By John Schiano
Bill Aris doesn’t dwell upon the opportunity to continue a tradition of success for the same reason that Formula I race car drivers don’t use rear-view mirrors: The Fayetteville-Manlius cross country coach understands all too well that what’s behind you isn’t nearly as dangerous as the twists and turns in the road ahead.
“The past means nothing,” Aris said last weekend after his F-M girls won and the boys placed second at the high-octane McQuaid Invitational at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester. “We celebrate it when we accomplish something, enjoy it a little while, then put it in a box and put it on a shelf. Every year is brand new.
“There’s no assumption based on rankings or anything else. We have no delusions of grandeur by any means. Other teams improve, so whatever we may be ranked – artificially so – means nothing because other teams improve as well. If we have one clear path it’s that, if we have the horses to do it, our goal is constant improvement and that’s how we go about it.”
There’s scant room remaining for improvement. Fayetteville-Manlius dominates the scene in its sport unlike any school in any sport in New York these days. The Hornets’ boys won New York State Public High School Athletic Association and Federation championships in 2004 and ’05 and went on to place third and second, respectively at Nike Team Nationals (recently renamed “Nike Cross Nationals”) in Portland, Ore.
The spotlight belonged to the girls in 2006 and ’07 as they swept the state, federation and Nike crowns.
There’s no reason to expect anything less from the girls this fall, particularly in light of the fact Aris lost only one of his top nine runners to graduation in June. The Hornets rested their top five at the Chittenango Invitational last month and still overwhelmed Baldwinsville, the No. 13 Class AA school in the state.
Aris rested one of his top five last weekend at McQuaid but F-M still beat Burnt Hills, rated No. 8 nationally by The Harrier, 27-61. Sophomore Courtney Chapman hit the tape first in 16:58, and juniors Molly Malone and MacKenzie Carter, freshman Katie Sischo and senior Kathryn Buchan also placed in the top 10.
Most telling, though, was the average time for the five scorers was 17:31, about eight seconds per runner faster than a year ago – when the Hornets were acknowledged by many to have been the greatest team in state (and perhaps American) history.
With two solid months left in the season, Aris will be the first to tell you F-M was running for a purpose rather than for a prize, even at a meet as big as McQuaid, with 6,000 competitors from across the Northeast and Cananda.
“We race when we need to race and train when we need to train, but training is the primary goal,” Aris said. “Racing at strategic points to test in the process of going for a championship season is what we do. It’s an approach that some people ascribe to and others do not. We’ve done that every chance we’ve have when we’ve had teams of this level and it’s worked very well for us.”
Indeed it has. Besides the trophy haul of the last several years, Fayetteville-Manlius has garnered national media attention. The girls’ team graces the cover of the October issue of Running Times, which contacted Aris late last spring to set up a four-page spread focused on the training routine.
"I was shocked they wanted to devote that kind of time and coverage to high school cross country," Aris said.
Football: Class B Takes Center Stage
Lackawanna and Fredonia, regarded as two of the top five Class B teams in the state, take 4-0 records and nearly identical resumes into their Section VI game on Friday in Fredonia. Lackawanna has outscored its opponents by 118-8, and Fredonia’s margin is 111-7.
In Central New York, Oneida (4-0) and Chittenango (3-1) face off in Class B for Section III’s most significant game of the week. And in Section IV, seven-time defending sectional champion Chenango Forks (3-1) will try to rebound from an 18-15 loss to Oneonta by getting the better of Norwich (4-0).
The key game of the week in the smaller divisions sees Class C Dobbs Ferry (4-0) traveling to Class D Tuckahoe (4-0) in a Section I contest between teams that won NYSPHSAA championships in 2006. Dobbs Ferry lost to Syracuse Bishop Ludden in the 2007 finals.
More Football: One School, Two Milestones
Albion varsity coach Dick Diminuco reached 200 career victories late last season, and now veteran coach Gary Mannella hit the same milestone last weekend with the Purple Eagles’ junior-varsity as both the varsity and the JVs improved to 4-0 for the season.
"It’s something special," Diminuco told The Journal Register in Medina. "I don’t know if there is another JV-varsity coaching combination with that many years together and that many wins anywhere in the state."
Diminuco’s first decision as Albion’s new coach in 1979 was to make Mannella his JV coach.
"Shows I’m a genius," Diminuco joked.
Soccer: Connequot Quartet Playing Together
One of the all-time unusual scoring summaries showed up in print in early September, when Connetquot’s girls defeated Half Hollow Hills East, 3-2. Danielle Murino scored all three goals for the winners, each assisted by different siblings from her family.
Danielle Murino, 17, is a senior; Michelle, 16, a junior; Deanna, 15, a sophomore; and Joanne, is a 14-year old freshman for Connetquot, which is off to a 6-1 start this season.
Each of the sisters, who have a brother in junior high, has played varsity soccer since her freshman year, and each plays the sport year-round. Dennis Murino said there have been weekends in which each of his daughters was playing in a different state, giving him all the more reason to savor the action this fall.
"It's like a dream," he told Newsday. "Because you never know if it'll actually happen."
Basketball: Former Greenwich, Granville Coach Dies
John Traver, who went 419-235 as the boys coach at Greenwich and Granville from 1964 to 1994, died last week at the age of 69. Traver, who subscribed to the run-and-press philosophy, won five Section II championships at Greenwich between 1969 and 1994.
"His goal was always to shoot 100 times a game," Tony Traver said of his father in an interview with the Post-Star. "He never reached it, but he figured if we shot 100 times and shot 33 percent, we'd win the game."
Coaches vs. Cancer Clinic Set
Registration has begun for the Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Clinic being held Oct. 18 at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. The emphasis of the third-annual event is on drills, patterns, philosophies and offensive and defensive fundamentals.
* UMass assistant Vance Walberg
* Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins
* Syracuse women's head coach Quentin Hillsman
* Onondaga CC head coach Dave Pasiak
* Jamestown High coach Ben Drake
* Syracuse CBA coach Buddy Wleklinski
Pre-registration through Oct. 10 is $45 for the program's first coach and $40 each per additional attendee. The cost at the door is $55. You can find the registration form at www.newyorksportswriters.org/cvc/cvc-clinic-brochure.pdf.
Wrestling: Big Names Heading for Union-Endicott Duals
New York’s top four large-school wrestling teams and the Nos. 1 and 2 small schools from a year ago have confirmed they'll attend the Union-Endicott Duals on Jan. 3.
Heading up the field are large-school powers No. 1 Spencerport, No. 2 Brentwood, No. 3 Fulton and No. 4 Chenango Forks. In addition, Brockport (8th), Fairport (9th), Amsterdam (11th), Johnson City (12th) and MacArthur (14th) also finished in the top 15 last season.
The Division II schools attending will be No. 1 Phoenix and No. 2 Waverly.
Sayville, Wantagh and U-E round out the 14-team tournament.
John Schiano, who has written about high school sports in western and central New York for more than 25 years, covers New York for MaxPreps. He may be reached at email@example.com.