By Tom Dinki
Special to the news
St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute coaches have stressed it all season: One place by one runner can make all the difference.
That message rang true Sunday at Knox Farm in East Aurora, as St. Joe’s claimed the All-Catholic cross country championship by a single point. The Marauders edged Canisius by placing all seven runners in the top-18 with an average time of 18:08:15.
"It was very much a team effort. It took all seven guys," said St. Joe’s junior Evan Hilbert. "Even our sixth and seventh guys very much mattered since we only won by one point."
Hilbert led the way for St. Joe’s, finishing second overall in the 5K with a time of 16:35.90. He was bested only by Cardinal O’Hara senior Tom Appenheimer, who had a time of 16:28.80.
It was St. Joe’s sixth All-Catholic title in the last seven years, but the first for second-year coach Matthew Dow.
"This feels good to carry on the long tradition we have," Dow said. "Stepping in some real big shoes from the guys before me – it’s a big responsibility. It was nice to see a couple of those guys that were former coaches actually out there today cheering us on."
Nardin Academy also continued a strong tradition in the girls 5K, as it took home its third-straight All-Catholic championship. Nardin coach Rich Skrabucha was particularly impressed with this title, noting the league was even more competitive this year.
Like St. Joe’s, it was a team effort for Nardin. All seven Gators finished in the top-18 for an average time of 21:34.84. Freshmen Mary Katherine Hartigan and Heidi Khuu led the way, finishing fourth and fifth overall, respectively.
Skrabucha said the two pushed the rest of the team to be better this season since "nobody wants to be beat by a freshman." He added the young runners also "do all the extra things every day."
Buffalo Seminary senior Zoë Knauss won the girls race with in 20:24.41. She’d finished in the top-four the previous three years, but this was her first top All-Catholic finish.
"Over my high school career this has always been my dream to win the race, so it’s really great to see that come true," Knauss said.
Right behind her for second and third place was Nichols’s Holly Arrison and Gabriela Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, respectively. Arrison beat out teammate Gallen-Kallela-Sirén by .73 of a second.
All of St. Joe’s and Nardin’s seven runners advanced to the New York State Federation Championships Nov. 17 in in Wappingers Falls. Appenheimer and Canisius’ Frano Rados and Lucas Beyer, the top-3 finishers not on St. Joe’s, also qualified for the boys. Knauss, Arrison and Gallen-Kallela-Sirén qualified for the girls.
"It’s a great opportunity for them to get in a much bigger race," Dow said. "You’re running with the top kids in the state so you have to be really aggressive at the start, otherwise you get buried in the back of the race."