All season long, the Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool girls cross country teams had acted on separate stages in the CNY Counties League National division, each of them going four-for-four in league meets.
Finally, the two sides got together last Thursday afternoon at Oneida Shores to settle the regular-season championship -- and by the smallest possible margin, the Northstars came out in front, edging the Warriors 27-28.
On her home course, Taylor Wendler quickly pulled away from the rest of the field, covering the 3.1 miles in 18 minutes, 54 seconds.
Just as important, though, was the fact that Lindsay Raulli won the close battle for second place. In a tight battle with Liverpool rivals Miranda McConnell and Brigid Heenan, Raulli, in a clocking of 19:27, beat McConnell by five seconds and Heenan by seven seconds.
That gave CNS a brace against the Warriors' top runners, which included McConnell, Heenan and Kaitlyn McNamara, who earned fifth place in 19:49.
Right behind McNamara, though, Dana Rinaldi gave the Northstars a sixth-place time of 19:50, and Nicole Campagna finished seventh in 19:52 to provide a margin that could not be topped. This was despite the fact that Liverpool runners Lesley Bowers (20:02), Chelsea Attaway (20:16) and Trina Bills (20:22) rounded out the top 10.
With that win as a starting point, the CNS girls team would go south on Saturday and win the Marathon Invitational, tying with Maine-Endwell with 112 points but claiming the fifth-runner tie-breaker.
Up front, Wendler was sixth, in 19:19.6, while Raulli claimed 12th place in 20:10.3 and Rinaldi finished 21st, in 20:35.6. Campagna finished 25th (20:43.0), and when Schuyler Cary finished 54th and Sakowski 62nd, CNS had a winning hand. The Northstars also won the unseeded race for younger runners.
Meanwhile, CNS was sixth in the boys' 21-team field at Marathon, with Buchanan running to fifth place in 16:34.3, as Eric Hart finished 26th (17:35.2) and Alex Bottorff earned 30th place in 17:38.4.
CNS and Liverpool will have a rematch on Wednesday, when they hold the CNYCL National division meet at Baldwinsville.