Last year was a hodgepodge for cross country with the Milton course in Ulster County saving many teams that otherwise wouldn’t have had a semblance of a season.
Yet many top athletes, who would normally compete at big invitationals, did not. Several competitions have been canceled, while others have been held in a much reduced format, some held in waves with only a handful of teams on a course at any given time to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID.
Through it all, several athletes stood out. Several are returning this season, including Rockland’s top male runner, John Fontanez of Nanuet, who raced Milton as if it were his home course.
This season, Milton is still in the mix, but so are the more traditional and challenging venues of Bear Mountain and Bowdoin Park.
And to make things even more fun, the state championships are scheduled to resume.
Below are 14 preseason all-star picks who will undoubtedly shoot to qualify for the States. They are chosen based on past cross-country performance, with track performance also considered in some cases.
record holder: Ursuline’s Banino is the best of Westchester/Putnam’s 2020 All-Stars
Always 100%: Rockland champion Boylan leads the 2020 All-County Team field
Junior dominates: Fontanez de Nanuet leads the 2020 Rockland All-County team
The best of Senior Milton: Gem of Hastings leads 2020 Westchester/Putnam All-Stars
The school: Mamaroneck
What makes Matt great? Doherty didn’t run many races last fall, but when he did, it was worth taking note. His time of 15:52.6 Milton was the second fastest time posted at the Section 1 boys regionals. It was second out of 295 runners. Doherty didn’t let go after that, clocking a personal best 4:19.21 in the mile to win the Loucks Games in the spring.
The school: South Clarkstown
What makes Kieran great? Dudek went from a solid top 25 at a Milton Invitational to 47 seconds behind in Section 1 Regionals to finish 12th out of the 295 boys who raced Regionals on the course. A spring in which he recorded a few personal bests on the track, including the mile, is a positive step into the fall.
The school: Nanuet
What makes John great? Fontanez was no less than dominant, winning his first four races at Milton. He then cut his best time by more than six seconds by recording the fourth fastest time out of 295 boys at Section 1 Regionals.
The school: Brewer
What makes Pat great? Due to limits instituted by Brewster COVID, Ford, a rising star since he was in college, didn’t have the opportunity to race in Section 1 regionals or any Milton invitational races last fall. Instead, his statement run came later. He recorded the second-fastest time of any rider from the Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess schools and finished 26th overall out of 145 at the 12thRock Northeast Five-State Championships.
The school: way of the fox
What makes Harry great? Griff improved on each of the four times he trod the Milton course last fall. His final race time of 16:18.1 placed him 14th out of Section 1’s 295 regional runners and fifth among those returning this season.
The school: Mamaroneck
What makes Jason great? Markopolous barely ran cross country last fall, but his fourth place finish in the Loucks Games 3,200-meter track race last spring says it all. To say more, that’s what he did in cross country in 2019. He qualified for the 2019 State Championships and finished nearly third in Class A there. He was also the top finisher of Section 1, ranked 43rd overall, in a field of 249 at the State Federation Championship (all schools/all sizes).
The school: Nyak
What makes Robert great? Royston had a banner fall 2020 with five top-three finishes before posting a personal best 16:09.1 at Section 1 Regionals. That time was the eighth fastest out of 295 regional runners and third fastest among this year’s returning runners.
More to watch
Noah Bender, Jr., Fox Lane
Colin Brooks, Sr., Somers
Ryan Doherty, father, Carmel
Max Goodman, Sr., John Jay-Cross River
Stephen Liaskos, Sr., Pelham
Hugh McGuire, father, Horace Greeley
Michael Niero, Sr., North Rockland
Nancy Haggerty covers cross country, track and field, field hockey, skiing, ice hockey, women’s lacrosse and other sporting events for The Journal News/lohud. Follow her on Twitter at @HaggertyNancy and @LoHudHockey.