I wrote a story about this season's proliferation of eighth-graders succeeding in girls cross country for today's Scholastic Spotlight.
Here are some additional notes on the eighth-graders as well as notes on all sorts of cross country topics:
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Among the top 18 at the 15-team Bemus Point Invitational were more eighth graders (five) than seniors (four).
Caroline Benson of Maple Grove won the race, while two other fellow eighth-graders were teammates … Emma Verdonik (fifth) and Abby Sirwatka (18th). Falconer's Kirsten Holmberg was third and Fredonia's Micaela Tramuta was 11th.
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Kiki Dy is an accomplished swimmer who came to the Newfane program from field hockey, while Sarah Ziemba and twins Kelly and Kate Bocknewetch all excelled in modified track and cross country last year.
Dy "fell into our lap," said Newfane coach Mike Heitzenrater. "Because of the way our league is run in swimming, with the girls competing in the winter, she could never qualify for states. So she said, "I want to do cross country and get to the states.' "
The youngsters have meshed well with senior Bethany Dewey and juniors Erin Hannah and Amy Lanighan.
It may have helped that Newfane had a significant amount of spots to fill in its lineup after graduating much of its team last year.
"It's been great," said Heitzenrater, who has had two Niagara-Orleans championship teams in his eight years of coaching. "There's been bonding and a lot of fun. I've been coaching eight years and this is probably the hardest working group I've had. A thing that is great is that the older girls have been receptive, taken the younger girls under their wings and helped them out. The older girls are leading, and the younger girls are pushing the older ones."
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Here's the scoop on the East Aurora boys and girls, who are both ranked first among local small schools:
The teams seem to just get larger and larger. EA has 35 girls and 48 boys on their roster, many of whom did significant work over the summer. It is plain fact to say that EA's junior varsity team could beat many varsity teams.
Senior captain Catherine Phillips is coming off a record-setting win at West Seneca, where eighth-grader Marta McLaughlin was second. The top-ranked Class B team in the state is bolstered by juniors Megan Hulton, Sarah Mars and Abbi Boss and sophomores Sarah Anstett and Paige Anderson.
On the boys side, EA is led by juniors Kevin O'Connor and Alex Weberg, senior captain Tom Nue and freshman Sean Phillips, with the rest of the deep group headed up by juniors Dan Egan and Luke Wolfling and sophomore Vac Vasbinder.
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And while the youngsters on the girls side should be interesting to watch, there are a ton of upperclassmen they'll be tangling with.
Here's a compete list of returning All-Western New York cross country selections, based on the underclassmen who made the team last year.
First team: Savantuay Boyette-12 (Jamestown), Drew Perrilli-12 (Lockport), Taylor Yerrick-12 (Clarence).
Second team: Zach Ahart-12 (Starpoint), Cliff Nielson-12 (Gowanda), Lee Swaydis-12 (Frontier), Eric Willis-12 (Clarence).
Honorable mention: Alex Weberg-10 (East Aurora), Brendan Gregg-12 (West Sen. West), Kevin Brown-10 (Gowanda), Kevin Hanes-11 (Wilson), Nick Masiello-11 (Grand Island), Nick Orlowski-11 (Alden), Vince Donner-12 (Roy-Hart)
First team: Brenna Symoniak-12 (Amherst) (Runner of the year), Megan Hulton-11 (East Aurora), Catherine Phillips-12 (East Aurora), Katie Niblock-12 (Sweet Home), Jamie Wallace-12 (Alden).
Second team: Mikella Cala-11 (Lake Shore), Chelsea Needham-11 (West Sen. West), Marta McLaughlin-8 (East Aurora), Shannon Murphy-10 (Falconer), Maritina Tsembelis-12 (Grand Island), Kim Vona-12 (Lake Shore).
Honorable mention: Alissa Conti-12 (Fredonia), Rebecca Love-11 (Frontier), Victoria Luongo-11 (West Sen. West), Sarah Mars-11 (East Aurora), Hannah Moffett-12 (Albion), Katie Saff-10 (Falconer), Alexandra Zielinski-11 (West Sen. East).
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Clarence looks to be in good position to reclaim the top spot in Class AA this year after Lockport edged the Red Devils, 70-75, in last year's sectional meet. The Red Devils had won two straight titles before that. Taylor Yerrick and Eric Willis are back on a squad that lost just two of its top seven to graduation.
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West Seneca West moves down to Class A this year after its girls team won three consecutive Section VI Class AA titles and four consecutive ECIC I championships.
If the Indians' success is to continue this season, they'll do it without any seniors. None of their 23 runners are seniors.
Leading the way are junior co-captains Mary Janak and Chelsea Needham, both of whom have major event experience. Junior Michelle McLaughlin and freshman Megan Weinreber -- who was last season's Section VI eighth-grade Runner of the Year -- are both back from last year's title team. Up to varsity after strong JV seasons are sophomores Victoria Szrama and Jennifer Wachala as well as junior Ashley Gerwitz.
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On the boys side at West Seneca West, the Indians will likely field their most competitive team in a decade. Senior co-captains Anthony George and Brendan Gregg lead the team along with junior Robert Battista and freshman James Tobias.
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Across town at West Seneca East, the top names are junior Alexandra Zielinski and senior Kyle Pilecki, both of whom made the state meet last year.
Other top girls are freshman Rebecca Schmitt (ninth at JFK Invitational) and eighth-grader Morgan Lorenz (13th at West Seneca). Senior Matthew Skrzypczyk and freshman Bayley Zubler will boster the boys team.
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For the Monsignor Martin Association boys race, Canisius has a new top seven after having three runners earn All-WNY honors last year as the Crusaders won their fourth straight league title and sixth in the previous seven seasons.
St. Joe's has the edge over Canisius currently in the large school poll. Sophomore Quin O'Connor transfered to St. Joe's from Batavia Notre Dame to join senior Chuck Mule and juniors Dan Courtney and Joe Schnitter.
St. Francis may be heard from thanks to returners Sean Redfield and Anthony Pivaranus.
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On the girls side, Nardin is ranked sixth among large schools and has won the last two Catholic titles. The Gators' Kitty Mahoney won the All-Catholic race as a freshman last year.
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October 15 is THE day to circle on the calendar for Buffalo Public Schools. That's the day that the Columbia Cup titles will be determined -- Hutch-Tech, City Honors and daVinci all meet in the boys and girls meets, with a good Olmstead team part of the girls meet.
Hutch-Tech is the three-time defending champion as well as the winner of last year's Class A title. In coach Dave Sardo's six seasons, the Engineers have lost one dual meet and no All High meets. Tech will compete at the Western New York Officials meet on Grand Island, as well as the events at McQuaid, Alden and Canisius.
While Hutch-Tech graduated four seniors, it returns senior Billy Serediuk, who is the only returning first-team All High pick. Also back for Tech is senior Donte Ettipio and junior Arturo Salas.
City Honors could challenge behind junior Charlie Wingfelder and freshman Seamus Degan while Marcus Anderson and Rodney Fletcher lead coach Ken Hans' da Vinci team, which was the last to knock off Hutch-Tech four years ago.
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If the City Honors boys aim to repeat, the pack will be toughened up by Williamsville North and West Seneca West dropping down to the A Class.
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The girls' Columbia Cup reigning power is City Honors, which has won three straight titles and returns All High first teamers Shannon McDonnell, a senior who won the league title last year, and junior Sarah Miller.
Da Vinci returns senior Heather Viscuso and junior Janelle Mitri while senior Toni Davis is back for Hutch-Tech, which is bolstered by newcomer Anchelle Berrios.
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Barker, which returns sophomore Tyler Scheving, is the team leading the pack in the Niagara-Orleans League with Newfane, Roy-Hart, Albion and Wilson trading elbows for second. Wilson's top returning runner is junior Kevin Hanes, who has been to the state meet the last three seasons.
Wilson's top female is two-time All-League first teamer Amber Lehman.
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Fredonia and Gowanda are second and third, respectively, behind East Aurora in the small school poll and could be headed for a showdown in the Class C race down the road at sectionals.
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Senior Liz Budzinski had a nice debut for Depew cross country after coming over from soccer … she won the Maryvale Invitational on Sept. 15. For the Wildcat boys, seniors Nate Godson and Jake Maryniewski and junior Ryan Koch are back.
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The Cleveland Hill girls team will send a contingent to the McQuaid Invitational for the first time. Fifth-year runner senior Karen McMahon is joined by classmate Jessica Hollister as well as eighth-graders Vanja Pavlovic and Kayla Davis.