Eagles Trying On New Role as Favorites in 2008
(updated July 18)
Fresh off a strong Track season in 2008 and last year's oh-so-close 2nd place Class C Sectional Meet cross-country finish for the guys, interesting times have arrived for all the Eagles teams, boys\girls varsity\JV. Many things will happen before the Dobbs teams hit the course at Bear Mountain for the Section 1 meet, but it appears likely if the runners commit themselves to the goal of a NYS championship meet appearance at Sunken Meadows on Long Island, there could be as many as 9 Eagles going to the States this year.
Chances for a championship will depend not only on a commitment by the Eagles to get well prepared during the summer and to work their toes off during the fall, but also to a little luck and a lot of enthusiasm. Last year a shot at the title opened up for the boys when Pawling's 2nd runner went down, and the girls notched a second consecutive 6th place finish when Hastings' top runner was spotted with a hair clip (jewelry, a no-no) at the finish. Making projections from the last year of results is always tricky since new runners appear and some veterans drop out or get injured, but times have never appeared to be rosier for the Eagles on all levels.
The stunning news for the boys is that not only are they top contenders for the C title, but they may well be better than all of the Class B teams and close to the top 3 teams in Class A as well. With Pawling graduating its top three runners and Bronxville lacking depth in addition to losing Ben Levitz, Dobbs appears to be set for another showdown with Irvington for the title and looking to its greater depth as a deciding factor. If Dobbs can pack 5 runners in the top 15 and 7 in the top 20, they should win. At the individual level, with 5 of the first 13 Class C runners graduating (including the Eagles' Dave King), there is room at the top. In Class B, which was weak last year except for Pearl River, all of the teams appear to be even worse this year since even the Pirates have little behind star Mike Hickey. In Class A, champion Somers loses its top four runners and has almost no backups, so coach Tim Fulton will probably not be posting the results of his Big Red classic online for this year as well as that notorious 2006 year when the Dobbs girls won the Division II championship.
Patrick Wortner is the top returning runner in Class C, with Colby Delbene of Pawling finally gone after four storied years. Technically, in the Tully Ratings Irvington's Ian Matthews is rated at 161, 1 point ahead of his teammate Julian Saliani and Patrick, but both of the Bulldogs finished behind Patrick by more than 5 seconds where it most counts in the Sectionals. Behind Patrick are a pack of Eagles that will probably change places a bit during the year but with Evan Fallor, Brendan Wortner, Viktor Mashalov, Dylan Silberfein, and Pat Newman (in Sectional meet order) expected to fight it out. From the JV team, Taka Masuda and George Epstein are developing fast and there are a number of other Eagles who could be in the mix for the team's top 7. Bear Mountain is a relatively fast, less hilly course, so runners need not fear trekking up a Bowdoin type hill three times again. The non-Eagle main contenders for the top 5 state final spots are Matthews and Saliani from Irvington, Jack Hutton, Dayton Flannery, and a rehabilitated Chris Yoo from Bronxville, and Marco Sammon from Croton Harmon.
For a team that finished ranked 9th in Class C NY State rankings and in the top 15 for Section 1 teams of all sizes, perhaps the best stat to show where the Eagles rank in 2008 for the 1-C schools is to compare the average Sectional time of the top returning 6 varsity or JV runners, since all teams need a depth of at least 6 runners. The projection stats for the teams that finished in the top 4 in 2007 in Classes C, B and A are:
Class C: Dobbs Ferry 18:37, Irvington 18:59, Pawling 18:59, Bronxville 19:51 (Irvington and Bronxville have a strong top 4 or 5 but may have a depth problem)
Class B: Pearl River 18:47, Byram Hills 19:10, Nanuet 19:48, Edgemont 20:55 (Pearl River loses 3 of their top 5)
Class A: Brewster 18:11, Fox Lane 18:17, Horace Greeley 18:26, Somers 19:23 (top 3 battle it out while Tuskers struggle through rebuilding years)
In Class AA, Arlington will be a clear favorite over a group of schools including Suffern, North Rockland, Scarsdale and Mahopac.
Looks very intriguing.
The girls still have that big roadblock called the Broncos in front of them for another year as Bronxville's senior class will be a pretty fair trio of Tori Flannery, Caitlin Hudson, and Olivia Bruton (1, 2, 10 in Class C last year) along with junior Henrietta Miers (#8). On the plus side, the Eagles' incredibly young and developing team from 2007 appears ready to hit the big time with the injuries from last fall being replaced by big achievements this spring. Only Class B Nanuet had more than one middle schooler on its Sectional meet team, and none came close to matching the promising Eagles' six young dynamos who joined next year's senior and lone competing HSer at the Sectionals, Izzy Natale, for that 3rd time on Bowdoin's hill in November.
If the Eagle's spring track season is an indication, Lauren Hanley and Sarah King should be in the hunt for one of the 5 at-large state finals places. Seven of 2007's Sectional top 20 are graduating, including 3 of the top 11 (Jackie McGowan, Hannah Rose, Mairin Din) and 3 of the top 7 Broncos (Emma Clarke, Virginia Connor, Karina Benziger, plus Lauren Dawson). Bronxville's middle-school star Amelia Phillips will get an open slot for the Broncos with another middle-schooler, Meredith Rizzo, probably taking a sixth position as the Broncos gear up for their run as the big favorites in the state Class C championship now that the past two years' champ Greenwich has dropped to Class D.
Lauren's Track Sectional 3rd place finish in the 800 meters ahead of Pawling's Winona Mold (#20 in XC) shows she has a base of at least the #15 spot, close to the #9 spot needed to reach the girls state finals. Sarah had a running battle in the track seasons in the 3000 meters with last year's XC state finalist and preseason top-25 Class C pick Caitlin Jelinek of Pawling, so she should be aiming within the top 10 during 2008 XC. The top non-Eagle at-large state finals candidates besides Jelinek are Libby Lazare of Pleasantville, Annie Field of Irvington, Nora Howe of Hastings, and Sarah Costa of Croton Harmon. Eagle fan favorite and top 1-C State Meet finisher Lazare should challenge Flannery and Hudson for the top spot in Class C. The Eagles also appreciate that Pawling sophomore star runner Sammi Jorgensen is a top field hockey player for the excellent Tigers team and they only have to face her in the winter and spring.
Fresh off a placement in the 3000 meters in the Sectionals, Karen Maehara appears set to move into at least the top 20, maybe top 15 if the spikes fall right. Izzy Natale and Sofia Maluf also look ready to make major moves based on good track seasons. Shanna Yue is a top contender for a Top 7 spot after a breakout year in Modified track, and the always entertaining and fast developing group of next year's 8th graders Rebecca Wiersma, Mary Constant, Clara Winder, and Chloe Wang will at least have a very strong JV team. A number of other runners may also make a surprising showing next year.
If Eagles develop well next season, the girls could look to pass Irvington, Pawling, and Pleasantville for 2nd place behind the Broncos, with a decimated Albertus Magnus Falcons trying to just field a team. Hastings will also be in the mix with a young team that could challenge the Eagles. Moving up to even the #4 spot should get the Eagles a nice place in the state top 25 team rankings, in which Bronxville, Irvington, Pleasantville, and Pawling finished #2, #9, #14, and #20 respectively. Section 1 has 5 runners represented among the top 13 in the Tully Ratings preseason picks, so the Eagles will get good experience battling the likes of Flannery, Lazare, Hudson, Field, and Miers.
The short 9-week summer ahead will provide challenges for the Eagles. If they get in good shape and are prepared to go for it in the fall, they may be adding some hardware to the trophy case that even the football players may envy.