After five weekly triangular or quadrangular league meets, each of the cross country squads from the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association - 14 all together - will be converging on Long Point State Park today for the CCAA Championship.
The boys race will begin at 3:30 p.m., and the girls are set to start at 4.
The heavy favorites to win it all?
Maple Grove - boys and girls.
Both the boys and girls teams went a perfect 13-0 during the season, and, should they sweep the championship meet as expected, they will earn 13 more wins apiece (moving them to 26-0) heading into the upcoming Section 6 Championship Meet set to be held in early November.
The Lady Red Dragons are currently ranked No. 1 in the state for Class D, have won the New York State Public High School Athletic Association cross country title in each of the past two seasons and are led by freshmen Hope Pietrocarlo (ranked No. 2 in the CCAA) and Megan Marsh (ranked No. 3).
The rankings, based upon the runners' performances during the five league meets, will be finalized following the county meet, and will determine both the CCAA Runners of the Year awards and also the CCAA All-Star team, which is made up of the top seven boys and girls finishers.
"With all but the County Championship Meet in the record books," Frewsburg coach Bill McFarland recently said of the upcoming events, "Lauren Reyda of Fredonia is about all that stands in the way of a total Maple Grove sweep by both the boys and girls teams, and the individual titles."
Reyda, a member of the third-ranked Lady Hillbillies of Class C, is the top-ranked girls runner in the CCAA and the sixth-ranked runner in the state for Class C with a standard time of 19:08; Pietrocarlo is at 19:13 and Marsh at 19:25.
"Lauren is awesome and certainly the favorite," Maple Grove coach Robert ''Doc'' Rappole said, "but you never want to count Megan, (Caroline) Benson or Pietrocarlo out. Those are three tough girls that have all been running on the big stage in the past few years. They're certainly not going to watch Lauren run away with it, I'll tell you that."
Other racers that will undoubtedly contend are Jamestown's Olivia Zabrodsky (three league wins, fourth-ranked in the county), Holly Eliason of Sherman (No. 5), and Maple Grove teammates Taylor Norris and Abby Sirwatka.
While a Maple Grove team victory is likely, Fredonia and Sherman - the eighth-ranked team in the state for Class D - will be strong competitors as well.
For the boys, meanwhile, Maple Grove's Corey Wefing has been dominating throughout the season and won all five of his races which, according to McFarland, was "to no one's surprise."
"The individual boys," McFarland adds, "might just be running for second place behind Corey Wefing, currently ranked No. 2 among all Class D runners in the state and No. 25 overall."
Rappole echoed those sentiments.
"Not many have been able to run with Corey (this season)," he said. "He's just so consistent and does what he has to do. It'll take a really fabulous race for someone to beat him. But they do make everyone run for a reason."
Wefing has a healthy one-minute advantage in the league rankings ahead of his next closest competitor.
During the league meets, three runners finished within a minute of Wefing, and could therefore give the Maple Grove junior a run for his money. Those three are Ryan Carpenter of Sherman, who finished 59 seconds back in week five, Ryan Hetrick of Southwestern, who finished 54 seconds back in week one, and Olean's John Panus, who lost to Wefing by just 33 seconds at the Red Dragon Invitational.
McFarland expects that the Olean and Jamestown teams could push the Red Dragons for the victory.
The top seven runners from each school will move on to the Section 6 Championship meet on Nov. 2 at Elma Meadows Golf Course.
"This race is fun," McFarland finished. "It's fairly flat and fast and it's scenic, following trails through the big woods along the lake and out of sight of spectators for long stretches. Throw in some nerves, some friendly rivalries, lots of color and sudden bursts of bigger, louder crowds than runners normally see, and this race is one of the highlights of everybody's season."