By Perry L. Novak
Utica – The last local high school cross country invitational of the month saw local runners stealing much of the limelight with firsts.
Whitesboro’s Justyna Wilkinson won the girls varsity race for large schools, Gab Dewhurst did likewise in the girls varsity small schools race and the Sauquoit Valley team and Adirondack’s Ryan O’Rourke won the boys varsity small schools race at Proctor Park. Many others had fine showings as well on a sunny day with temperatures hovering around 70 degrees much of the time.
Large School Girls Champ Justyna Wilkinson of Whitesboro ran a perfect race
“It was exciting,” Wilkinson, a senior, said after she posted a frontrunning time of 20:12 to beat Holly Machabee of Section II’s Bethlehem by two seconds and Rome Free Academy sophomore Marian Draper by eight seconds. “I never thought I could really win this.”
The Whitesboro senior did by taking the lead early in the race and never wavering. “About a half mile in I took a stride out and broke away,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t know how close they were, so I was running on edge.”
It was the first time in September that Wilkinson held the lead in a weekend invitational, and she did herself and her family proud. Wilkinson’s mother and aunt ran in this race, the second longest tenured in the state.
“The tradition is unbelievable,” Sam Paniccia, the longtime former director of the race, said. “It’s been since 1941.” The longtime Proctor coach has about two dozen of his former runners directing the day-long event that features races for modified, JV and varsity teams for boys and girls. It is so popular that a team from Brockville, Ontario took part.
It’s popular with the local teams and runners as well.
“I’ve been running this since I was in seventh grade on modified,” Proctor’s top boys finisher Ben Kilian said. “This is my last one. It’s bittersweet.” And it was tough as Kilian became sick after the race. “Maybe I ate too much before the race,” the senior admitted.
Still, Kilian finished 28th and was close to his goal of running an 18:30 and finishing in the top 25.
As for the other top local finishers, New Hartford’s Josh Farmer and RFA’s Draper were happy with their efforts. “I ran it in eighth grade and I was 20th in 18:30, so I jumped a minute,” Farmer said after finishing in fifth with a 17:31. “I’m happy. I felt I worked the hills good. This is my favorite invitational because of the music and announcers, and it’s local.”
“My goal was top 5 and to beat my time from last year,” a happy but tired Draper said after her third place effort of 20:20. She credited extra work in the summer, and in the mornings, to her improved finish.
O’Rourke finished in 17:14 to beat Theo Henderson of Section I’s Haldane for individual honors in the boys small school race. Dylan Canarelli’s 17: 29 was good for third and Devin Murphy added a 17:49 to lead the Sauquoit Valley boys to a five-point win against Haldane.
Section II”s Broadalbin-Perth won the small schools girls title while Dewhurst claimed individual honors with a 20:34. Bethlehem won the girls large school title and Cicero-North Syracuse won the boys large school title.
“It’s a labor of love,” the 77-year-old Paniccia said of why so many people volunteer to put on the invite each year. “This meet has over 100 volunteers. They’ve had the passion.”
Herrmann Invitational Results
Boys Varsity Small School
Sauquoit Valley 102, Haldane 107, Clinton 143, Holland Patent 167, Adirondack 201.
Ryan O’Rourke (A) 17:14, Theo Henderson (Haldane) 17:27, Dylan Canarelli (Sqt Vly) 17:29, Nick Farrell (Haldane) 17:48, Devin Murphy (Sqt Vly) 17:49.
Girls Varsity Small School
Broadalbin-Perth 88, Beaver River 93, Duanesburg 124, Sauquoit Valley 166, Gouverneur 171.
Gab Dewhurst (Clint) 20:34, Kristin Ratliff (Coop) 20:45, Heidi Edmonds (Coop) 20:46, Emma Novak (Clint) 21:00, Brittany Alkerton (St. Mary Brockville, Ont.) 21:02
Boys Varsity Large School
C-NS 45, Carthage 56, Niskayuna 57, New Hartford 71, Whitesboro 146
Noah Affolder (Carth) 16:20, Sam Affolder (Carth) 16: 23, Charlie Ragone (Nisk) 16:51, Andrew Bearkland (C-NS) 16:53, Josh Farmer (NH) 17:31
Girls Varsity Large School
Justyna Wilkinson (Wboro) 20:12, Holly Machabee (Beth) 20:14, Marian Draper (RFA) 20:20, Amelia Kokernak (Nisk) 20:25, Emma Larkman (West Seneca West) 20:27