Class A race in the best girls time of 18:38.13. Much like Russ, she finished second last season behind a teammate who graduated. It’ll be her third appearance at states.
Newfane senior Samuel Auernhamer competed at last year’s sectional championships in less-than-ideal circumstances. The then-junior had hopes of winning, but he woke up on July 5 after a road race the day before unable to walk. An MRI revealed he had a stress fracture in his foot.
Auernhamer came in 17th last year after months of rehabbing through swimming, lifting and eating right. He made up for the lost season on Friday with a first-place finish in Class C.
“Last year I was injured for all but two races, so this year I wanted to make up for what I lost last year,” Auernhamer said. “Not only physically, but mentally. It was just getting used to running again, running fast and with confidence, not worried about getting injured.”
The Panthers swept the boys and girls team titles in Class C, as did Maple Grove in Class D. Red Dragons senior Michael Peppy repeated as sectional champ. He finished third at states last season.
Fredonia sophomore Emily Brown (19:45.44) beat Newfane junior Kimberly Goerss by .4 seconds in the most intense finish of the meet.
“That last finish was a really good sum-up of how the whole race went because we started out really fast and I thought we were going to settle in and we never really did,” Brown said.
— Corey Desiderio (@cpdesi1) November 3, 2017
Orchard Park senior Cal Puskar won in Class A, a chance he didn’t have last year because the Quakers withdrew from competing.
“This season specifically is just a redemption season after last year, for sure,” Puskar said. “It was a pretty darn tough day. I was way more gassed than I feel like I should’ve been, but I still got the win and I’m pretty happy about that.”
Clymer/Sherman/Panama sophomore Kylee Odell won in Class D, followed by two Maple Grove runners and last year’s champ, Abby Gostomski of Cattaraugus/Little Valley.
Winning Class A titles were the Clarence boys, who edged out defending-champ Frontier by two points, and the West Seneca West girls, who placed all five scorers in the top 14.
Section VI will send 12 kids from each class to the NYSPHSAA Championships next Saturday at Section V’s Wayne High School. Seven will come from the team champion, and the other five will come from the top finishers from other schools.
Story topics: Abby Gostomski/ Cal Puskar/ Cattaraugus/Little/ Clarence/ Clymer/Sherman/Panama/ east aurora/ Emily Brown/ Fredonia/ grand island/ Kimberly Goerss/ Kylee Odell/ Lockport/ Maple Grove/ Megan McLaughlin/ Michael Peppy/ Molly McLaughlin/ Newfane/ Orchard Park/ Ryan Buzby/ Samuel Auernhamer/ Sydney Nowicki/ Walt McLaughlin/ West Seneca West