Scroxton, Gostomski Show Way
Runners Headline Field Of More Than 1,400 At BPGC
BEMUS POINT — The population of Bemus Point increased drastically for just a few hours on Saturday morning, as more than 1,400 runners poured into the village for the 10th annual Red Dragon Invitational cross country meet.
The race, which has previously been held on the course that circles inside the boundaries of Long Point State Park, was hosted at Bemus Point Golf Course, and offered runners from all around the Southern Tier a chance to begin their season on a high note that offered ideal conditions despite days of rain from the past week.
“We were blessed,” said Maple Grove coach Steve Matteson under sunny skies. “You can’t say enough about the Bemus Point Golf Course. We had rain for the last five days, and if you take a picture of all the grass and everything out here, it looks almost like it did to start the race.”
Thanks to a foundation of mostly gravel, the golf course is ideally suited for drainage, and also offers runners a fair share of challenges thanks to two sizeable inclines that are situated in the middle of the course.
One athlete who showed no issues with the terrain was Southwestern sophomore Eddie Scroxton, who took home the boys Small School trophy in a time of 16:40.66, just barely holding off a last-second charge by Samuel Auernhamer of Newfane, who finished in 16:40.92.
Scroxton entered his first race of the year as the 15th-ranked runner in Class C, according to Tully Runners, and will look to build off his victory moving forward.
“It was a little iffy, but, you know I pulled it out at the end,” said Scroxton, who took the time to congratulate Auernhamer on a great end to the race. “I’m just trying to be friendly with everybody. Everybody is running out (here) for fun.”
Coming in just behind the dueling Scroxton and Auernhamer was Fredonia’s Diego Rey, who clocked a time of 17:06.57, and was followed by John Swabik of Clymer/Sherman/Panama at 17:08.76. The top-10 finishers also included fine performances from local runners Josh Johnson of Fredonia who grabbed fifth (17:14.42), and Matt Evans of Randolph who took sixth (17:21.17).
Evans entered the invitational as the seventh-ranked runner in Class D, and was pushed on by his teammate Ronan McDonald who took home 12th place in 17:36.18.
“I’m really pleased,” said Randolph coach Sean Ode of his team’s performance. “I wasn’t sure what to expect because this was our first race of the year and you know a lot of times you see kids run really fast times on the track in practice one lap at a time, but it can be a different story when you come here.”
The Cardinals coach was particularly happy with the time of McDonald, who has already shown significant improvement from his races last year.
“I had a kid who didn’t break 19 minutes last year, Ronan McDonald, a sophomore,” Ode said. “He ran a 17:30 something today. I didn’t expect that, I’m amazingly pleased.”
It was Newfane that took home the team small school title from the Red Dragon, finishing with 72 points, while Springville took second with 125 and Clymer/Sherman/Panama was third with 134. Fredonia notched a fourth overall finish with 141, while Southwestern took eighth with 219 and Randolph was ninth at 230.
After the crowd was energized by Scroxton’s wild ride to the finish line, it was the turn of the large school runners, who were led by Orchard Park senior Cal Puskar with a time of 16:12.37, the best of the day.
Charging ahead for the local runners was Maple Grove’s Michael Peppy, who took home seventh with a time of 16:46.17 after coming into his home opener ranked at the top of Class D. While the time put Peppy in good standing on Saturday, he still sees room for improvement.
“My expectations for this race are to come out and be super competitive,” said the Maple Grove senior. “This race wasn’t my best, but it’s a stepping stone to start the year out with. This was our first race and it was good to get it under 17 for the first race.”
The defending New York State Public High School Athletic Association champions were also represented by junior Frank Colburn with a 35th-place finish (17:44.37) and a 37th-place time of 17:49.69 by senior Shane Hetrick.
“They ran really well,” said Matteson of his boys team. “(Peppy) ran very well today for the first race of the year. He’s working to get better every race. He’s got goals for the end of the season that he wants to hit and we’re going to start working to knock those goals off. Shane Hetrick ran a phenomenal race today, led the team, got the team pumped up beforehand. I was really pleased with everybody as a whole running in the varsity race.”
Clarence finished the large school race with 90 points, enough for first place, while the Red Dragons posted 217 and finished in eighth.
It was the Lady Red Dragons, led by a pair of freshmen in Christina Peppy and Ava Crist, who really impressed in the girls large school race, finishing in third place with 109 points behind West Seneca (70) and Clarence (79).
The team, which finished second at last year’s state meet behind Greenwich, looked like David against Goliath on Saturday, but was undeterred by the large school competition.
Peppy led the way with a time of 20:00.13 and took fifth place while Crist grabbed sixth in 20:09.84.
“They are at a great starting point,” Matteson said of his team. “I’m very proud of all those girls. They had a great first race (and) they are looking forward to the rest of the season. We have goals for the girls individually and goals for the girls as a team and we’re just hoping that we just keep getting better throughout the season.”
The top prize for the large-school girls went to another freshman, Sydney Nowicki of Lockport, with a time of 19:06.07. When asked if he thought the stiff competition was helpful for his runners, Matteson said simply, “We definitely believe so. The small school girls still had fantastic results, but having just more numbers to pull from and more numbers to compete against just brings an extra added benefit. I always tell my girls and boys that its easier to run with somebody than it is to run 10 feet in front or 10 feet behind. In the large school you usually have a few more bodies to run with, to push yourself to that next level.”
While the Lady Red Dragons had plenty of competition to use as motivation, Abby Gostomski of Cattaraugus-Little Valley was forced to rely on her twin sister Bailey, as the pair crossed the finish line near to tandem to give the Timberwolves one-two finishes in the girls small-school race.
It was Abby who edged out the win with a time of 19:16.33, followed by Bailey with a 19:18.04 clocking.
The twin seniors have come to know running alongside one another well over the years, but that doesn’t get to happen every race.
“I think if they had a little more competition up front you wouldn’t have seen them run together,” said Timberwolves coach Meghan Jenorah. “They would have separated and ran more their own (races). But they also team-run well together because they know each other (well).”
Chasing the twins at the front of the pack was Kylee Odell of Clymer/Sherman/Panama, who was able to take home third place in 19:36.78, followed by Silver Creek sophomore Jaylah Cossin in fourth (19:53.08) and Frewsburg’s Acacia Barber in fifth (19:53.60).
Rounding out the top local runners in the small school division was Mackenzie Gratto of Clymer/Sherman/Panama, who took 12th in 20:38.54.
It was Silver Creek that topped the leaderboard for local schools, taking home third with 112 points behind champions Newfane (67) and City Honors (111). Clymer/Sherman/Panama took fifth place with 152, while the Timberwolves took seventh (162) and Fredonia eighth.
Saturday’s full day of action was kicked off with a community race at 9 a.m., which gave area residents as well as some members of the coaching staff a chance to take to the course and experience what some of the area’s best runners would be dealing with.
Dunkirk Coach Adam Woelfle crossed the finish line first in the opening competition, grateful that he had a chance to work up a sweat and also give his runners a time to shoot for.
“I like to run the course first, so I know what the kids are up against, know what spikes to put on them and what not,” he said. “Just see what the terrain is like so that I can let them know. Seems pretty good, there are a couple spots where there are slight little inclines but that’s about it. It’s a pretty good course, I like it.”
Many of the runners from the 47 schools can expect to see those inclines again later on in the season, as they return to Bemus Point Golf Course for the Section VI Championship meet.