Last year at Queensbury, then-Corning freshman Jessica Lawson cruised to the state Class B girls title at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association cross country championships.
Lawson is back for a shot at another state title – this time in Class A – along with other championship hopefuls from Section 4 when this year’s state meet takes place beginning 9 a.m. Saturday at SUNY-Canton.
Individual and team champions will be crowned in four classes. Girls competition will take place first starting with the Class D race (9 a.m.), followed by races in Class A (9:30), Class B (10 a.m.), and Class C (10:30). Boys races start with the Class D race (11 a.m.), followed by Class A (11:25), Class B (11:50) and Class C (12:15 p.m.).
Lawson prevailed in the Class B race last year by over 12 seconds over Starpoint’s Sophia Tasselmyer. She figures to challenge for the Class A title, though Lawson will have to contend with Arlington’s Bella Burda, who is currently the top-ranked runner in Class A according to www.tullyrunners.com.
Other Section 4 runners who figure to have serious state-title aspirations include Maine-Endwell’s Dan Schaffer in Class B and Ithaca’s Dan Dracup in Class A.
Schaffer is the second-ranked runner in Class B behind Carthage’s Noah Affolder and is coming off a decisive victory last week at the Section 4 championships.
“I would like to be in the top five, and I would want to break the time I just ran (in the qualifier),” said Schaffer, who clocked a time of 15 minutes, 51 seconds over Chenango Valley State Park’s 5-k course. “I know the course is flat and fast, so I should have a good chance as long as I have a good race and I’m feeling well.”
Dracup is ranked fifth in the state in Class A and while Fayetteville-Manlius’s Bryce Millar is a solid favorite, the Ithaca senior is more than capable of putting together a title-worthy performance.
“I’ve been training really hard this whole season. I don’t know if I have a shot at winning but in my head that’s what I’m going for,” Dracup said. “My whole plan is to stick on the leaders for the whole race and then see what I have left at the end.”
Section 4 competitors who may not hold the same state-title hopes of Lawson, Schaffer, and Dracup but figure to be in the running for high finishes include Elmira’s Abbey Wheeler (Class A girls), Windsor’s Kaylee Stone (Class C girls), and Lansing’s Ben Eisenhut (Class C boys).
“I’m going up there with the fast girls and try to stay with them as long as I can,” Stone said. “My goal is top-five for states. I came in 11th last year, I want to pick that up.”
Kevin Stevens contributed to this story