The hills were steep, the flats were soft like a pad of marshmallows and the heavy air left you covered in a layer of watery slime.
But the Skaneateles girls cross country team, just 48 hours removed from their league victory over Marcellus, passed the test at the 25th annual Penfield-Irondequoit cross country invitational last Friday afternoon.
Skaneateles, still ranked no. 2 in the state Class C poll, finished fifth behind Penfield (ranked no. 4 in class A), Honeoye Falls-Lima (no. 4 in the state in Class B), West Irondequoit and state Class A no. 15-ranked Webster Schroeder in the 18-team field at Harris Whalen Park’s 5,000-meter course.
Kaitlyn Neal placed 10th in 20:08.98 as she continues to show that she’s one of the best in upstate New York. The freshman has placed in the top-10 in all six meets she’s run in this fall.
Right behind Neal was Maggie Dunn who took 16th in 21:01.58 as she continues her comeback from injury. The senior is one of the toughest athletes the coaching staff has ever worked with.
“She just seems to block out everything while grinding through the course,” said coach Rob Tuttle.
And then something happened that wasn’t quite expected. Julia Willcox, the eighth- grader who attracted the attention of coaches Tuttle and Jack Reed in modified track last spring, seemed to connect a few more dots in her learning process.
Going out slowly, which is her method thus far, she asserted herself over the final mile to motor to 29th place in 21:53.59 for the difficult course.
“I’ve seen one other runner with her mechanical gifts and her calm demeanor,” said Reed, “and he was Olympian Jonathon Riley. We didn’t rush Riley, and we won’t rush Julia.”
Right behind Willcox was the remainder of the incredible Laker pack.