By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- With about 1,000 yards left in his 3.1-mile-long race, Fonda-Fultonville boys cross country's Matt Hoffman felt the cramps coming.
"There was a split-second there where I was saying to myself, 'Is this really how it's going to end?'" said Hoffman. "And, then, I thought about all the training I'd put in, how hard everyone had worked around me -- especially my parents -- and I thought I owed all of them to keep going, so I dug down to finish."
What Hoffman finished Friday at the Saratoga Spa State Park was a remarkable run, as the senior led the Braves to their fourth consecutive sectional championship victory. Hoffman's time of 15 minutes, 34 seconds also earned the senior the top spot overall in the Section II Class C championships, as Hoffman beat Maple Hill's Jordan Healy by 17 seconds to take the victory.
"I don't think that was his best time this year, either," said F-F head coach Mark Therrien. "He's just been a strong finisher all year. I didn't even see him finish ... but to hear he blew away the other kid wasn't surprising to me. That's typical Matt."
Hoffman said he was vaguely aware he had a commanding lead heading into the race's final 50 yards, but he wanted to leave nothing to chance.
"I hit the straight-away and I knew I couldn't let down," he said. "I didn't want to leave it up to anyone else. I didn't look back."
Hoffman was not alone, though, in leading the Braves to the title; Tyler Angioli (16 minutes, 22 seconds) finished in seventh place, Jimmy Westman (16 minutes, 39 seconds) came in 10th, Cameron Gilligan (16 minutes, 53 seconds) finished in 14th, and Dylan DeSorbo (17 minutes, 17 seconds) came in 21st.
"We each knew our jobs and we each did them," Angioli said.
That attention to detail started right at the beginning of the race. Starting from the far side of the course -- the least advantageous side to begin -- Therrien preached to his athletes that they needed to immediately "crash" to the lead of the pack, so as to not get lost in the shuffle right at the beginning.
"I wanted Hoffy to be the closest to the field so they could all follow his lead," said Therrien, "and they all followed him right to the lead."
Hoffman took off from there, running at his own pace a few steps behind Maple Hill's Healy for most of the race. Besides Hoffman, the rest of the Braves focused on each trying to scrape out the best position they could.
"Coach always says that every point matters," Angioli said.
Angioli showed off that commitment late in his race, as the senior scooted around Voorheesville's Joe Becker in the final 15 yards to move up one final position.
"I could see he was dying out a bit and I was getting closer and closer," said Angioli. "So, I had to go and take that point from him for us."
Upon finishing, Angioli did not have to wait long to know the Braves had made good on their four-peat, the first F-F cross country squad to pull of that feat.
"When I finished, I looked back and could see all the (F-F) gold coming in," he said. "I knew then we'd done our jobs."
The Braves now move onto next weekend's state championships, which will be held at Elma Meadows Golf Course, in Elma.
"Hopefully," said Therrien, "we can keep some of this momentum going into next week."