In just a month, the Fayetteville-Manlius girls cross country team have gone from a strong, highly-skilled group of runners with nothing beyond local credentials, to something much bigger.
And now you can add the title "national champions" to their growing resume.
In a duel of the top 20 teams from across America at the Nike Nationals in Portland, Ore., F-M came out on top, ignoring the stiff competition, the heavy mud and its own relative youth to achieve new heights.
Running under the moniker "Manlius XC Club" (high school names can't be used at this meet), F-M finished with 128 points, well clear of state rival Hilton, who finished second with 178 points after winning the Nike meet in 2005. Teams from Texas (Carroll) and New Jersey (New Jersey) were third and fourth, respectively.
By prevailing, the F-M girls pulled off in Portland what more highly touted F-M boys teams in 2004 and '05 could not do -- all while applying the same "Stotan" combination of stoic determination and Spartan sacrifice head coach Bill Aris stresses.
Having learned from the boys defeats in Oregon, Aris and the runners agreed on a steady pace at the start, then increased speed as the race wore on.
Of course, "speed" was a relative term at Portland Meadows, where heavy precipitation during the week left parts of the course full of mud.
Still, the strategy worked to perfection. Through 1,000 meters on the 3.1-mile course, F-M was sixth, but as it accelerated through the next portion of the race, the Hornets took the lead and would not surrender it.
As they had done throughout F-M's run to state and Federation championships, freshman Mackenzie Carter and sophomore Kathryn Buchan led the way. Carter finished fourth in 19 minutes, 33.1 seconds, while Buchan grabbed fifth place in a time of 19:35.6.