Though it had a great reputation and a strong roster, the Fayetteville-Manlius girls cross country team was not expected to beat a field full of nationally-ranked powers at last Saturday's New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA championship meet.
Well, so much for expectations.
The Hornets exceeded every one of them at Warwick Valley, joining together to shock Hilton, Saratoga Springs and the rest of the field and bring home the state Class AA championship.
When all the numbers were crunched, F-M had 67 points, just ahead of Hilton (71 points) and Saratoga (73) in the closest three-way battle of the entire 10-race slate. And the Hornets pulled it off with an eighth-grader, two freshmen and a sophomore among its six-person roster.
F-M apparently warmed up to the conditions, as temperatures at Warwick zoomed past 60 degrees, far different than the freezing conditions of the Hornets' victory in the Section III Class AA meet eight days earlier.
A pair of wildly talented youngsters led the way. Freshman Mackenzie Carter finished seventh in the race in 18 minutes, 15.1 seconds, just ahead of sophomore Kathryn Buchan, who got eighth place in 18:16.7. That accounted for 13 points.
To take the state crown, though, every other F-M runner had to step up -- and did so.
Senior Jessica Hauser claimed 22nd place (14 points), in 19:00.1. Just behind her, eighth-grader Courtney Chapman displayed her promise by running to 29th place (17 points) in 19:11.7.
And when Hilary Hooley crossed the line in 42nd place in a clocking of 19:29.9, she earned 23 points -- just enough for the Hornets to hold off Hilton and Saratoga. Freshman Molly Malone took 63rd place in 20:02.4.
Later in the day, the Hornets sought more glory in the boys Class AA race as seniors Tommy Gruenewald and Geoff King vied for the individual championship.
Gruenewald, a senior, would end up chasing Shenendehowa senior Steve Murdock all the way to line, finishing in second place in 15 minutes, 20 seconds as Murdock won in 15:12.5.
Right behind them, King put together his own award-winning effort, lunging across the line in 15:29 flat to gain third place.
Everyone in the F-M contingent will gather one more time at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls on Saturday to compete in the state Federation championships.