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For all those parents who tease their kids about how tough they had it when they were in school, here's a little ammunition for the cross country athletes from Hamburg.

The Hamburg cross country team runs six miles a day -- and that's just on the way to practice.

Coach Jim Owen said it isn't unusual for some of his more experienced runners to make the 6-mile jaunt from the school on Legion Drive to their home course at Chestnut Ridge Park, where the team then begins a two-hour practice. Occasionally, some of the athletes will run home.

All the road work isn't the result of Owen making unreasonable demands. "These kids just love to run," said Owen, the Bulldogs' coach since 1968. "These kids just go the extra mile. I don't have to jump up and down and scream. They know what they have to do."

Hamburg hasn't won an ECIC title since 1964, but the drought could end this fall. The Bulldogs return their top seven runners from a team that placed third in ECIC I last year and third in the Section VI Class AA meet. Adding to the optimism is Hamburg's ECIC I title in track and field last spring.

Senior Kyle Pawlaczyk, a standout since his freshman season, holds the course record at Chestnut Ridge (14 minutes, 34 seconds for 2.95 miles). This summer he earned a bronze in the 5,000 meters at the Empire State Games.

Seniors Jon Claus, Matt Russo and Matt Rodems will place high in their share of races. Freshman Jeffery Shevlin, sophomore James Evans, and sophomore Kevin Smith give the Bulldogs an element most teams lack -- depth.

A title would be nice, but Owen said he measures success differently. "Cross country teaches you a lot about finishing," he said. "I give credit to kids who start and finish. To me, they're a winner. It's nice to look at records, but victory is won by kids coming out and participating. If they run the same time or better, that's all I expect."

Here's a look at some of the other top cross country teams in Western New York:

Kenmore West has been undefeated in the Niagara Frontier League the past two seasons (36-0). The Blue Devils may have graduated five of their top seven runners, but there is an abundance of talent to choose from the JV program, which has been undefeated since 1995. Returning is the No. 2 runner, senior Jack McGrath, who had a 16:21 as his top 5K time last year. This will be McGrath's season to shine after running in the shadow of five-time NFL champion Brandon Cameron. Senior Justin Rogers had a breakthrough track and field season, running a mile in the 4:30s. Junior Mike Wiese has earned four varsity letters since seventh grade, and will figure heavily into this season's scoring. Former Kenmore West runner Tom Sylves takes over the coaching reins after longtime coach Mike Indian retired after 32 years of teaching and 30 years of coaching.

Runners to watch in the ECIC are: defending Section VI Class C champion Art Jozwiak and his teammate Ryan Szymanski from JFK, Peter Meindl (Orchard Park), Dan Magnuszewski (Sweet Home), Bob Haefner, Chris Swift and Steve Palmer from Frontier, Matt Murphy (Lake Shore), Chris Boaz (West Seneca West) and Dan Fields (East Aurora). Alden has its top five runners back, including Brian Kohl.

Starpoint, with Matt White, Marc Gschwend, Geoff Heitzenrater and Chris Kudla, is the team to beat in the Niagara-Orleans League. John Floe and Nate Saunders of Albion, Adam Tyson from Royalton-Hartland and Bob Neidlinger from Newfane will also be in the running.

In CCAA I, defending Class C champion Allegany-Limestone will try to hold off a stiff challenge from Olean.

In CCAA II, Maple Grove's Jesse Rappole returns after a year of studying abroad. Rappole won the Section VI Class C title two years ago. Frewsburg, with Trevor Cable and Aaron Darr, will make it a close race along with Sherman and Silver Creek.

City Honors looks to repeat in the Columbia Cup with Josh Belleville, Greg Zornick and Ben Cady. Mike Tabone of Lafayette hopes to defend his individual title.

Sister acts highlight ECIC competition

Defending ECIC I champion Clarence boasts all-state honorable mention Jill Folckemer, Kate Kohout and Sarah Nichter. Three pairs of sisters should lead their teams: Laura and Karen Kozub from Alden, Emily and Laura Nye from Hamburg and Tiffany and Tarynn Knarr from Iroquois.

Individuals who should contend for honors are: Melissa Terwilliger at Frontier, Lauren Truesdell at Williamsville South, Jenny Koeppel at Amherst, eighth-grader Mary Veith from Lake Shore and Molly Clauss and Hanna Duane from East Aurora.

In the Niagara Frontier League, Grand Island runners Danielle Podlucky and Elly Henderson look to take the league title from Lockport. Jennifer Bakula and Diane Field at North Tonawanda and Nicole Bonadonna from Lockport all have breakaway speed.

The Niagara-Orleans League should once again be led by defending league and Section VI Class B champion Starpoint with third team all-stater Angela Kudla, Andrea Cappello, Kelly Pimm and Colleen Grell. Lacey Watkins looks to break 21 minutes for Newfane. The defending Class D champion is Barker.

Defending Class C champion and third team all-stater Tammy Putt returns for CCAA I champion Allegany-Limestone along with Kristyn Fluent and freshman Lisa Haskins.

Silver Creek appears ready to defend CCAA II. Other top individuals to watch are: Class D champion Danielle Green (Randolph), Kate Poda (Jamestown), Tori Kuzara (Dunkirk), Megan Damcott (Sherman), Melissa Betz (Silver Creek) and Rachel Conti (Fredonia).

In the City of Buffalo, City Honors is ready to claim a 12th consecutive title with Ann Zagara leading the way.

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