East Syracuse No one could complain about the weather that unfolded across Central New York when dawn greeted area cross country runners at last Saturday’s 22nd Annual East Syracuse-Minoa Invitational.
With a mix of clouds and sun and a gentle southern breeze that barely rattled dying Maple leaves, the gun sounded for the girls race at 9:30 and the race was on.
Heading from the starting line at ESM was 7-time defending national champion Fayetteville-Manlius along with Class B state-ranked teams from Jamesville-Dewitt and host ESM. Tagging along was the number 2-ranked Class D team from Tully and #3-ranked Skaneateles, a Class C team.
When 3.1 miles of soft trails through meadows and wooded-lots was finished, Skaneateles eked out a second-place finish behind the rugged FM Hornets.
Tallying an incredible 25 points, F-M led the field. The next five teams were separated by a mere eight points in a meet that was tense for an early-season challenge.
Skaneateles tied Rochester powerhouse Fairport with 115 points, so the sixth-runner tie-breaking rule was enacted. In cross country, where the top-five runners from each school comprise the team’s point total, the highest sixth place finisher breaks the tie.
Laker senior Morel Malcolm, relied on her veteran savvy to place 33rd in a time of 22:17.4, but more importantly, she beat Fairport’s sixth runner, Katarina Nichols, who finished in 37th.
“This was a good team win,” said co-coach Jack Reed. “Any team that is going to succeed has to understand that everyone has a role, and in light of that, each girl has to stay in the game no matter how they think they’re doing in the race.
“Morel kept it together. It wasn’t her best day. But her efforts saved the day for her team. That effort is something I respect.”
Leading the way after a slow start was sophomore Kaitlyn Neal, who rallied over the final two miles to move through the crowd to place fifth in 19:22.1, a huge improvement over last year’s 20:15 clocking.