Every runner knows there is no offseason. Running is a sport that doesn't change with the weather.
That is a lesson that the Williamsville North boys cross country team has taken to heart, and if the Spartans' first-place finishes in the first two meets are any indication, their year-round efforts could make a big impact on their season.
Williamsville North jumped to Class AA this season, but its top seven runners returned and many gained some momentum by attending the Aim High Running Camp this summer in Brantingham, about 40 miles north of Utica.
"These boys have a real shot this year," said coach Greg Stang. "A lot of their success this season will come from that camp. The increase in their skill and confidence is unbelievable. You just don't come off of 15 practices and expect to win the championship, and these kids went to the camp wanting to excel this season."
North won the large-school title at the Franklinville Invitational last weekend to go along with the Byron-Bergen Invitational crown it won on Sept. 10.
The Spartans, who finished second in Section VI's Class A behind Kenmore East last year, made the move to Class AA this year where heavy-hitting teams like Lockport, Frontier and Orchard Park reside.
"These kids are hungry," said Stang. "They want to put Williamsville North on the cross country map. They've never won a sectional title and with the way they've been practicing, if they keep injury-free, I really believe they can do it."
Senior captain Mike Dobmeier, an All-WNY first-teamer and a three-year veteran of the Aim High camp, believes too.
"We're looking really good this year, our top runners are all within 20 seconds of each other," said Dobmeier, who finished first at Byron-Bergen with a time of 16:40 and first at Franklinville in 16:06. "The team has trained hard, even during the offseason. There were seven of us who went to the camp, and everyone's times have improved dramatically. It's hard to believe they're the same guys from last year."
One Spartan who improved significantly by offseason training is Jon Adler, who has dropped two minutes off his time.
"I feel like I'm running the best in my life right now, I've got so much more confidence," said Adler. "The camp definitely has helped our team. We got a lot of advice and tips from Olympic runners there. I feel that we have a great shot at going to states this year."
Despite such optimism, Williamsville North still faces a challenge in Lockport, the defending division AA champ and the preseason favorite.
"We will meet Lockport at the McQuaid Invitational (Oct. 1), and, I won't lie, it's gonna be a showdown," said Stang. "I've been coaching for 30 years though. I know this team, and their dedication and the time they've put in all year. The potential is all there."
> Around the boys course
Though widely considered the team to beat in Class AA, Lockport has a few hurdles to overcome. The Lions are returning All-WNY runner John Haenle, but other All-WNYers from last year, Patrick Russell and Lyle Tolli, are recovering from injuries and may be sidelined early.
Frontier, which graduated six of its top seven runners, is a young team led by junior Josh Zubler. Another team with heavy losses from last year is Orchard Park, but juniors Scott Mang and Denis Hurley will be stepping up. Andy Pfeiffer, who was All-WNY as a sophomore last year, will be a force for Clarence, which has a young but large team. Another All-WNYer, Josh Durkin, will be a leader for Lancaster. New to Class AA is West Seneca West, which will be led by senior Tim Bradley.
In Class A, Kenmore East will be fielding a competitive team with seniors Charlie Higgins, Jason Mazurowski and Dave Fleischmann and junior Dan Snitzer.
East Aurora, led by Ryan O'Connor and Eric Hill, will again be the team to beat in Class B. Also contending will be Fredonia, which brings back a deep team with leader Matt Metzger, and Alden.
Wilson, the 2004 Class C champ, will be strong again with six of seven starters back, including junior Tom Reubens and sophomore Donald Truesdell. Southwestern will be a force with Ryan O'Connor, and JFK comes back a small, young team compared to other years with veteran Jody Cendrowski as the front-runner.
In the Monsignor Martin Association, defending All-Catholic champion St. Joe's will be strong again with seniors Josh Schnitter and Steve Walter.
In the Buffalo Public Schools, Hutch-Tech is the favorite led by senior Leanders Taylor. daVinci returns five of its top seven. Junior Marcellus Robinson, eighth in the league last year, is looking strong after training all summer. Cooper Roussel and John Flaherty will bear watching at City Honors.
> Around the girls course
Topping the preseason polls this year is Orchard Park, the four-time defending AA champs. After losing three of its top five from last year, OP needs some time to develop, but still in contention are strong runners Jessica Nowak -- All-WNY last year -- and Christine Sprehe. Clarence, second at sectionals last year, returns senior Becca Nungesser, a runner-up at sectionals, and senior Gina Adornetto, who was sectional champion as a freshman.
Lockport, the seven-time Niagara Frontier League champion, has a deep team that will likely be led by seniors Kristine Beringer and Kathleen Granchelli. Sisters Kailey and Emily Sullivan will help out on a good West Seneca West team, and Jamestown will be helped by senior All-WNYer Kailey Harvey.
Defending class A champ Lake Shore has sisters Sarah and Anne Veith to lead the squad, and Sarah Kosloski will be an asset for Kenmore East.
East Aurora again looks like the team to beat in Class B after finishing in the top three spots at the Byron-Bergen Invitational. Runners to watch on the Blue Devils are Sarah Mosser, an All-WNYer from last year, Marla Kelly and Catherin Lusardi.
In Class C, Wilson returns all seven starters and will be led by Macki Snyder, a runner-up at sectionals last year. Senior Fawn Dorr and sophomore Casey Neill will be forces on an Akron team returning six of its top seven runners.
Class D's Randolph has only three returnees, but fields a large team under the leadership of sisters Christine and Stephanie Dilallo.
Last year's Monsignor Martin Association girls division champ, Nardin, may not be as strong initially but has potential in returnees Katie Pietrak, a first-time all-Catholic last year, and sophomore Jill Shea, a third-team all-Catholic. New to cross country is junior Maura Fraeunhofer, the all-Catholic 3,000-meter champ.
For the Buffalo Public School girls, da-Vinci is the league favorite with four of its top seven back, including senior Lauren Rainey. Hutch-Tech should be a strong contender with the 2004 league champion, Daisy Peoples, very close to breaking the city's record.