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Sweet Home junior breaks course record in West Seneca Invitational

After a few detours, Ally Ortega’s running career is back on course.

The Sweet Home junior ran a course record 18:46.05 at the West Seneca Cross Country Invitational. The 19th annual event was held under sunny skies at Sunshine Park. The previous girls record of 19:05.04 was by East Aurora’s Marta McLaughlin in 2012.

The event drew a field of 985 varsity and junior varsity runners from 42 schools.

Ortega, somewhat new to running, hadn’t had much luck in big races. During last spring’s outdoor season, she accidently spilled hot water on her leg the day of the ECIC Championships, knocking her out of the competition. During the Section VI Championships, she lost a shoe on the track with two laps left in the 3,000 meters.

That all became ancient history on Saturday when Ortega ran away from a girls large-school field of 88 for the biggest win of her young career. Ortega took the lead for good after the first mile.

“Nothing seemed to go my way, I felt like I was holding myself back, not letting myself go. I always felt like I had something in my way,” said Ortega. “I felt like I wasn’t mentally strong and that’s the most important part of running, it doesn’t matter how much talent you have. Now I feel like the bad luck is behind me.”

Sweet Home cross country coach Brian Lombardo said Ortega’s been running well this season, pointing to her fourth-fastest time at last weekend’s Dash in the Dark at Oakfield-Alabama. “I was hopeful for kind of a breakthrough for her. She’s always been right there and she’s run some nice workouts,” he said. “She was very patient, let the first mile unfold, and then she made her move …”

Sweet Home finished the race 1-2-3, but still finished in second place in team scoring behind West Hill-Bishop Ludden of Syracuse. The Panthers’ Samantha Peterman finished second in 19:10.60 and Aileen Doyle was third in 19:16.53.

McLaughlin led a 1-2-3 East Aurora small school finish, crossing in 19:09.69. Maisy Webster was second in 19:16.97 followed by Fiona Danieu in 19:50.47. East Aurora ran away with the team title followed by Akron and Immaculata.

For the boys, Grove City (Pa.) won the large school race and East Aurora won the small schools. Anthony Belfatto of St. Joe’s was the top Western New York finisher in the large school race, taking third in 16:51.82. Stefano Agostin of Hutch-Tech was fourth in 16:57.08 and Matt McCann of Frontier fifth in 17:00.81. Kenny Vasbinder of East Aurora won the small school race in 16:48.88 followed by Dylan Servos of Alden in 16:55.40.

Hornberger sets pace

TJ Hornberger of Lake Shore had the fastest time of the day for boys and Sophia Tasselmyer of Starpoint led the girls at the Red Dragon Cross Country Invitational at Long Point State Park in Ellery. Hornberger ran a 15:31.84 to outdistance runner-up Corey Wefing of Maple Grove (16:05.37). Tasselmyer’s 18:33.68 bettered runner-up Hope Pietrocarlo of Maple Grove, who ran 19:32.58.

The Lockport boys finished second among large schools, led by Connor Doran’s 16:56.87. Barker was the small school boys champion, beating runner-up Southwestern by 10 points. Jordan Powers and Ryan Hetrick of Southwestern were the top local finishers placing 2-3.

Host Maple Grove won the large school girls title and Gowanda was six points better than Fredonia to win the small school crown. Kirsten Holmberg of Falconer won the small school race in 20:24.78.

Albion volleyball wins

Albion’s Kelsee Soule and Chanyce Powell were named all-tournament as the Purple Eagles defeated Mount St. Mary in three games to win the Starpoint Tournament. Albion defeated Immaculata in the semifinals.