Many top athletes from Cicero, North Syracuse and Clay found themselves battling for medals during the 31st Empire State Games -- and often winning those battles.
In two cases, Central region teams arrived home from Binghamton and the Southern Tier with gold medals, a big improvement from the fact that just one Central squad did so in the previous three editions of the ESG.
Here is a summary of how local athletes fared as thousands of competitors from six geographic regions (Central, Western, Adirondack, Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island) got together.
Domenico Vitle, who starred for the Cicero-North Syracuse soccer team, and Bogdan Yatsishin played with the Central open men's team (coached by Cicero's Dan Kincaid) at SUNY-Binghamton that took home a gold.
Never tasting defeat, Central beat Western 4-1 in its opener, then rallied past Hudson Valley 3-1 and blanked Long Island 1-0 to reach the finals. Against New York City in Sunday's title game, Central pitched another shutout, prevailing 2-0 to finish on top.
Elsewhere in soccer, current CNS star Shane Hachey saw his Central scholastic men lose the bronze-medal game to 2-1, while Meg Turley and her Central open women did not win a match in three outings.
As Central broke Western's long reign as scholastic men's champions at Broome County Community College, CNS standout Aaron Hildreth played a starring role.
Hildreth assisted on Central's first goal of the tournament in Thursday's 4-2 win over Long Island, then assisted on both goals Saturday morning as Central edged past Hudson Valley 2-1. Having clinched the gold Saturday night, Central still finished a 5-0 run by beating Western 3-2 on Sunday, with Hildreth gaining his fourth assist of the tournament.
Paige Labenski, a native of North Syracuse, played with the Central scholastic women's team, which managed just one tie in five outings.