By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The Fonda-Fultonville girls came up just short Friday in joining the school's boys as local team winners at the Section II cross country championships, but freshman Jamie Kasza still had a big day.
Running a blistering pace, Kasza completed the three-plus mile course at Saratoga Spa State Park in 18 minutes, 25 seconds -- 14 seconds head of the second-place finisher in the girls' Class C race.
"It was exciting," Kasza said of taking first place. "I had worked hard all season to get to this point and I didn't want to let me dreams go downhill. ... I've been working toward this for a while."
The Lady Braves finished in second place in their division, as Schuylerville took the team crown.
After seeing Kasza break the race's two-mile mark in fewer than 12 minutes, F-F head coach Mark Therrien said he did not even need to see the end of the race to make sure the freshman held on for the individual title.
"She went by me and I said, 'OK; well, no way anyone's catching her,'" Therrien said.
Several other local runners had strong performances; also qualifying for next week's state competition as individuals besides Kasza were Broadalbin-Perth's Greg Bogdan (16 minutes, 4 seconds; fifth place in Class C boys), F-F's Kim Geniti (19 minutes, 20 seconds; sixth place in Class C girls) and Mayfield's Tom McClellan (15 minutes, 52 seconds; second place in Class D boys).
Geniti said she had trying to qualify for states in her head the whole race.
"I was trying to keep count the whole time (of how many girls were in front of me)," said Geniti. "You're not sure which team is going to win, so I was trying to keep the count in my mind so I could still make it if we didn't win as a team."
The B-P boys finished in third place in their division, while the B-P girls came in fourth. After an up-and-down regular season, head coach Jeff Richards was impressed with his teams' day.
"It's the strongest effort we've had this season," said Richards. "They finally came together."
Sarah Naple was the Lady Patriots' top finisher, achieving a time of 20 minutes, 28 seconds to come in 22nd place.
Therrien said he knew his Lady Braves faced an uphill battle to claim a team crown.
"Everyone had us figured for third, so the girls did an exceptional job," said Therrien. "We pretty much told them they all needed to run an awesome race."
To an athlete, the Lady Braves did their part, but just could not topple the Lady Horses. Still, F-F was plenty happy to be sending two runners to the state competition next week.
Kasza said she was looking forward to her next race. After focusing so much during the past couple of months on winning the Section II title, she seemed to enjoy the reprieve from self-expectations next week's super-competitive field allowed her.
"I don't know about being the best in the state yet," said Kasza. "But best in the section is pretty good."