For the second time in as many weeks, the East Syracuse-Minoa boys cross country team found itself in a tight duel with the Chittenango Bears.
True, the OHSL Freedom division regular-season championship was secure, but now all the league's teams were together in Phoenix, and the action was just as intense.
Ultimately, it took the Spartans' sixth runner, Brandon Blincoe, to pull ESM to the title, even though the Spartans and Bears both finished with 74 points, just ahead of Mexico (77 points), with Jamesville-DeWitt (93 points) in fourth place.
Much like the Oct. 18 meet at Green Lakes, ESM fell behind, as Chittenango's Eric Leonard won the race in a time of 17 minutes, 25.5 seconds and Dmitriy Tarasevich finished fifth, in 17:45.3.
Nick Sadlocha got the Spartans on the board with a ninth-place time of 18:06.8. Greg Lothridge was 14th, in 18:29.1, and both needed to step up, since Jeff Sweeney, the team's top runner all season, had a tender hip and could not go to full speed.
Saving himself, Sweeney still finished 16th, in 18:30.4, and his teammates were right behind him as Enrico Gonnella ran 17th (18:32.5) and Pete Ferstler finished 18th, in 18:33.3 to close out the Spartans' scoring.
Still, Chittenango fared well enough behind Leonard and Tarasevich to match ESM's score. In such instances, the sixth runner serves as the tiebreaker.
Here was where Blincoe entered the picture. He finished 21st, in a clocking of 18:42.2, well ahead of the Bears' sixth runner, Matt Benjamin (19:02.6), and ESM had another title to crow about.
J-D had a strong showing, too. A.J. Russell was third among individuals in a time of 17:37.3, while Jack Knych got seventh place (17:57.5) and Ben Kier was 13th, in 18:28.4.
The girls OHSL Freedom race at Phoenix had a far different outcome. ESM settled for third place, with 91 points, as Mexico blew away the field with 46 points and Phoenix took second, with 86 points.