Both the boys and girls cross country teams from Springville-Griffith Institute competed in the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division III Cross Country Championships Oct. 28 at Alden High School with Brett Russell leading the boys team and Elle Russell leading the girls in 3.1 mile races.
The boys team finished third in D-III with 93 points, while the girls team finished fifth with 101 points.
In ECIC III, the teams ahead of the S-GI boys were East Aurora (26 points) and Amherst (64), while the Griffs finished in front of Lakeshore (100), Iroquois (108) and Starpoint (120). The teams ahead of the S-GI girls included East Aurora (19 points), Lakeshore (72), Starpoint (90) and Amherst (93).
In the overall field of 24 schools and nearly 200 male runners, Springville finished 13th with a team time of 1:29:55.48 and had four runners in the top 100 with Russell (40th), Nick Abdo (48th), Mikey Evans (76th) and Zach Peterman (90th).
In the overall field of 18 schools and nearly 150 girls runners, Springville finished 16th with a team time of 1:54:02.88 and had four runners in the top 125 with Russell (16th), Gwendolyn Fruehauf (102nd), Jaime Dickinson (103rd) and Evelyn Smith (112th). Russell was also fifth among all Division III runners.
In ECIC cross country history, the girls won their division once (2010) and also had the top runner once (Marnie Freeman, 1987). The boys are looking for their first title and had one, two-time champion in Bert Hallet (1965-66).
According to head coach Chad Russell, the boys team may be on the cusp of doing something special in the next few years.
“We’ve got a realistic chance of having a team go to the states,” he said. “And that hasn’t happened since 1996.”
Part of that success may well depend on competing at Division IV next year, while the rest of the equation is just a natural progression with the boys team and the projected addition of a modified team next season to help the process.
“On the guys side, we should enjoy a couple of years of having both the numbers and the talent and it should be pretty exciting,” Russell said.
Peaking as runners differs for boys and girls. With the girls it can happen at any time, but with the boys it usually happens as they get older and stronger, and although only seven runners officially compete, it’s the runners who aren’t competing that determine a team’s success, according to Russell.
“We don’t make cuts, but there is a self-cutting line on a varsity team. It’s the eighth and ninth guy who’s not making your top-seven as the key runners to making your season,” he said. “Because they’re pushing for that seventh spot, the rest of the team knows it's going to take more to make the top-seven and so they’re doing more in the summer because they start to get the sense that maybe someone will take my spot and that plays a key role in the strength of a program.”
Cross Country runners next compete in Section VI State Qualifiers at Bemus Point Golf Course Nov. 3 beginning at 11 a.m.