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Lockport's Sydney Nowicki wins Section VI Class A girls cross country title

BEMUS POINT — Pre-race uneasiness didn’t cripple Sydney Nowicki, a runner on the Lockport girls cross country team. But before this season, it put a big crimp in her preparation.

As Nowicki prepared for her sophomore season, she took a different frame of mind into her training and into her approach toward competition.

“Last year, I’d get really bad anxiety before the races but this year, I wasn’t going all out,” Nowicki said. “I get that anxiety before races now, but not that much. I just tell myself that all my training is in place. The hay is in the barn. All I have to do is run.”

She did it again as she prepared for the Section VI championship race. It paid off, as Nowicki won the Class A championship Friday at Bemus Point Golf Course. She completed the 3.1-mile course in 19 minutes, 29.92 seconds, a race she considered a training run for the Nike Cross Regionals race Nov. 24 in Wappingers Falls, a qualifier for the Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 5 in Portland, Ore.

“Sectionals isn’t my main race,” Nowicki said. “The regionals is in November, and I really want to make it to nationals. My body is racing tired, so I’m trying to save myself for November. This was just a workout today.”

Nowicki was one of four individual race winners, and advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships Nov. 10 at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park on Long Island. West Seneca West won the Class A team championship, East Aurora won the Class B championship, Newfane won the Class C championship and Maple Grove won the Class D championship.

The first-place team in each Section VI classification race qualifies for the state meet, followed by the first five individuals who are not part of the first-place team.

Megan McLaughlin of East Aurora won the Class B race in 19:17.35, but struggled with the final mile of the 3.1-mile course. She had little issue with the middle of the course, however, a hilly stretch.

“I got to the hills and I know, ‘These, I know how to run really well,’ ” McLaughlin said. “But I got to that last mile, and I thought of the mile before that, where you just try to get through that before kicking in. It’s just really mentally tough. That last mile, it was definitely hard because I didn’t know time-wise where I was, but I was running out there by myself. I had to keep running strong.”

The mud on the course, however, made her rethink her race strategy.

“It messes you up a little bit because you’re in a mode, but you get to a part where it’s really muddy then you’re just slipping and it’s like, ‘OK, I’ve got to get through this until the next spot,’ where you can pick it up and keep going through.”

Kimberly Goerss of Newfane won the Class C race. Goerss completed the final girls race of the day in 19:56.04 and contended with a course that was torn up by runners and had plenty of slick spots.

Goerss switched her strategy on the course.

“You have to put the really big spikes in (your shoes) and lift up your legs a little more,” she said. “The muddiest part was right before you got to the top of the hill. It was really sloshy there.”

Newfane’s training course, she said, also helped prepare her and her team for the Bemus Point course.

“Our trails at home are really muddy, so we’re used to it,” Goerss said. “But it was good to get the win and have a confidence boost to give it our all at states.”

Kylee Odell of Clymer/Sherman/Panama won the Class D race, a week after finishing second in the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association championship, behind Ava Crist of Maple Grove.

“I was furious,” Odell said of her result last week.

That motivated her, and she completed the course in 19:43.78, ahead of Christina Peppy of Maple Grove (19:46.45) and Crist (19:53.84).

“It’s a really big honor to be able to run with them, and to be able to push each other the whole time,” Odell said.

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