|(c) 2014 Danielle Kennedy|
"Last year, coach called us, but this year she just texted all of us and she said, 'Hey guys, sorry, but you might have to miss a couple of days of school.' "
On Wednesday, the top-seven runners on the Liverpool cross country team will fly to Portland, Ore., for the second year in a row to compete at Nike Cross Nationals.
Ups and Downs
While spirits may be high right now, the Warriors of Liverpool looked disappointed and worried Saturday after their third place overall finish in the New York Region race at the Nike Cross Country Regional Championships held at Bowdoin Park in Dutchess County.
Fayetteville-Manlius and St. Anthony's of South Huntington, Long Island finished first and second in the N.Y. race which earned automatic qualifying bids for nationals. But for the Warriors, this is the second year in a row that the team had to wait hours for the selection committee to decide if it would receive an at-large bid. Within the eight regions across the country, there are eight available at-large bids (four men's teams/four women's teams).
"I’m more perturbed this year," said head coach Tracey Vannatta, as she was waiting to hear the decision. "Last year we were just happy to make it, but this year we feel like we should’ve earned that [automatic] spot and it’s much more upsetting."
With below-freezing temperatures overnight, the 5k course on the east shore of the Hudson River was a slippery mixture of ice, snow, and mud on Saturday. Ben Petrella, a junior who finished tenth overall in a time of 16.13.0, said poor racing conditions got the best of him from the start.
"It was exhausting in the first 800 because of the snow," he said. "I kept stumbling but not falling and it took a lot out of me."
Making his regionals debut for the Warriors was sophomore Ty Brownlow.
Brownlow finished 29th overall with a time of 16:53 and was the team's fifth scorer. At first, he insisted that the best part of the race was the finish, but after recalling the course, that was no longer the case.
"Actually, no, not the finish," he said. "There wasn’t really a fun part."
"For having the least experience of anybody and being a sophomore, he ran the race better than anybody and with the most maturity," Vannatta said.
According to Saucony's Top-50 list, F-M, St. Anthony's and Liverpool are ranked in the top-ten teams in the country.
Ranked first is Fayetteville-Manlius, who also won Saturday's N.Y. Region team title with 72 points.
Bryce Millar won his first regional title, finishing the 5k race in a time of 15.48.8. Despite running through mud and nearly six inches of snow, Millar and his teammates guaranteed themselves a spot on the national stage next weekend. The Hornets have qualified for nationals eight times since the event was created in 2004 and has five top-10 overall finishes.
Coming off of a win at the Federation Meet at Bowdoin Park last weekend, St. Anthony's second place team finish of 88 points helped earn it's first trip to nationals. Although ranked seventh in the country, St. Anthony's hasn't faced F-M and Liverpool since the Boys Eastern States Championship race at the Manhattan Invitational in October. There, F-M finished first with 80 points, Liverpool in second with 122 points, and St. Anthony's in third with 147 points.
Ranked as the sixth-best team in the country is Liverpool, who finished the N.Y. Region race in third place with 96 points. Last year, the Warriors finished third with 94 points but were selected for an at-large bid. At nationals, the Warriors finished 20 overall, but Vannatta said the bar is set much higher this time around.
"I just want to make sure we're going there to get the job done this time," she said.
One More Time
After getting that text Saturday night, the Warriors will have one more opportunity to replace the lack of excitement in Saturday's performance. For Connor Buck, it's his chance to end his last cross country season on a memorable note.
"It feels very good to be able to go back there again," he said. "And to end my high school cross country career at nationals is a very good feeling."
The Warriors will race as a track club team, not affiliated with Liverpool High School due to regulations for races that are out-of-state. The uniforms will be provided by Nike and will have "Warriors" embroidered on the front.
Ben Petrella (Jr.), Connor Buck (Sr.), Dylan McCarthy (Sr.), Dan Muldoon (Sr.), Ty Brownlow (So.), Nick LeClair (Sr.), and Ryan Comstock (Jr.) will be the seven runners competing at Nike Cross Nationals next weekend at Glendoveer Gold Course in Portland, Ore.