Right at home, Warriors shock F-M for AA cross country title

If the Liverpool boys cross country team had a dream scenario for winning a Section III Class AA championship, it would require several details.

It would all take place on the Warriors' home course at Long Branch Park. There would be adverse conditions -- cold temperatures, maybe a hint of snow.

A big and imposing foe would be the main obstacle. And every single runner would step up and meet the moment, working together to produce an unlikely victory.

On a chilly late Friday afternoon, every one of those dreams came true.

As a large and enthusiastic home crowd looked on, the Warriors, with 39 points, pulled the upset over two-time defending Federation champion Fayetteville-Manlius, who had 42 points.

Going in, Liverpool knew that none of its runners had a chance to keep up with F-M's well-decorated main duo, Tommy Gruenewald and Geoff King.

So instead of trying to match the Hornet stars in front, the Warriors decided to hang together as much as possible on the familiar 3.1-mile terrain at Long Branch, hoping that their combined strength would counteract F-M's strategy.

It could not have worked better. Junior Ethan Hickey and senior Colin Heenan hung back, and by doing so, spurred seniors Nick Scalione and Mike Compson, plus junior Bryan Picciotto, to go faster than they could imagine.

To no one's surprise, Gruenewald won in a time of 15 minutes, 46.2 seconds, and King was right behind him, taking second in 16:07.9 as F-M went out in front.

But the first Warrior wave was right behind them. Hickey, in fourth place with a time of 16:37.8, finished just ahead of Scalione, in fifth place with a clocking of 16:40.8.

Heenan, lingering back, allowed Compson and Picciotto to go with him. They all hit the line together behind F-M's Luke Fitzgibbons (eighth, 16:43.7) as Compson was ninth (16:49.4), Picciotto was 10th (16:52.9) and the unselfish Heenan took 11th (16:55.6) to round out Liverpool's scoring.

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