The high school cross country season heats up considerably this weekend with the Southern Tier Athletic Conference championship meet Saturday at Pheasant Hill Country Club.
The girls race is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., with the boys’ race slated for 11:40. Elmira’s girls’ team, ranked ninth in Class A, is the heavy favorite while eighth-ranked Corning is the pick in the boys’ race.
The championship competition continues on Thursday, as the region’s best will converge on Chenango Valley State Park for the Section 4 championships.
The Express girls’ team is coming off a victory at the Marathon Invitational, its fourth victory in six outings this fall. Elmira also went 3-0 in duals. The only meets Elmira did not win were the McQuaid Invitational and the Southern Tier Classic, where the Express placed second behind Maple Grove, the state’s top-ranked Class D team.
No other STAC girls teams is ranked in the state and no team in Section 4 has beaten Elmira, but Coach Rich Bernstein’s Ithaca squad, last year’s STAC champion, will challenge the Express. Ithaca is led by sophomore Lauren Trumble, who placed fourth at the Marathon race behind Elmira’s No. 1, freshman Abby Wheeler, helped Ithaca to a second-place finish.
Other top Ithaca runners include senior Jackie Cornell and junior Maya George.
“The Ithaca girls are running pretty well, the Corning girls are running pretty well, but I think if we do what we’ve been doing all season, we should be able to pull off a win,” Elmira coach Ben Cardamone said. “I usually don’t come out and say we’re the best, but this girls’ team is definitely a special mold.”
Elmira does not have a single dominant runner, but instead has depth throughout its seven-person lineup.
The Corning boys are led by senior Stephen Rossettie, but he has had plenty of help from a deep lineup.
Ithaca’s young team, which is coming off a fourth-place finish at Marathon, is led by sophomore Dan Dracup, freshman Hunter Hartshorne and sophomore Niall Hodges. Bernstein’s boys’ squad has no seniors among its top five.
After the sectional meet, the top runners in the state will meet on Nov. 10 at Elma Meadows, near Buffalo, for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships.