The individual winners at the Southern Tier Athletic Conference cross country championships both offered a lesson in perseverance.
Girls champion Abbie Bideaux of Binghamton was slowed by knee injuries the previous two seasons, while boys winner Dan Dracup of Ithaca has dealt with his own injury issues this fall.
No signs of physical problems were evident on either runner Saturday at Pheasant Hill Country Club.
Bideaux won the girls race in 19 minutes, 33.1 seconds on the 3.1-mile course. Dracup’s winning time was 16:45.1.
The Elmira girls and Corning boys easily captured the team titles.
Bideaux, a senior, won her first career invitational title just two weeks ago at the Loyal Greenman Invitational. She added a more significant win Saturday.
“It’s the biggest accomplishment so far in my running career and it just feels great,” she said. “I really couldn’t have done it without my coach and the support of my parents and my teammates.”
A big reason for the surge by Bideaux is the knee injuries that plagued her as a sophomore and junior are gone.
“It’s been a very good season for me. No injuries,” she said. “I felt great today. I’ve been really trying not to over-race. I’ve only raced about six times so far this season, so I’m just feeling fresh and ready to go.”
Bideaux moved into third place at about the half-mile mark before taking over second in the final mile. With about 300 meters to go, she passed Windsor senior Maddie Zeitz for the lead.
Zeitz finished second in 19:45.8 and collapsed to the ground just past the finish line. She was treated there for several minutes, but Windsor coach Amy Williams said Zeitz is OK and just pushed herself too hard.
Ithaca’s Lauren Trumble finished third in 19:51.6.
Six Elmira girls placed in the top 20 as the Express won its first STAC team title with 41 points, followed by Corning with 66 and defending champion Ithaca with 67.
Dracup, a sophomore, has had to deal with shin splints in his left leg that have disrupted his training schedule.
“I’ve been injured for the past four to five weeks,” he said. “I’m coming off an injury, so my legs are kind of not in the best shape. I was hoping for third or fourth. I was pretty happy with the results.”
Dracup, the STAC modified champion in seventh and eighth grade, finished more than four seconds ahead of runner-up Sam Chauvin of Corning (16:49.6). With the Section 4 championship meet coming up Thursday at Chenango Valley State Park, Vestal standout Dana Carris did not run.
Dracup took control early on the hilly course.
“In the beginning I took it out a little fast,” he said. “On the first hill I pretty much knew that I had it and I tried to push away from the pack as much as I could.”
Five Corning boys placed in the top 15 as the Hawks finished with 39 points, well ahead of defending champion Maine-Endwell’s 84. Ithaca placed third with 98.