Three years ago the Dobbs Ferry guys lost the Sectional Championship by 2 points to Irvington. A year later they entered the Sectionals as the favorite and had a comfortable lead halfway through the race only to see the Bulldogs storm back to win the championship by 1 point. So you knew on Tuesday in a close battle for the League title that the Eagles were in trouble. Their history in these matchups was almost all bad luck except for the less meaningful 2008 County Meet's C title.
As the guys descended the Irvington hill for the final 600 meters to the finish, the meet could not have been closer or victory as elusive as ever. The Eagles were running their best all year, but the win was slipping away with the score 46-46. With Brendan Wortner way out in front and George Epstein comfortably in 2nd ahead of Hastings' Jared Scharf, the Bulldogs still had the 4th, 6th, and 11th through 14th spots seemingly secured and the 6th position tie-breaker safely in hand. Connor Culhane was in 10th but a big distance behind an Ardsley runner, and an Eagle pack of Matt Latainer, James Majeau, and Gabe Natale were in 15th to 17th, far behind the 14th runner and just trying to hold off a pack of runners on their heels. The 1 point the Eagles needed seemed unattainable.
But help was at hand for Dobbs from an unlikely quarter. The Hastings #2 runner is a newly emerging 8th grader named Jamie Ceballos, and on Tuesday he was running well enough to be in 5th place as he entered the last downhill. Ahead of him the only runner that was at all close was Irvington's top guy Dennis Montaruli, who was running strongly and about 40 yards ahead. Ceballos blitzed the downhill and cut the gap to a still big 6 seconds halfway down and maybe another second off as they neared the bottom. From there, it was just an all-out sprint to the finish, and Ceballos would not be beaten. In a final shoulder-to-shoulder duel down the track, Ceballos edged ahead to win by a fraction of a second.
And the Eagles would not be beaten either, taking the championship by 46-47, with Hastings a pretty close 3rd.
Jamie Ceballos may end up becoming the Eagles' toughest League opponent for the next 4 and a half years, but the next time you see him, give him a big thank you. He's a big time hero.