A wet, muddy course made it a Saturday to get down and dirty at the 31st annual Western New York Track and Cross Country Officials Meet at Beaver Island State Park.
And no team did that better than the Hamburg boys, who won the large school team event, led by seven runners covering 3 miles in a combined 89:51.4. An early-morning rain and lightning storm on Grand Island almost forced race officials to cancel the event, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., but the storm passed by 9:30.
The downpour left the course a quagmire in spots and kept times conservative. That wasn't enough to stop the Bulldogs, who proved something they already knew -- they have plenty of depth.
Hamburg had two boys finish in the top 10 as Kyle Pawlaczyk was second in 16:50.1 and John Claus was ninth in 17:47.2. "It felt like it was a good start for the team," said Pawlaczyk. "We're in a good spot right now."
Orchard Park junior Peter Meindl was the large school individual medalist, finishing in 16:04.5, a blazing time, based on the conditions. His effort earned him the Richard Marsh Award for the fastest time of the day among boys. Meindl declined comment on his performance.
Winning the Robert Murray Award for the fastest girls' time was Angie Kudla of Starpoint, who ran a 19:29.8. Kudla was being chased most of the race by Nardin's Aileen Hoak, but she ended up winning by a 56-second margin.
"I knew if I didn't pick it up, she would probably catch me," said Kudla, who is coming off last weekend's win at Franklinville. "It was really muddy and I was slipping and stuff. I trained really hard this summer and it's paying off."
The design of the course was changed this year, making it 90 percent trails and grass. The course included several loops, including one which took advantage of a cross country ski trail.
Among the small schools, Albion swept the individual honors, with senior John Flor winning the boys race in 17:09.1, and junior Lindon Wilcox crossing first for girls in 20:43.5. Flor took the lead for good after the first loop and pulled away from his closest challenger in the last 400.
"I liked the conditions," Flor said. "I really don't like to run in hot weather, but there was quite a bit of mud, and the turns were slippery."
It was the second win of the season for Wilcox, who was the medalist at York on Sept. 9.
With conditions taking their toll on individuals times, the race became a showcase for the area's top teams. Starpoint won the small school boys in 90:01.4. The large school girls title went to Lockport, and Nardin was tops among small school girls.
The meet, originally known at the Buffalo State Invitational, and later The Evening Optimist, was started by Murray and later carried on by Marsh. Both are former Buffalo State cross country and track coaches.