A quality cross country program like the one at Pittsford Mendon has a long-term plan.
The Vikings sometimes hold back today in order to be in a better position for tomorrow.
Pittsford Mendon coach Chris Compson knew weeks ago the Vikings boys team would be all about the McQuaid Invitational on Saturday, however.
The race is known as the Jason DeJoy Memorial, after the late Mendon cross country coach and father of three who died in January 2014 at the age of 40.
“On any given day, guys run great and on any given day, guys have off days,” Compson said. “I never like to approach a race saying you know, here’s the plan, here’s the tactic, here’s the measure. To some degree, it’s always lace ‘em up, race ‘em up and see where we go from there.
“McQuaid, the race is named after Jason (DeJoy), so we always want to show up there and do what we can. Last year, we came up two points short, so I think no matter what I say to the guys, they are ready to roll there.”
The Mendon boys, ranked No. 1 among Class B teams in the state, were ready to roll at Genesee Valley Park. Their point total of 84 was 15 less than runner-up Xavier’s, more than enough to make them winners of the seeded race for medium-sized schools.
“All of our guys are trying to focus on you know, being with the team and running strong as a team and trying to get those points overall,” Mendon senior Griffin Hess said. “I know we’re all trying to chase those individual spots as well, but ultimately the goal for everyone here was to come and win the DeJoy Memorial.”
It was out of this race that the day’s fastest time on the three-mile course came. Noah Affolder, a junior at Carthage in Section III or Syracuse region, finished in 14 minutes, 14.9 seconds, a record. Mendon sophomore Nathan Lawler led the Vikings (15:02.4) with his sixth-place finish, two ahead of Brighton junior Paul Dellinger.
“I actually couldn’t run it last year, so this is my first year in the varsity race,” Lawler said. “I got out very hard. I think the pace this year was much faster than it usually is. It definitely helped in my ending time.
“I thought it was really fast. The first mile, I couldn’t believe how fast we got out.”
In Mendon’s style, the Vikings won the team scoring with their performances outside of the top 10. Henry Burton, a senior, came in 14th, Hess and senior Isaac Goodman were 21st and 22nd and junior Casey Woodward 30th.
“We couldn’t quite pull out the win last year,” Burton said. “Not a lot of our guys had good races, myself included. I think I really stepped it up this year, despite these (shakes his head and laughs) horrendous conditions.
“We all really stepped it up this year and it just makes me happy, you know, to see not only myself, but my entire team running very, very well. It’s really great, especially these young guys. A sophomore running 15:03, that’s pretty fast.”
East Rochester senior Dawson Bathgate was also fast. No one finished ahead of the 10-time Section V class track and field champion in the boys seeded A or small schools race. Bathgate, for a time in cold and windy weather, was a contender for the Steve Prefontaine award won by Affolder, as the East Rochester Bomber crossed the line in 15:07.2.
The Charlie McMullen award for the fastest time by a boy at a Section V school went to Lawler. The girls equivalent, the Katie Harper Award, went to Rush-Henrietta junior Sammy Watson (17:35.4), who came in ninth during a highly competitive girls seeded AAA or large schools race.
“I went out faster than I thought,” Bathgate said. “I thought there would be some guys with me. There was only really one until about the mile mark, then he dropped off a little bit. I felt good at the mile. I didn’t think I was going as fast as I went.
“I just kept it up until the two-mile mark. It felt good, but then started to get some lactic acid, so I knew I had to just push until the end.”
Bathgate was 14th among Class D runners at the state cross country meet as a sophomore and was even closer to winning last year as the fourth-place finisher.
“I’m just hoping to win states,” Bathgate said. “I hate to say it so soon, but I want to win at states.”
An estimated 8,100 runners entered, slightly higher than last year’s total, according to race director Todd Stewart. The number of teams represented was down four at 246. Those squads bused in from around the state, Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Canada.