The Fayetteville-Manlius girls cross country team after claiming the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore., for the seventh consecutive year. From left: Jenna Farrell, Michelle Duffy, Alana Pearl, Jillian Fanning, Mary Barger, Annika Avery, Katie Brislin, head coach Bill Aris.
Seven cross country girls from Fayetteville-Manlius went to Oregon in pursuit of the program's seventh consecutive national championship, and got it.
Best of all, there was nothing lucky about this seventh title - just pure, unfiltered excellence from a team accustomed to attaining glory when it matters most.
This latest edition of the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland was run under bright sunshine, but that did not match the conditions.
A large amount of rain had fallen in the week leading up to the Nationals, leaving the Portland Meadows Race Track a sea of mud. That's exactly what the F-M girls wanted, having practiced so much in less-than-perfect conditions amid Central New York's changing climate.
So, racing as Manlius XC, the Hornets proceeded to romp through the muck and leave 21 challengers far behind them. F-M finished with 54 points, far ahead of the runner-up, Southlake Carroll (Texas), who with 198 points edged out Carmel (Ind.), who had 209 points to finish third.
As had been the case throughout the post-season, F-M's runners stuck close to each other. Of the top 20 competitors in the team event, five were Hornets, all of them finding peak form right at the end of the year, just as their predecessors had done.
Jillian Fanning was seventh among team runners (21st overall) in a time of 20 minutes, 12 seconds, just ahead of teammate Mary Barger, who was seventh (22nd overall) in 20:13.
Katie Brislin was close behind them, getting to 29th place overall in 20:22. Alana Pearl was strong, too, as she finished in 20:29, while Jenna Farrell clinched the team title with her time of 20:51. Annika Avery posted a time of 20:57 as Michelle Duffy crossed the line in 21:44.
Going into the Nike Nationals, the F-M boys team was not considered one of the favorites - but state Class A champion Nick Ryan had the expectation of challenging in the individual race.