Wednesday, September 29, 2010

72nd annual Everett T. Grout Memorial Run preview

Ballston Spa's Max Groves, La Salle's Denis Hurley and Hurley's mother, Anne, regroup after the Section II cross coutnry championships at Saratoga Spa State Park in 2009, Hurley, who battles asthma, finished sixth overall in that race. Ballston Spa and La Salle will be among the teams in the field at the 2010 Grout Run Saturday in Schenectady. (Photo by Tom Killips - The Record).

SCHENECTADY — The 72nd annual Everett T. Grout Memorial Run in Schenectady’s Central Park will be held yet again on Saturday. And while the Grout Run may not be as big a draw as it was in the past, quite a field will still line up at the starting line in 2010.

Some of the best cross country runners in the Empire State will descend on the Electric City, as 24 teams ranked in the latest New York State Sportswriters Poll will compete.

“It’s the tradition of it,” said meet director Ed Menis, who also serves as the head cross country coach at Schenectady High School. “It’s the big meet of the year and it sets up for the final push toward the state meet. And it’s a fast course, mostly on roads, not grass.”

One of the favorites will be the Shaker High boys team, which was ranked No. 1 in the New York State Class AA poll and was slotted No. 16 nationally in a recent Powerade Fab 50 poll on espnrise.com.

Shaker’s top runners include Jon Vallecorsa, Mike Libruk, Christian Delago and Casey Gilboy, all of whom finished in the top 10 in Shaker’s own Ed Springstead Invitational on Sept. 10.

The winner of the Springstead meet, Niskayuna’s Marshall Pagano, will also be running in the boys Division I race at the Grout Run.

Divided into three divisions, the six varsity races on the 2.7-mile course are scheduled to begin at 11:10 a.m. Division C features Class C and D schools. Berlin (No. 7 Class D) and Fonda-Fultonville (No. 1 Class C) are among the teams to watch on the boys side.

Freshman-level races on a 1.7-mile course begin at 9 a.m.

Larger schools are divided evenly between the Division I and Division II groups. Menis’ main task in grouping the teams is to split up as best he can the Suburban Council teams and the Section I rivals that see each other on a regular basis.

Broadalbin-Perth’s girls and boys teams, ranked No. 5 and No. 7 in the Class B polls, respectively, will compete in Division II, giving the Patriots a chance to run against student-athletes from much larger schools.

“In some meets they’d be placed in a smaller division,” Menis said. “It’s a chance to push through before state competition and move up for a test.”

One of the oldest meets in the nation, the Grout, having begun in 1939, remains one of the most prestigious. 31% of the squads in the 78-team field (boys and girls combined) hold a position in the New York State polls.

Other meets have popped up over the years, including the Manhattan Invitational at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx and the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Invitational at Saratoga Spa State Park, which have also drawn teams from out of the area.

Queensbury, one of the traditional entrants in the Grout Run, decided not to take part in Schenectady’s meet this season. The Spartans traveled to Pawling last week for the Green Mountain Lake Invitational and will head to the Manhattan Invitational next weekend. They declined to fit the Grout into their schedule for the sake of not traveling three weekends in a row.

A number of Suburban Council teams, including the Saratoga Springs, Columbia and Bethlehem boys and girls, as well as the Shaker girls, will compete this weekend in the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C.

While the Grout Run may not be as popular as it once was, Menis believes it is still vital to the health of the sport across the state and serves as a connection to its history. Schenectady native Ray Trail was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame last month and he set the scholastic indoor and outdoor mile records and won individual national championships for now-defunct Nott Terrace High School in 1935 and 1936.

“In the old days, it was the only place to run,” he said. “It was the meet. For any nationally-ranked team - Schenectady was winning national championships - and for teams that wanted to really compete at the state meet, it was the place to be. There is just a lot more competition for invitationals now.”

New York State Sportswriters Association-ranked teams in the field:
Boys
Division I
Shaker, No. 1, Class AA
Chaminade, No. 23, AA
Suffern, No. 25, AA
Scotia-Glenville, No. 15, A
Bayport-Bluepoint, No. 3, B
Glens Falls, No. 9, B

Division II
Connetquot, No. 5, AA
Washingtonville, No. 16, AA
Guilderland, No. 20, AA
Yorktown, No. 19, A
Broadalbin-Perth, No. 7 B

Division C
Fonda-Fultonville, No. 1 C
Berlin, No. 7, D
Schenectady Christian, No. 8, D
Duanesburg, No. 20, D

Girls
Division I
Colonie, No. 11, Class AA
Niskayuna, No. 11, AA
Tappan Zee, No. 11, A

Division II
Guilderland, No. 13, AA
North Rockland, No. 16, AA
Scotia-Glenville, No 17, A
Broadalbin-Perth, No. 5, B

Division C
Tri-Valley, No. 11, C
Rhinebeck, No. 14, C

To see starting boxes and the full divisional breakdown for the race, click over to www.section2harrier.com

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