It was not a particularly nice day for a run at Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora on Friday.
Temperatures around the freezing mark along with a mix of snow, ice and water on the ground left most of the competitors in the Section VI cross country championships doing at least a little mumbling.
“It was absolutely awful,” said Owen White of Lockport. “At the turn to the entrance of the woods, one kid fell right on me. This is definitely the worst I’ve seen.”
“Everyone is running in it, so you have to trust yourself,” added Vinny Pagliaccio of West Seneca East. “You can’t be nervous.”
And those comments came from two of the winners of titles during the event. It was a day filled with slips, slides and barefoot finishers.
White wasn’t one of the big favorites entering the Class A race, but turned in an excellent performance when it counted the most.
“I started really fast,” he said. “I came to the mile at 5:17 and I was like, ‘I just gotta go,’ and I took off. ... I came down the hill and took off. It was downhill from there. I knew I had to take it away.”
White eventually finished in 16:35, comfortably ahead of Brian Gleason of Frontier (16:59) and Josh Peron of Frontier (17:01).
“I took that out of nowhere,” White said about his closing burst to win. “I didn’t know I had it in me.”
Pagliaccio had his hands full in the Class B event, battling with Brody Jones and Jerad Hediger of Pioneer.
“I had a good back end,” Pagliaccio said about his finishing kick. “I thought a couple of Pioneer guys would go off at the end. I decided to keep digging.
“That was exciting. I have good 800 speed from outdoor track, so I knew it was all me at the end.”
Pagliaccio (16:33) was just a few seconds ahead of Jones (16:36) and Hediger (16:39) in the closest race of the day.
The Class C event had a little bit of post-race dramatics. Kyle Urban of Alden crossed the finish line, and then showed he was in something close to agony with thoroughly chilled hands. It took him a while to thaw enough to talk.
Was it worth the pain?
“Oh yeah,” Urban said. “I’ve always gotten second place in a big race, and this time I got first. And I got the spot (to go to the state championships). I did the work for it.
“I’ve worked all year for this, and I can’t wait to go farther.”
Urban has trained in cold conditions before, but he said he wears more layers of clothing on such days. This time, he had to gut it out.
“I was in the lead for most of it,” the sophomore said. “I had my teammate with me. I felt good, and I stayed at my spot. Then it got a lot more colder, and I heard the next person coming, and I knew I had to keep going.”
Urban hung on to finish in 16:37, about eight seconds ahead of Brett Russell of Springville. Dean Godios of Depew was third in 17:01.
In Class D, Ronan McDonald of Randolph moved up a step from last year’s second-place finish to capture the Section VI title. That last step was a sweet one for the senior.
“I came in and pretty much knew what to do,” he said.
McDonald earned his third trip to the state championship. This time, though, the senior will go as the Section VI champion.
“It was really sloppy,” he said. “The hills were really bad. I just held on and got through. … You don’t want to slip coming down and hurting a knee.”
McDonald finished in 17:09, a healthy amount of time ahead of Pete Auer of Maple Grove (17:24) and Peter DiLorenzo of Barker (17:45).
The winning teams – Lancaster (A), East Aurora (B), Southwestern (C), and Maple Grove (D) – will join the top runners at States on Nov. 16 in Plattsburgh.