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In golf competitions, knowing the course can provide a huge competitive edge. Section VI cross country runners are hoping their knowledge of a local golf course will give them a muddy leg up against the best in the state.

The cross country state championships will be held at Elma Meadows Golf Course for the fifth time in 35 years. The Nov. 10 state meet will follow the Nov. 3 Section VI championships at Elma Meadows. The sectionals have been held on the 5-kilometer course at the county park every year since 1965, with the exceptions of 1971 (East Aurora's Emery Park) and '81 (Orchard Park's Chestnut Ridge Park).

Like golf, knowing the ups and downs, lefts and rights and terrain of a cross country course can give a runner an advantage.

"It helps because it gives you a little bit of knowledge about how to run the course," said Section VI boys Chairman Mike Janisch of Silver Creek, who is organizing the state meet with girls Chairman Chuck Yale of Eden. "Many kids have represented Section VI for a number of years, and when they get on the course they have that knowledge."

Last year, top runners from around the state -- including several local runners -- were able to participate in a midseason meet at SUNY's Utica Tech, which was also the site of the state championships.

"Runners from outside will get their race ideas a little bit later, although many people around the state have seen the course before," Janisch said. "It's exactly the same course that was used in '86 and '91."

"The kids are sure to want to show off and represent the section right here at home," said Yale. "The competition should be a little more even because we don't have as strong a class this year as we did last year. That leaves room for some other people to get their name known. If Mother Nature cooperates like she did all summer, there should be some great races leading up to the big one on Nov. 10."

Starpoint up and running

Starpoint has a talented team returning this year, but the Spartans were very close to not being able to compete at all.

The Starpoint school district had two budgets voted down before it approved an austerity budget that had limited provisions for athletics. Organization by the booster club and money out of parents' pockets are allowing the school to field teams.

"It was in doubt the whole way and still is a struggle," said Starpoint coach Brian Lasher, in his 14th year coaching the Spartans. "It definitely wears on the athletes and parents -- a couple of kids transferred out of the school. It's frustrating when that happens."

The cross country teams helped organize a 5K road race that raised an estimated $6,000 for the athletic department.

"We're certainly happy that it passed," Lasher said. "It would be a shame if athletes couldn't compete -- not only with how good they are but how hard they work. We're really going to appreciate this season now that we have it and make the most of it."

Starpoint has certainly done that in recent years. Both the boys and girls teams have won the Section VI Class B title four years in a row. The Starpoint boys ranked sixth in the state last year, while the girls finished 10th.

On the girls side, Starpoint welcomes back Class B all-state selections Angela Kudla, a senior who won the Class B title last year, and Andrea Cappello, a junior who finished third. Kudla owns the third-best time on the Elma Meadows course (18:36.8) while Cappello is seventh best at 18:51.4. Both times were achieved in last year's sectionals.

"It's great to have your state champion and third in state back for the girls team," said Lasher, who is also pleased with the progress of junior Kelly Timm, who recently finished a road race right behind Kudla. "I'm equally excited about the boys team -- it may be one of best teams we've had. We're very young, but we're potentially a contender in state."

Junior Matt White and senior Geoff Heitzenrater lead a Spartans squad that includes two freshmen and an eighth-grader.

Around the course

As the season gets into full swing Saturday at the WNY Officials meet at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island, leading the pack is senior Peter Meindl of Orchard Park, who has amassed a tremendous running resume.

Meindl went undefeated last year, recording the third-best all-time performance at Elma Meadows to win the Section VI Class A race in 15:56.9. He won the state Class A title and was the fifth-best underclassman at the Foot Locker Nationals in Orlando, Fla.

Other top runners include Alden's Karen Kozub, who was fourth in the girls Class C state meet and a first-team all-state pick, but the Bulldogs make the move from Class C to B this season. . . . Danielle Green of Randolph seeks her third straight Class D sectional crown. . . . Hamburg twins Laura and Emily Nye were both top-10 runners at the ECIC Class A race last year. . . . Don Sauer, who is the state track chairman, is the new coach at Grand Island, which will be led by Danielle Podlucky. . . . East Aurora has a new coach in Walt McLaughlin, who formerly coached at Section III (Syracuse area) Class D power Beaver River. Blue Devils Dan Fields and Molly Clauss got their seasons off to a great start by winning their respective races at the Byron-Bergen Invitational in Section V. . . . All-Catholic champ Paul Riley is back for his junior year at Canisius.

Other key meets this season include: at Rochester's McQuaid Sept. 28; the Southern Tier meet at Allegany-Limestone Oct. 6; at Alden Oct. 13; and at Clarence Oct. 20. The CCIAC meet is Oct. 26, while the ECIC, Niagara Frontier and Niagara-Orleans meets are all Oct. 27. The All-Catholic meet is Oct. 29 at Delaware Park. The state Federation meet, which includes runners from New York City and Catholic schools, is Nov. 17 at Bowdoin State Park in Poughkeepsie.

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