Sydney Nowicki of Lockport has turned the Section VI girls cross country championships into her own personal playground.
What’s more, she’s getting better at it.
When Nowicki was a freshman she won the title by about two seconds. This time, the junior won the Class A race held at Knox Farm State Park by 1 minute, 18 seconds for a third straight victory. In other words, some of the other excellent runners in the area now are having trouble staying in the same zip code as Nowicki.
“I came in, and the goal was just to win,” she said. “My training this year has changed a lot. I know today was a hard week, and next week I get to taper. I think my time suffered compared to the other girls because of that. I could have run faster if I had tapered. I’m definitely happy to come up with the win, and our team did awesome too.”
Adding to her good feelings about the win this time was that Nowicki joined Owen White as sectional champions from Lockport.
“That’s awesome,” she said. “I’m really proud of Owen. This year is his year. I remember when I was in ninth grade; I beat him a couple of times. No more.”
The story of the entire day was the condition of the course. There were moments when the races resembled slapstick, with runners wiping out when slipping on the mud or having to trudge backwards through the slop to retrieve a shoe that stayed put.
“I think in ninth grade, it was worse at states,” Nowicki said. “I almost broke 19 today (she finished in 19:02) but conditions were horrible. It’s hard to fight back against your mind when it is telling you that you are tired.”
Sarah Mruk of West Seneca West placed second in 20:20, while Marcy Colca of Williamsville North was third.
It wouldn’t be a Section VI championship without a win by a McLaughlin, part of the first family of Western New York high school running. Megan McLaughlin did her part by capturing the Class B title for East Aurora.
The Blue Devils had five of the top nine finishers in the classification, good enough to win another team title.
“It was really good,” McLaughlin said about East Aurora’s performance. “Our team did well. Everyone finished where they should have finished. “This means a lot. Now we know we’re contenders for a state title.”
The sophomore was the winner in 18:58 ahead of teammate Karis Ertel 19:20) and Mallory Grubb (19:43).
In Class C, the conditions were just fine with Lauren Wagner of Akron. The sophomore was the only runner in the field of that event to break 20 minutes (19:56) in claiming the Section VI title.
She said that it was a little difficult to predict what might happen, but added that she was just fine with a colder day.
“I’m just glad I didn’t fall,” she said. “You don’t know how they are going to handle the conditions, or if they can deal with the cold. Me, I do terrible in the heat, so I’m happy when it’s cold.”
Wagner was part of a pack of 10 for the first mile that eventually broke apart.
“Emily (Brown of Fredonia) and Sonya (Krezmien of Springville) broke off, and I just kind of followed them,” she said. “On the downhill I took the lead.”
Brown was second in 20:02, while Krezmien was third in 6:34.
Finally in Class D, Maple Grove dominated the field – and Ava Crist led the way. She finished in 19:42, well ahead of teammate Christiana Peppy (20:16). Acacia Barber of Frewsburg was third (20:28).
“I’m so proud of everything that went on today, and so proud of my team,” Crist said. “I’m so proud of the girls for pushing through this horrible mud. Today, I was nervous, but I knew my girls would pull it off.”
In the team competition, the winners were Orchard Park (Class A), East Aurora (B), Newfane (C), and Maple Grove (D). Those teams, and the top five runners who weren’t part of those winning teams, earned a trip to Plattsburgh on Nov. 16 for the state championships.