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Runners prepare for state meet

Runners from the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association will be well-represented at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships this weekend.Leading the way will be the boys and girls teams from Maple Grove. How dominant has the Red Dragons’ program been?

Well consider this: the girls, who are ranked fourth in the New York State Sportswriters Association poll, have claimed 13 sectional championships … in a row. Meanwhile, the boys, also ranked fourth, have captured six of the last seven sectional crowns.

“There’s an absolute incredible (coaching) legacy at Maple Grove,” Red Dragons first-year head coach Bella Zuroski said. ” … We do preseason camp every year, have morning runs twice a week, the kids show up on weekends and get in long runs and you get them to buy into the culture of success.”

Falconer/Cassadaga Valley’s Joe Krenzer will be running in the state cross country meet on Saturday at Chenango Valley State Park. OBSERVER File Photo

Zuroski, who ran for Coach Doc Rappole for six seasons and was an assistant for successor Steve Matteson for thee years, was on the 2009 sectional championship team her senior year. The Red Dragons haven’t lost since.

Last week, Maple Grove’s Abby Brunenavs won the girls sectional Class D individual title with a time of 20:25.21. Teammates Allison Bohall, second place; Hannah Tarbrake, ninth place; Lily Bohall, 10th place; and Lizzie Lai, 15th place, figured into the winning team score.

Other members of the team include Presley Haines, Mae Benedetto and alternate Lucy Cole.

“In a big meet like this, anything can happen,” Zuroski said. “I told them to be ready. At state-meet day, you don’t know what can happen. It’s the last meet for Abby and Hannah. I’m excited for them to have strong senior states.”

Other area girls runners qualifying for the state Class D meet are: Clymer/Sherman/Panama’s Solki Martin-Lacayo, who finished in third place at sectionals; Randolph’s Sydney Smith, fifth place; Gowanda’s Calie Hudson, sixth place; and Clymer/Sherman/Panama’s Hannah Schauman, seventh place.

Meanwhile, Maple Grove’s Lukas Baer won the boys Section VI Class D individual title with a first-place time of 17:04.90. Red Dragons teammates Ben Cornell finished in third place; Sean Verbosky, eighth place; Jacob Lewis, 16th place; and Luke Tomlinson, 17th place. Other members of the Maple Grove boys team are Hal Svetanics, Tyler Anderson and alternate Ethan Verbosky. The Red Dragons’ boys team is ranked No. 4 in the state.

“It was neat this year for the boys team, because it was a competition to make that top seven,” Zuroski said. “The boys team has a strong couple years ahead of them.”

Other area Class D runners advancing to the boys state meet are: Randolph’s Roan Kelly, who finished in second place at sectionals. Franklinville/Ellicottville’s Maddox Bush (fifth place); Clymer/Sherman/Panama’s Michael Raven (sixth place); and Frewsburg’s Micah Barber (seventh place) round out the qualifiers in that class..

But there are more CCAA runners heading to Chenango Valley State Park.

The Southwestern boys, ranked NoTrenton Shutters, ninth place; Trey Faulk, 14th place; and Donavin Brown, 15th place.

“That was our goal starting the season,” 15th-year coach Dan Lewis said. “We knew this was definitely going to be a possibility.”

The Trojans certainly have had the athletes to do it. Ethan Luce, Lewis and Shutters were part of Southwestern’s team that advanced to the state meet in 2019. Joining that trio this year are Brendan Luce, Trey Faulk, Lucas Svenson, Donovin Brown and alternate Jake Johnson.

“Irvington from Section I (the state’s top-ranked team) is the favorite to win,” Lewis said. “What would it take to give them a good challenge? It would take our top five to run their best races of the season. It’s not out of reach.”

Additional area Class C qualifiers for the state meet are: Allegany-Limestone’s Jacob Brink, who finished in first place at the sectional meet (16:27.62), followed by Allegany-Limestone’s Daniel Casey, third place; and Falconer/Cassadaga Valley’s Joe Krenzer, fourth place.

“It’s really neat that three whole teams are going (to states),” Zuroski said. “Over the past couple decades, the CCAA has built up its reputation in cross country.”

Added Lewis: “If you look across the state, some of the top kids in Class C are from Section VI. … I really do believe our league and section prepare us for this level of competition. I’m thankful we have that level of competition around here.”

The Class D races Saturday will be at 10 a.m. for girls and noon for boys. The Class C boys race is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

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