By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- For a mile, Amsterdam's Megan Ottati ran with teammates Illenis Quinones and Kelly Paris in a tight pack, already well ahead of the rest of the field during Tuesday's Big 10 cross country meet against Albany.
Then, Ottati just ran away.
The senior kicked away from Quinones -- Paris pulled up with an injury midway through the race and did not finish -- and by the time Ottati completed the 2.6-mile course at Amsterdam High School, she was 39 seconds clear of the field to lead the Lady Rams to a businesslike 17-43 victory that sets Amsterdam up for a showdown with Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons next week for the league title.
"'Taking care of business,' is a pretty good description," said Amsterdam head coach Stu Palczak. "We anticipated this outcome and our focus was to be businesslike and methodical in running our race with the goal in mind of next week, and I think that's what we did."
Ottati led an effort that saw the Lady Rams (3-0 Big 10) grab six of the top seven places in Tuesday's race. Illenis Quinones was second, with Chantel Dopp in third, Deb Johnson in fifth, Caitlyn Adamchick in sixth and Brenda Santana in seventh. Alexa Pettit finished fourth to lead Albany.
"After the first mile, I always feel a lot better," said Ottati, who finished in 17 minutes, eight seconds over the new AHS course layout. "The first one's always the hardest, the second (mile) is better."
Tuesday's cruise to victory continued a strong senior season for Ottati, who has battled injuries at times over her varsity career, but has already put together a campaign that includes a second-place finish at the Sept. 22 Galway Invitational that led the Lady Rams to a team championship.
"The great thing about her is that she doesn't put any limits on herself," Palczak said. "She's not intimidated by other runners."
Behind Ottati, the Lady Rams have put together a strong pack of runner, with Quinones, a junior, proving to be a breakout performer along with a solid group of returning runners in Dopp, Johnson and Adamchick. Still, for the Lady Rams to have the best shot of winning the Big 10 title from Bishop Gibbons next Tuesday, Paris' speedy recovery will be paramount.
"We're nursing an injury that we need to correct so she can get back, because she's running really well," Palczak said. "But, with the other girls, Illenis Quinones is really coming on, and then there's a good pack -- Chantel, Deb Johnson, Caitlyn -- that's been there all year."
With a healthy Paris hopefully on the horizon, Ottati's plenty confident in how the Lady Rams stand.
"I think we're really strong right now," she said. "Kelly, she's going to take a little break, but she should be good for Tuesday. We're doing really good. We're strong."
With what he's seen so far from his team, Palczak said he's confident that Amsterdam can give Bishop Gibbons more than a run for its money when the Lady Knights visit AHS this coming Tuesday.
"They've won the league two years in a row, and we think we're in a position to compete with them," he said. "If we're close, then our girls against their girls, it should be fun."