No amount of woe or difficulty was going to keep the Fayetteville-Manlius girls cross country team from sustaining one of the most remarkable streaks in all of American high school sports.
The Hornets again went west to the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore., and again finished on top, holding off state rival Saratoga Springs Saturday to win its sixth consecutive national title.
Competing as the Manlius XC Club, F-M had 60 points, just enough to fend off Saratoga, who as the Kinetic XC Club earned second place with 84 points.
What was, at the start, intended to be a rampage through all competition got more difficult when two of F-M's top runners, Christie Rutledge (second at last year's Nike Nationals) and Heather Martin, were lost to season-ending injuries.
Then, just after F-M won another New York State Public High School Athletic Association title Nov. 12 at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, head coach Bill Aris suffered a personal loss as his father, John, passed away.
Determined to win another national title for their grief-stricken coach, F-M first had a shaky showing at the New York Regional Nov. 26 at Bowdoin Park, leading to a small concern that the Hornets could get caught by Saratoga when the two rivals went to Portland.
There was no reason to worry, though, as Katie Brislin symbolized the Hornets' resilience. At the start, Brislin fell, leaving her in last place in a field of nearly 200 runners. Patiently, Brislin worked her way through the field, met up with her teammates, and finished 25th in 18 minutes, 30 seconds, having passed more than 170 competitors along the way.
Jillian Fanning, the nation's top-ranked girl, could not get to the front here, but her time of 17:50 was still good for fourth place, just 12 seconds behind the winner, Sarah Baxter of Simi Valley (Calif.).