ONTARIO CENTER — The recent cold weather worked to Chris Hughes’ advantage Saturday morning, helping both his allergies and his traction.
The Glens Falls senior ran away from the field to capture the Class C boys title at the State Cross Country Championships. Hughes is the Indians’ first state cross country champion.
The Greenwich girls finished second to South Lewis by three points in the Class D race, as Witches sophomore Brynne Wright placed second overall. Saratoga Springs’ Kelsey Chmiel took second overall in the Class A girls race.
Despite frigid temperatures and a muddy course at Wayne Central School, Hughes finished the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 52.7 seconds — nearly 11 seconds ahead of the second-place runner.
“It feels great — it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Hughes said in a phone interview. “It was great to see how happy it made my coach — he’s been working with me for four years.”
His coach, Larry Woods, said Hughes has been dealing with allergy issues and his own high expectations of himself.
“He’s been struggling a little bit this year, a few small doubts, but he cleared those up this week,” Woods said. “All this cold weather has been a godsend — he runs better in the cold. I had a good feeling that he was going to run well. He beat the field handily in the C’s.”
“I think with the frost, the allergies just weren’t a factor,” said Hughes, who finished third in Class B last year. “The course was tough, it was a challenge.”
The Class C boys was the first race of the day, and that worked in Hughes’ favor as well, Woods said.
“It was really sloppy out there, times were slow, but he was the first race, so the mud was still frozen,” Woods said. “It got worse during the day as it got chewed up.”
“I stayed with the first-place guys, but at the top of the first hill, I picked up the pace and just took off,” Hughes said. “I felt like I could’ve gone earlier, but I held back a little bit — I didn’t want to feel bad later in the race.”
Glens Falls won a state team championship in cross country in 1977, and that team’s star runner, Jim O’Connell, won a Federation title.
In the girls Class D race, Wright led Greenwich with a runner-up finish in 20:00.1 — a distant second to winner Brooke Rauber of Tully, who won in 18:51.6. Emma Cronin finished 21st for the Witches in 21:30.5, followed in 27th by teammate Tegan Wright. Also finishing for Greenwich were Emily Skiff (34th), Annabel Gregg (42nd), Quinn Collins (43rd) and Brooke Wright (58th). Ticonderoga’s Sierra Stacy was 76th in the Class D race.
Chmiel finished second in the Class A girls race in 18:32.2, well behind overall winner Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland, who set a course record in 17:51.4.
In Class B girls, Queensbury’s Emily Atamanchuk finished 32nd in 21:44.5. Glens Falls’ Katie Culliton took 25th in 21:41.3 in Class C.
In Class C, the Schuylerville girls team placed eighth, led by Sunni Labounty in 12th (21:19.9). Also placing for the Black Horses were Anya Vautrin (49th), Teghan Murray (97th), Emma Grace O’Rourke (98th), Camilla Brown (123rd) and Lily Neher (126th).
North Warren-Johnsburg junior Brandon Olden finished 15th in the Class D boys race with a time of 17:35.2. Teammate Kenneth Mulvey was 31st. Saratoga Catholic’s Kevin Cronin finished 26th.
In Class B boys, Queensbury’s Brian Beyerbach was 41st and Kevin Bouyea took 62nd, while South Glens Falls’ Frank Triolo was 71st. Saratoga’s Shean Weilbaker finished 11th in Class A boys, in 16:41.2.
Note: This story has been updated to add a Greenwich runner's name that was left out.