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Holland's Brody Jones, East Aurora's Megan McLaughlin win ECIC cross country titles

Brody Jones accelerated ahead of the pack for his first big race victory while Megan McLaughlin kicked her dominance of the ECIC cross country field into a higher gear.

McLaughlin, an East Aurora sophomore, repeated as overall league champion on Saturday with a personal-record 3-mile time of 17 minutes, 36.85 seconds on her home course, finishing more than 28 seconds before senior teammate Karis Ertel, who also set a PR (18:05.26).

Jones, a Holland sophomore competing for Pioneer, won the boys race with a PR time of 15:25.60, taking the lead over the final 800 meters from Alden sophomore Kyle Urban (15:33.04).

“I knew I had it in me to win the race but there was some really good competition today and it wasn’t going to be easy,” Jones said. “I didn’t really expect to win. I just thought if I could pull out a nice second or third and get first in my division, I’d be pretty happy with that.”

Both individual winners set the pace for their teams to win the overall championship.

“I’m really excited about that,” said McLaughlin, who is also the reigning Section VI Class B champion. “It shows how strong our team is as a whole, not just me. My win symbolizes how good our whole team is."

The East Aurora girls, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class B, got a fourth-place overall finish from senior Maggie McLaughlin (18:41.44), while junior Geneva Green placed sixth (18:44.99) and seventh-grader Emelia O’Leary finished seventh (18:45.29).

The Blue Devils had five of the top six scorers in winning the ECIC III division title for the 19th consecutive season.

“The girls did awesome,” coach Walt McLaughlin said. “They stepped up and ran to plan. They really dialed in as a cohesive group. They are doing everything right and it showed today in their performance.”

The Pioneer/Holland boys got a third-place finish from senior Jerad Hediger (15:38.12) and senior Trent Wesley took 17th in 16:07.41. Along with Jones, they were the top three scorers in ECIC II, while junior Cody Scholl placed fifth in the division and junior Bryce Scoepflin was seventh.

“It’s pretty competitive on my team in dual meets,” Jones said. “I’ve never really won a big race before so I’m pretty happy about that.”

Jones and Hediger have been battling for the top spot on the Pioneer/Holland team all season.

“It’s been back and forth,” coach Mary Doud said. “Today was Brody’s day and he went out and owned it. And as a team, they are getting stronger and peaking at the right time.”

Mild weather made for faster running conditions than usual at the ECIC meet.

“It’s not always like that here,” Walt McLaughlin said. “Last year we had six inches of mud, so it was a great day for the event.”

Still, course conditions weren’t as favorable as they were for the East Aurora Invitational earlier in the season.

But that didn’t slow down Megan McLaughlin.

“There definitely were some muddy corners but overall we know we can run this course, so I was expecting a PR,” she said. “I wanted to go out kind of a little faster than I normally do. It ended up being around the same and then just staying awake in that middle mile. Every straightaway looking for that next turn, keeping my eyes up and working through the mud.”

Jones, on the other hand, said he doesn’t usually race well in the mud, “but we’ve done a lot of work on muddy trails so I’ve gotten used to it a little more.”

Lancaster sophomore Zack Winnicki won the boys ECIC I title with a time of 15:45.92. Jones was the ECIC II champion. West Seneca East senior Vinny Pagliaccio (15:44.61) claimed the ECIC III title and Urban won ECIC IV.

In the girls divisions, Lancaster junior Maya Lasker won ECIC I with a time of 19:07.02. Williamsville South junior Kayla Schmidt (18:42.23) took first in ECIC II. McLaughlin won ECIC III and Springville’s Sonya Krezmien (18:55.27) won ECIC IV.

The runners will now turn their attention to the Section VI Championships on Nov. 8 at Knox Farm in East Aurora.

“The big race will come at sectionals,” Doud said. “East Aurora has been the team to beat in Class B and that will be a tough one.”

“We don’t go in overconfident,” Walt McLaughlin said. “But they know what they have to do in two weeks to make sure they get to states.”

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