The Section VI Cross Country Championships are Friday, and few runners are looking forward to race day more than Frontier senior Mike Deren.
It's been a year since Deren lost the Class A race by a mere three-tenths of a second to Lancaster's Dan Giza (now at the University at Buffalo).
"Three-tenths is pretty harsh," said Deren. "You got to be like, 'If you let up for three-tenths, I'll finish second.' You have to push yourself through the middle of the race and get a little lead so it doesn't come down to the last three-tenths. You just have to work hard, be ready for anything and hope for the best."
The 58th annual race for boys and 29th annual for girls will be run over the 3.1-mile course at Elma Meadows Golf Course. The sectionals have gone from the traditional four classes to five this year.
The winning team of each race, along with the top five finishers not members of the winning team, advance to the New York State meet Nov. 13 at Chenango Valley State Park in Binghamton (Section IV).
"Coming in second I think puts me in the No. 1 spot," said Deren. "I have to try and fulfill that and come in first. With Mark Russell (of Lockport) and Andrew Pfeiffer (of Clarence), and really any guy from Lockport, it's going to be a pretty close race."
Close on Deren's heels will be the tight pack of runners from Lockport. Deren, a very fluid and aggressive runner, was able to tame the Lions earlier this year at the season-opening Western New York Officials Meet on Beaver Island. Deren ran his season best (16:17.5), followed by the Lockport foursome of Russell, Pat Russell, Brett Finnan and John Haenle.
Class AA: Look for Lockport to win its third sectional title in a row. The Lions are ranked No. 10 in the nation by Harrier Magazine and No. 3 in the Northeast, according to dyestat.com. They won the Officials Meet, the Clarence Invitational, the 38-team large school race at the Manhattan Invitational and were second at McQuaid behind nationally ranked Fayetteville-Manlius. . . . Frontier, ranked No. 18 in the state, also boasts Josh Zubler along with Deren.
Class A: Kenmore East, ranked No. 8 in the state, finished second to Lockport in Saturday's Niagara Frontier League meet, led by Joe Hughes. . . . Starpoint won Saturday's ECIC Division II race as senior Justin Weldon took medalist honors. The Spartans are ranked No. 13 in the state in Class A. . . . Williamsville North, with no seniors, is led by junior Mike Dobmeier, who was impressive at McQuaid in placing second in the Class AA unseeded race (15:45 for three miles).
Class B: East Aurora is deep, talented and ranked No. 9 in the state. The Blue Devils won Saturday's ECIC Division III team race but aren't taking anything for granted. After winning Class C in 2001 and Class B in 2002, they were surprised by Starpoint in last year's sectionals. . . . Newfane is coming off Saturday's win in the Niagara-Orleans League. The Panthers were unbeaten in their league and are led by N-O meet medalist Jason Fischer and senior John Sarratori.
Class C: JFK, ranked No. 9 in the state, looks to win this class for a third straight year. The Bears were runner-up to East Aurora at Saturday's ECICs. . . . Wilson looks for the upset, led by Dennis Pollow, last year's Class C race winner.
Class D: Barker, ranked No. 9 in the state, is a solid favorite to win the team title, but look for last year's runner-up, senior Josh Lange of Frewsburg, to hit the tape first. Another contender is junior Chris Lantinen of Barker, who ran his season best, 16:44, against Akron. Barker won the Pembroke Invitational on a tiebreaker over JFK. . . . Sherman is the two-time defending champ.
Class AA: Orchard Park, winner of the sectional Class A race the past three years, should four-peat. The Quakers won the ECIC Division I race Saturday. OP got a big boost in confidence by winning a 38-team race last month at the Manhattan Invitational in the Bronx.
"What's nice is our top four runners (Christine Sprehe, Patricia Rich, Alice Buskus and Erika Somogyi) have been pretty interchangeable this year," said coach Ted Washburn.
Lancaster's Shannon Crane should win her second sectional title, while teammates Julia Ruggiero and Genna Pfeiffer will put the Redskins in the hunt for the team title.
Class A: Mary Veith of Lake Shore gets the nod coming off Saturday's win in the ECIC Division II race. The Eagles finished 14-0 in ECIC II. . . . Ariel Janusziewicz of Amherst, last year's Class B race winner, will challenge along with Jessica Ortman (Williamsville South) and Mia Symoniak (Amherst).
Class B: Perhaps Newfane coach Tom Adams put it best when he said, "We're all looking up at East Aurora." The Blue Devils' top seven all have times within 1 minute, 30 seconds of each other. EA, ranked No. 2 in the state, has won Class B the last two years. Jamie Rzepecki, Sarah Mosser and Marla Kelley finished 1-2-4 at the ECICs.
Newfane, ranked No. 12 in the state, has won Class C the last two years but now finds itself contending with EA. Jenny O'Connor is the Panthers' top runner. . . . Olean went 2-4-5-6 in CCAA meet, led by Amber Sawaya.
Class C: This title has belonged to Akron's Fawn Dorr the past two years. She's positioned for a third title after winning Saturday's Niagara-Orleans League champion-ship. . . . Falconer, the top finishing Class C school in Saturday's CCAA race, has a solid core with Bliss Hotchkiss, Rosie Cooper and Jen Anderson.
Class D: Randolph, No. 6 in the state, is tough to keep pace with because its top five runners are within 50 seconds of each other. The Cardinals didn't have anyone place in the top 10 in their league meet but still placed second. Randolph, the defending Class D champion, is led by Danielle Howard and Christina DiLallo. Michelle Damcott of Sherman is the defending champ.