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Crist, McDonald Capture Cross Country Crowns

Runners are pictured at the start of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association boys cross country championship race Friday at Long Point State Park. P-J photos by Scott Kindberg

ELLERY — Ava Crist decided to join the Maple Grove cross country team as a seventh-grader because she knew some of the older girls on the team.

Ronan McDonald became a runner at Randolph, following the lead of his older sister, who was a member of the Cardinals’ track & field squad.

To suggest that the pair made the right decision years ago would be a decided understatement.

For the second straight season, Crist and McDonald captured the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Championships, easily outpacing their competition at Long Point State Park on Friday afternoon.

Crist, a junior, posted a winning time of 18 minutes, 58.61 seconds to easily hold off senior Emily Brown of Fredonia (19:27.30) and junior Acacia Barber of Frewsburg (19:31.36) on a muddy track, courtesy of Thursday’s heavy rain.

Maple Grove's Ava Crist captured the CCAA girls cross country title at Long Point State Park.

Meanwhile, McDonald, a senior, registered a time of 16:15.92, followed by senior Bryce Baglia of Falconer/Cassadga Valley (16:29.55) and junior Drew Carlson of Jamestown (16:44.77).

Meanwhile, in team competition, Falconer/Cassadaga Valley won the boys race with 53 points, two more than Southwestern and seven more than third-place Maple Grove, while the Lady Red Dragons captured the girls race with 48 points, followed by Clymer/Sherman/Panama with 71 and Silver Creek/Forestville with 133.

For Crist, running at Long Point is second nature. Between regular-season meets, summer practice sessions, the annual Red Dragon Invitational and the CCAA Championships, she figures she has toured the 3.1-mile layout at least 100 times in her career.

“I know this course so well,” she said.

That helped when she encountered “super-duper” mud on the back half of the course.

Randolph's Ronan McDonald took home the boys cross country title.

“But we have very long spikes, which I think helped me a ton,” she said. “Training through the mud is going to help us moving forward.”

The Section VI Championships are next Friday at Knox Farm in East Aurora, followed by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on Nov. 16 at Plattsburgh High School.

“Next week, I’m hoping to take home a blue (sectional winner’s) patch and hoping our team can really pull together,” Crist said. “Our team has been so strong this year. There were some ups and downs, but I think when our heads are in the game, we’re hoping to bring home a win to make it to states. Then at states, we’re hoping to bring home a win as well.”

McDonald’s amazing season continued, too.

“It means a lot, coming out against all the good competition,” he said. “To come out on top twice means a lot to me.”

McDonald’s journey to the top of his favorite scholastic sport came after spending a portion of his youth enjoying mountain biking.

“My sister pole-vaulted in track, so I figured I might as well start running,” he said. “Then I joined cross country and became good friends with a lot of older (kids) on the team, so I stuck with it.”

One of his pals was former Cardinal, Matt Evans.

Asked if he still stays in touch with his Evans, McDonald said he did and he planned to text him to let him know how things went at Long Point State Park yesterday.

As has been the case for most of the last two month, it went splendidly well.

Mud and all.

NOTES: Joining McDonald, Baglia and Carlson in the top 10 in the boys race were Peter Auer of Maple Grove (16:54.02); Rayven Sample of Falconer/Cassadaga Valley (16:59.64); Dagon Bryant of Southwestern (17:00.99); Eddie Scroxton of Southwestern (17:04.36); Jacob Brink of Allegany-Limestone (17:10.70); Drew Kelemen of Maple Grove (17:19.89); and Trenton Shutters of Southwestern (17:25.95). … Joining Crist, Brown and Barber in the top 10 in the girls race were Angelina Napoleon of Allegany-Limestone (19:40.99); Kylee Odell of Clymer/Sherman/Panama (19:45.52); Abby Brunenavs of Maple Grove (19:50.36); Christina Peppy of Maple Grove (19:57.52); Juliana Flick of Silver Creek/Forestville (20:13.30); Jericha Petrella of Dunkirk (20:28); and Savannah Lashbrook of Fredonia (20:33.39).

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