Several local Section 1 Cross-Country teams absorbed off-season blows this summer. Whether it was June graduation claiming their top runners or key runners sustaining injuries, many teams have been forced to rebuild.
Dobbs Ferry is not one of those teams. In fact, the Eagles have loaded up the roster with fresh new blood.
The Eagles have their top two runners from last season on both the girls and boys sides. Sarah King and Brendan Wortner each earned a berth in New York State and Federation championships last fall, giving the high-flying Eagles some state-wide visibility.
King, who fought valiantly and through a rash of injuries last season, has entered her senior season in the best shape of her career.
“Looking at things right now, she’s as healthy as she’s ever looked and I’m going to attribute that to her summer training,” said Eagles coach J.P Kaminksi, who’s helped resurrect the Dobbs Ferry cross-country program.
“She spent the entire summer training as hard as she’s ever trained and building up muscle to support her knee. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t do your summer work, you are bound for injury. I think she also knew that the competition was going to be a little tougher this year.”
King, who will be way out in front of a tight pack of runners, broke the five minute barrier 9 (churning out a time of 4:58) in the 1,500 race during spring track. King seems poised to shatter her personal record of 19:30 in the 5K, which would ultimately lead to another banner season.
Having cultivated her talent and pushed her development, Kaminski has noticed King performs best when the stakes are raised.
The league championship race could be a showdown this season. With Sleepy Hollow’s Katherine Doyle and King going neck-and-neck and running each other into the ground, expect a down-to-the-wire race.
As a senior, she would like to steer the Dobbs Ferry ship back into the familiar federation waters. She knows the addition of a few teams in the league will make it more of a challenge— and she wouldn’t want it any other way.
On the boys side, the Eagles return another one of the state’s elite harriers, Brendan Wortner. Wortner clocked a red-hot 16:30 in the 5K at state championships in Pawling last season, garnering a berth in the Federation championship. The senior clocked a personal best of 16:10 and has been bent on shaving several seconds off that time. Having done summer workouts with his brother, Patrick Wortner (an All-American candidate for SUNY Geneseo), Wortner could potentially shatter the 16-minute milestone.
“The sky's the limit for Brendan,” said Kaminski. “He always runs his hardest over the summer. He's running every day. He’s got a Division-III national champion caliber runner for a brother pushing him. This is actually the first summer that they've really trained together and I think he’ll reap the rewards of that.”
Buoyed by an uptick in numbers, Dobbs Ferry may have more depth than in recent years. The success of last year’s team and the traditional team activities may have a bit to do with that. This year, Kaminksi has fielded a combined 41 runners.
For the girls, upstart eighth grader Josephine Weidener has opened eyes in practice. The neophyte is looking to lock down the no.4 or no.5 spot after running the 800 during the spring track season.
Adding to Dobbs’ youth movement is sevent- grader Anabele Sheeley. Theyoungster has made an immediate impact, showing fearlessness and gutty endurance. Sheeley oozes of potential and could supplement King as the no.2 or no.3 finisher.
Shanna Yue, who narrowly missed states last season, is again flushed into a prominent role.
Having run the 1,500 meter and 800-meters this recent spring track season, Yue is ready to log more miles and set the tone behind King. She’ll stalk her highly-decorated teammate through the woods, flats, and up the hills of this year’s challenging courses.
For the boys, freshman Grant Sheeley is the incoming golden boy. Kaminkski has already likened Sheeley’s running to Wortner’s (when Wortner was a freshman). He has the similar work ethic, ability, and sheer high-level endurance. Kaminski will nurture Sheeley as the upcoming front runner of the program.
Holding down the no. 3 spot is Connor Culhame, who brings an infusion of swagger. A competitive mind who churns out his best every time he hits the trails, Culhame is likely to step into a more prominent role this season.
Expect Sheeley and Culhame to be finishing in the low 18-minute marks. Both runners have confidence and self-motivation instilled in them. They’re up for the daunting task of eliminating the distance between them and Wortner in critical meets.