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Phillips breaks course record

A dry course and perfect weather conditions were too much to resist for Catherine Phillips.

The East Aurora senior made the most of her surroundings, breaking the girls course record Saturday at the 15th West Seneca Cross Country Invitational at Fireman's Park in West Seneca.

Phillips took the lead for good with 1 1/2 loops of the park remaining to win the small school girls race. She finished the 5K course in a blazing 18:16.47, shattering the previous course record of 18:25.60 held since 2007 by Amanda Solly of West Seneca East.

"I came into the season in pretty decent shape and we've been training really well, so I was going out there to see what I could do," she said.

What she did was unseat defending champion Brenna Symoniak of Amherst, who placed third. Symoniak said she was slowed after tweaking her ankle and it was too early in the season to push hard.

The boys course record also fell as sophomore Nate Kozyra of Rush-Henrietta went 16:25.67 to break the mark of 16:29.9 held by Scott Longwell of Pittsford-Sutherland since 2007.

The Invitational drew 355 runners from 57 teams for the four varsity races.

Phillips' run highlighted a big day for the Blue Devils' boys and girls. The girls ran away with the small school title as all seven runners finished among the top 11. The boys took first with four runners in the top seven.

Senior Maritina Tsembelis of Grand Island won the large school girls race, equaling what her brother Evan (now at Columbia University) had done in this event last year. Making the win even more special was she edged out defending champion Katie Niblock of Sweet Home, who had won her share of races at Tsembelis' expense.

"Last year I had a lot of trouble racing. I was a lot better at training," said Tsembelis. "I think this year I've learned how to race. I learned you have to focus on yourself. You can't pay attention to other people. I think that affected my training and subsequently the races."

West Seneca West, led by the fourth-place finish of Chelsea Needhan, finished second to Rush-Henrietta for the large school girls team title.

Junior Nick Orlowski of Alden won the small school boys race in 16:34.6 while a battle raged just behind him for second place. Chad Maloy of Springville grabbed second in 16:42.59 while Kevin O'Connor of East Aurora was close behind at 16:42.79.

St. Joe's finished second behind Rush-Henrietta for the large school boys crown. Quin O'Connor of the Marauders was the top local finisher, coming in third in 16:34.55.

e-mail: mmonnin@buffnews.com

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