The Blackwell Blog

The Hornets' seventh heaven

Yeah, they were starting winter sports, with varied amounts of basketball, hockey, wrestling and volleyball to chew over.

Yet this was all early-in-the-regular-season trivia compared to the history taking place about 2,400 miles away in Portland, as the Fayetteville-Manlius girls cross country made it seven national championships in a row by dominating the Nike Nationals.

You can say this dominance is all getting routine, and it is. You can say that the program has turned into a relentless championship machine, and that's also true. But the more national titles the Hornets pick off, the more astonishing the story gets.

There was a time, maybe a couple of months ago, where Bill Aris may have wondered, if only for a second, whether the F-M dynasty would sustain itself through one more season. Jillian Fanning was hurt, and no single runner had shown an ability to match her 2011 state championship form.

So for a while, all the attention went to Nick Ryan on the boys side. While F-M could not quite defend its state title on the male side, falling by one point to Saratoga Springs on Nov. 10 at Elma Meadows, Ryan won the race and set a course record. Then he set a course record at Bowdoin Mark in the New York Qualifier for the Nike Nationals two weeks later.

Meanwhile, the girls were getting into gear, not with brilliant individual efforts, but by having seven girls - Fanning, Mary Barger, Annika Avery, Alana Pearl, Jenna Farrell, Katie Brislin and Michelle Duffy - all run together, real fast, through every conceivable condition in the "Stotan" training style that Aris has made so famous.

As sectional and state titles were gobbled up again, the Hornets continued to improve as a unit, saving it best stuff for Portland, where by happy chance a heap of rain fell in the week leading up to the Nike Nationals, giving F-M the mud that it almost seems to crave.

You know the rest. F-M won the national meet with 54 points. The next-closest side, from Texas (Southlake Carroll), was a mere 155 points behind. In the team event, Fanning, Barger, Brislin, Pearl and Farrell all finished in the top 20. Avery and Duffy were close behind.

So the beat goes on, and on, and on. No doubt in a week or so those F-M girls will start running again, working toward national title no. 8, with the interludes of indoor and outdoor track to further help the effort. Oh yeah, and Pearl, Avery, Barger and Farrell return for 2013.

Compared to that, anything else was small print this weekend. Even West Genesee's ice hockey side beaten again by Suffern in the finals of the Wildcat Classic, a rematch of the epic 2012 state semifinal, was a secondary affair, although WG's strong third-period play in a 4-2 defeat hinted that, despite its youth, it might not be done winning titles.

Mostly, in basketball we waited for the bigger events at Henninger (Peppino's Classic) and the Carrier Dome (Hall of Fame Classic) next weekend, but one big development from J-D. Already missing Rasheed Baker, the Red Rams lost Jeff Edwards to a broken foot in a season-opening win over Mexico, not the ideal situation going into Tuesday's showdown with BIshop Ludden.

Of course the J-D girls started nicely, shutting down ESM, while Westhill and Bishop Grimes' girls both got OHSL Liberty wins ahead of next Friday's key early-season test. Look out, too, for Skaneateles, who laid waste to VVS in its opening act. There was also a good Bill Middleton Tournament final, though host Baldwinsville dropped a tight one to Rome Free Academy.

Volleyball tournaments were won by Hamilton (at Sherburne-Earlville), Canastota (at Beaver River) and Westmoreland (at Dolgeville). On the wrestling mat, South Jefferson held off Fulton and 20 others at the Andersen Tournament at C-NS, while Little Falls (at Poland), Homer (at Chittenango) and Central Square (at Sandy Creek) all had unbeaten marks in dual meets. Note also how CBA/J-D and VVS shared top honors in the Morrisville-Eaton Duals.

And, lest we forget, there was the small news of Baldwinsville football hero Tyler Rouse getting named the Gatorade New York State Player of the Year honors. Gaining 2,977 yards and 45 touchdowns will draw some notice, as in the first Section III player so chosen since Onondaga's Latavius Murray in 2007. Now if only a heap of colleges got interested in this guy, not just Temple.

It all got overshadowed, though not because the boys and girls of winter are unworthy or because we've heard enough about Tyler Rouse.. Only because those cross country runners at F-M have achieved a worthiness that few teams, or few programs, ever reach.


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