Written by Kyle Lewis, Joe Manaseri and Richard Furst.
The top Goshen Cross Country runners traveled to Wayne Central School near Rochester for the NYSPHSAA State Championship Meet last weekend.
In cross country, athletes learn early on to expect the unexpected when it comes to weather and course conditions. Veteran athletes Liam Higgins, Louis Greco, and Madison Montgomery have seen their fair share of challenging conditions over the years, but no amount of experience or training could have prepared them for the 5k course where the 2017 State meet was held. For eighth grader Kayla Schramm, her first State meet will be an experience that she’ll never forget.
Recent rainy weather caused the ground to be waterlogged for much of the 5k course. Add to that fluctuating temperatures, a coating of snow, and hundreds of high school runners traversing the course, and what you end up with is a 3.1 mile adventurous pit of mud. A wind chill in the teens didn’t help matters, as athletes suffered with frozen hands and mud-caked legs.
Despite the sloppy course conditions, Goshen athletes went into the race with tenacity and grit. For Higgins and Greco, this would be their third and final trip to the State XC meet, and they were determined to show off their athleticism and strength. Prior to the race, athletes applied petroleum jelly to their legs to keep the heat in. They taped around their running flats to ensure that shoes wouldn’t fall off in the mud, and applied WD-40 to the soles to prevent the mud from caking. All of these preventative measures along with positive attitudes led both Higgins and Greco to outstanding races despite the conditions.
Higgins went out with the top pack and stuck with them for much of the first mile. He continued to stay close to the top four runners for the next mile, but dredging through the thick mud took it’s toll on Higgins legs and he fell back, losing contact with the lead pack. In comparing his experience at States to other races this season, Higgins explained, “It was much tougher; every step felt like it’s own effort and nothing was smooth. The constant shift between frozen footsteps in the mud from the previous day and the 3-4 inches of what felt like quicksand was probably the worst part.” Higgins continued to maintain pace through the final mile, finishing in 6th place.
Greco was seeded 26th in the pre-state rankings, but was determined to place better, regardless of course conditions. For Greco, it was more willpower and heart than anything else. He went out fast into the mudpit, but quickly settled in near the top 25 competitors. Greco used his strength to maintain his spot, even passing a couple athletes in the second mile. According to Greco, “Running wasn’t the hardest part of the race. Battling the cold and trying to avoid falling the most difficult thing.” Coming into the final stretch, Greco wasn’t sure of his exact place, but knew he was close to earning a top 20 medal. He gave everything he had in the final 400 meters, passing 2 competitors in the final straightaway. This was by far his best finishing kick of the season. Despite his efforts, Greco finished in 21st place, missing a medal by one place.
In the last race of the day, the two Goshen girls showed as much poise and tenacity as the boys as they towed the line with temperatures at the freezing mark and inches of mud everywhere. Kayla Schramm and Madison Montgomery simply ignored the conditions and focused on the task at hand. Schramm got off well but the mud took its toll on the eighth grader. “I got out well but on the first few curves we were all sliding into each other and it was hard to stay on your feet. We were kind of holding each other up. The mud would not let go of my feet and it was hard to get traction”. Yet Schramm was able to muster a kick and ran past two girls in the final 100m to finish in 11th place. Schramm may never again run a course in those poor conditions for the remainder of her running career.
Even though Madison Montgomery had previous experience at past state championships, there wasn’t much she could do to prepare herself for the conditions she faced for 3.1 miles. She got off to a slow start, but fought her way throughout the grueling course. Her strong finish was a big momentum builder as she has been climbing back into race shape the past few meets. Having the kind of experience these two runners had is uncommon, builds character, and shows their resilience through adversity.
Based on their strong performances at States, Higgins, Greco, and Schramm earned a chance to compete at the NYS Federation Championship meet held on November 18 at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls. This race takes all of the top finishers from the NYSPHSAA Championships along with the best runners from PSAL, CHSAA, AIS, and NYSAISAA Championships and combines them in one race to determine the best in the State. Only 40 individuals get an invitation to compete in the Federation meet along with 26 of the best teams in the state.
The coaching staff would like to thank the Goshen community for its support throughout the season. It was great to see so many Goshen parents and fans who made the five hour road trip to watch these runners compete at States. Be sure to make the much shorter trip to Bowdoin Park to see Liam, Louie, and Kayla compete at Federations on Saturday, November 18. The girls’ race kicks off at 12:15 and the boys will run at 1 p.m.