Early on a sun-drenched Saturday morning at Lakeside Park in Pawling, seven girls from the Fayetteville-Manlius girls cross country team set out in pursuit of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA championship.
By the time they were done less than 20 minutes later, the state title was safely in the Hornets' hands again, the fifth straight year it has claimed this big prize.
F-M, the nation's top-ranked team, achieved a perfect score of 15 points, leaving Saratoga Springs in second place (45 points), and the other seven AA teams far behind as it took yet another big step toward defending its national crown at the Nike Nationals early in December.
Once the race had started, two Hornets, junior Christie Rutledge and sophomore Jillian Fanning, quickly separated themselves from their main individual challengers, star freshmen Maria LaMontagne (Cicero-North Syracuse) and Laura Leff (West Genesee), who would take third and fourth, respectively.
It was Rutledge, who wasn't even on the varsity squad a year ago, that finished with the individual state title as she crossed the line in 17 minutes, 31 seconds, while Fanning worked her way to second place in 17:44.1.
Before any Saratoga runner could show up, four more F-M runners would beat them. Junior Katie Sischo, the Section III individual champion, finished in 18:18.8, grabbing fifth place as senior Courtney Chapman worked her way to sixth place in a clocking of 18:27.1
In all, six Hornets finished in the top nine, as junior Heather Martin finished eighth in 18:37.7 to round out the scoring and complete F-M's perfect mark. Just behind her, sophomore Katie Brislin got ninth place in 18:40.2 and freshman Maggie Malone finished 34th in 19:32.3.
Later on Saturday morning, F-M's boys cross country team set out to earn its second straight state Class AA title, but had to settle for third place. The Hornets had 80 points, just behind Warwick Valley (78 points) for the runner-up spot as Shaker won with 58 points.