BEMUS POINT - Dunkirk's Alex Gonzalez entered the CCAC cross country meet at Long Point State Park as the man to beat. Meanwhile, the Maple Grove Lady Red Dragons entered as the team to beat in the girls race.
Gonzalez certainly didn't disappoint, finishing 18 seconds ahead of Maple Grove's Corey Wefing for an easy first-place finish with a time of 16:29 on the 3.1 mile course, but the Falconer Lady Golden Falcons weren't about to give Maple Grove all of the glory in the girls race.
Teammates Shannon Murphy and Kirsten Holmberg finished first and second respectively for Falconer, but five finishers in the top ten for Maple Grove still gave the Lady Red Dragons the overall team title, justifying their No. 1 ranking in New York State.
Left, Falconer’s Shannon Murphy front, and teammate Kirsten Holmberg pace the field in the girls CCAC cross country meet on Friday. Right, Dunkirk’s Alex Gonzalez jumps out to a big lead during boys action at Long Point State Park. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Simon Teska
As for the time Gonzales had, Jamestown head coach Steve Sipior said it best.
''Nobody was going to beat him today, and we all knew that going in,'' Sipior said of the first-place finisher.
From the start of the race to the end for Gonzalez, it was effortless. His strides were long, his speed was good and even at the end of the finish line he had plenty of gas left in the tank.
''I really didn't know how much I won by,'' Gonzalez said. ''I just kind of go. The only thing that really told me they weren't right behind me was the cheering. Usually that's how I can tell, so I knew they weren't right behind, but I thought maybe 10 meters or something like that.''
The Dunkirk senior, ranked No. 2 in the state behind Wefing, could have waited at the finish line to re-tie his shoes before crossing if he wanted to. A win at the county meet is always impressive, but the way he earned it made it even more special.
''I just wanted to win this race so bad,'' he said. ''Honestly, I didn't think I was going to win in the beginning, but I wanted to stay with the head group. Kevin (Brown) was staying with me the whole time and I wanted to take the lead at one point. When I took it I just kept going. When we hit the woods, I just said, 'Go!'''
Gonzalez' self motivation led him to the front of the pack with the first group of runners. After Wefing finished in second, Fredonia's Josh Szukala crossed the line in third followed by Brown of Gowanda.
The final 50 meters was a sprint for fifth place as Brandon Delgado (17:27.62) of Jamestown edged out Gowanda's Kris Kruszka (17:28.87), who came in sixth and Alex Crise (17:28.11) of Fredonia who placed seventh.
''We got a bunch of surprises,'' Sipior said. ''My No. 2 guy (David Morse) was supposed to be my No. 10 guy, so that was surprising. Brandon is a senior and he wants to finish the year exactly how he planned when it started. He's a tough kid and he knew coming in he was a big dog for us, but Alex Gonzalez just had a great race.''
When all the scores were tallied, it was another team victory for Fredonia, which walked away with 50 points, followed closely by Gowanda with 60 points and Maple Grove with 92.
Brown was one of eight Panther runners to finish in the top 25.
''Kevin was up there,'' Gowanda coach Tim O'Donnell said. ''I mean fourth is respectable, but he was hoping to be a little faster than that. The middle of my pack came in together. I had Dakota Quinn, Jarred Bogardus, Dakota Jimerson and Trevor Ashby come in within one second of each other, which they haven't done all year, and that's fantastic.''
In the girls race, it was all about the Lady Golden Falcon teammates.
Murphy isn't a stranger to first-place finishes in races held on the Long Point State Park course. In the county meet last year, Murphy emerged victorious as well, making this her second-straight first-place finish in this event.
''I'm really happy to win today,'' Murphy said. I didn't for a second take it for granted. I knew coming into this race there is a lot of good competition around the county and it wouldn't be easy. I just gave it everything I had and I went for it.''
Murphy isn't the only Falconer runner that likes running on Maple Grove's home course. Holmberg made an impression of her own on Friday, finishing ahead of favorites Holly Eliason (third place) of Sherman and Caroline Benson (fourth place) of the Lady Dragons.
''I was feeling good, and I just really love this course,'' the Falconer freshman said. ''I'm really glad all of our team was participating this week. We worked really hard to get here and it felt really good to go 1-2 (with Murphy).''
The unselfish Holmberg has no problem sharing the spotlight with her teammate. In fact, if the pair of Falconer runners finish the same way in the Section 6 meet next week-Holmberg would be more than happy settling for second place.
''I'd like to go 1-2 at the sectionals,'' she added. ''Then hopefully as a team we can make it to states.''
Another team with eyes set on the state meet is undefeated Maple Grove. After another successful team victory Friday, that included hugs, cheers and celebrations around the team tent with medals in hand, head coach Bob Rappole knows there is still plenty of running still to do.
''I won't lie to you, we certainly have our sites set on winning states,'' Rappole said. ''When you're picked No. 1 at the beginning of the season, you want to finish No. 1, so our goal is to win states. After that, we hope we'll get invited to the Nike Team Nationals and we'll see what happens after that.''
Benson finished fourth in the race, Megan Marsh fifth, Hope Pietrocarlo eighth, Katelyn Benson ninth and Taylor Norris 10th. As a team, the Lady Dragons scored 36 points, followed by Falconer (73) and Fredonia (75).
''They're all a bunch of wonderful kids and they raced hard,'' Rappole added. ''We're coming into the end of the season and they just went out there and got it done. Hopefully we have three more big races ahead. They've worked so hard for so long to get to this point.''
Boys Team Finishes
1. Fredonia (50), 2. Gowanda (60), 3. Maple Grove (96), 4. Jamestown (141), 5. Olean (170), 6. Frewsburg (180), 7. Falconer (202), 8. Southwestern (245), 9. Allegany-Limestone (248), 10. Silver Creek (264), 11. Dunkirk (268), 12. Sherman (269), 13. Franklinville (312), 14. Ripley (392).
Boys Individual Finishes
1. Alex Gonzalez (DHS) T-16:29.40, 2. Corey Wefing (MG), 3. Josh Szukala (Fred), 4. Kevin Brown (Gow), 5. Brandon Delgado (JHS), 6. Kris Kruszka (Gow), 7. Alex Crise (Fred), 8. James Cardot (Falc), 9. Nick Holsinger (Frews), 10. Nick Zuroski (MG).
Girls Team Finishes
1. Maple Grove (36), 2. Falconer (73), 3. Fredonia (75), 4. Gowanda (129), 5. Jamestown (138), 6. Randolph (165), 7. Sherman (175), Allegany-Limestone (199), 8. Allegany-Limestone (199), 9. Frewsburg (220), 10. Silver Creek (243), 11. Southwestern (265).
Girls Individual Finishes
1. Shannon Murphy (Falc) T-19:13, 2. Kirsten Holmberg (Falc), 3. Holly Eliason (Sher), 4. Caroline Benson (MG), 5. Megan Marsh (MG), 6. Lauren Reyda (Fred), 7. Emily Steves (Gow), 8. Hope Pietrocarlo (MG), 9. Katelyn Benson (MG), 10. Taylor Norris (MG).