Not since the early portion of the millennium had the Fayetteville-Manlius girls cross country team faced such a direct threat to its entrenched place atop the local large-school ranks.
When it really mattered, though, the Hornets came through and, by a single point, edged Liverpool for the Section III Class A championship Saturday at Chittenango High School.
Fighting through rain, wind, cold temperatures and an early deficit, state no. 2-ranked F-M finished with 43 points, while the state no. 1-ranked Warriors had 44 points. Baldwinsville (111 points) held off Cicero-North Syracuse (113 points) for third place.
It was the third time the Hornets and Warriors had squared off this fall in the same race. F-M won in a three-team race with West Genesee in late September at Long Branch Park, but Liverpool got even Oct. 17 amid a larger field at the Salt City Athletic Conference meet in Baldwinsville.
Now they were back on the same course where both had run in early September in separate races at the Chittenango Invitational, only the conditions were far worse and the field, again, was different than the league meet.
There were no surprises up front, with F-M junior Claire Walters again earning the victory. Walters finished in 18 minutes, 40.6 seconds, with Liverpool’s Jenna Schulz second in 19:27.7.
The Warriors’ Madison Neuner mader her way to third place in 19:57.4, ahead of the Hornets’ Phoebe White, who was fourth in 20:12.3. Then Liverpool went in front when Sydney Carlson got eighth place in 20:26.9.
It was up to F-M’s supporting cast to make up the ground, and it started with eighth-grader Hannah Kaercher getting to 11th place in 21:01.1 as her older sister, sophomore Grace Kaercher, got 12th place in 21:05.5 ahead of Liverpool’s Windsor Ardner (21:19.6) in 13th place.
So it all hung on how each team’s fifth and sixth runners fared. Senior Emily Cook worked her way to 15th place in 21:30.6 and fellow senior Chloe Bullough got 17th place in 21:39.3, exactly one spot ahead of the Warriors’ Gabby McCarthy (21:47.3), which secured the clinching points. Sophomore Lejla Borcilo finished 21st in 21:52.8.
An hour later, they ran the boys sectional Class A race, and F-M, further proving why it has the no. 1 state ranking, had a clean sweep of the top five individual spots and took the team title with 15 points as Liverpool, with 64 points, was again in second place.
Two juniors led the way for the boys Hornets as Geoff Howles took the individual sectional championship in a time of 17:00.7, with Sam Otis getting second place in 17:19.4.
A pair of seniors followed, with Garrett Brennan earning third place in 17:32.8 and Matt Tripp taking fourth place in 17:44.2. To complete the sweep, sophomore Peyton Geehrer gained fifth place in 17:50.2.
No one else in the Class A field was able to break the 18-minute mark on the Chittenango course. Freshman Yakob Kelley just missed a top-10 finish, getting 11th place in 18:22.9 as senior Nolan Chiles was 18th in 18:51.7.
Now both F-M teams will make the trip to Long Island and Sunken Meadow State Park for next Saturday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships.