For more than a decade, the Seton Catholic girls cross country team has advanced past Section VII to the NYSPHSAA Class D Championship meet.
The highest finish for the Knights has been third, in 2008. In 2007, Mary Kate Champagne and Genna Hartung finished 1-2 in the Class D race, but a lack of depth dropped the team to a sixth-place finish.
Although Seton Catholic may not have the same top-tier talent like in 2007 — Champagne and Hartung would go on to become national championship qualifying Division I runners — the Knights have a solid five that has them aiming for a top-three finish Saturday in the state championships at Queensbury High School.
“We’ve had good individuals at states, we’ve had the team go and had some individuals do well, but this is the first year … we’ve got a pretty balanced team,” said Kathy Champagne, who shares cross country and track and field coaching duties with Keith Bombard.
And that’s not to say the Knights don’t have talent. They have a formidable top two in sophomore Margaret Champagne and senior transfer Ashley Leta.
Margarent Champagne, Kathy’s daughter and Mary Kate’s younger sister, has advanced to the state level every year since joining varsity in seventh grade. The three-time Section VII champion finished seventh in the state Class D race last year.
“For the team, it’s been nice working with so many girls that are hard-working, and if we have good races we want to be in contention for top three for teams,” Margaret Champagne said. “For myself, I definitely want to aim for top five. It’s hard to predict because anything can happen at the state meet.”
Her older siblings, Mary Kate and Michael, each have won state cross country titles, and that provides Margaret with a little extra motivation.
“I try to think if they can do it, I can eventually,” said Margaret Champagne, the No. 4-ranked runner in Class D by Mile Split New York.
Leta, who has been one of the top distance runners in the section since switching from soccer three years ago, transferred to Seton Catholic from Peru for her senior year.
“Every season we had a different coach (at Peru). I just wanted continuity and good, hard training through every season,” said Leta, who wants to continue running in college.
Leta finished second to Margaret Champagne in the Section VII championship for the second straight season. Leta was third in 2011.
“It’s been awesome having her,” Margaret Champagne said. “It’s nice to have another training partner to run with, and she definitely helps the team a lot.”
Behind Margaret Champagne and Leta, the Knights have senior Melissa Whyman, seventh-grader Sofia DeJordy and sophomore Maddy Munn.
Whyman has been on the varsity squad all four years since transferring in as a freshman. Kathy Champagne lauded Whyman for stepping up this year and having her best cross country season to date.
“She’s really made a big impact,” Kathy Champagne said. “She had an off race at sectionals. It was probably her only bad race of the whole season, but I think she’s really ready to go for the state meet.”
DeJordy has been a pleasant surprise for the Knights. Brought onto the team to fill out the fifth spot, the first-year varsity runner has blossomed throughout the season. She finished fifth in the Section VII Championships.
“She has far exceeded every expectation we’ve had,” Kathy Champagne said.
As the Knights’ fifth runner, Munn, in her third varsity season, may be the most important. The team scores are based off the top five finishers for each squad — schools can race their top seven runners, but Seton Catholic only has five.
“A lot of times it can come down to the fifth or sixth runner, so people think of cross country as an individual sport, but when you look at it that way it really is a team sport,” Kathy Champagne said.
Seton Catholic was able to get a test-run on the state course during the Queensbury Invitational earlier in the season. The Knights performed well, finishing behind another Class D school, Tully, in the Division I race. Tully finished second in the state Class C championships last year.
Maple Grove, the three-time defending Class D champions, finished 18th running in the championship race at the Queensbury Invitational.
“At the states everything kind of levels at that point because teams that have been going great continue to do great, but then you always have those breakout races from individuals and teams,” Kathy Champagne said. “It’s just one of those things where you just never know, so you hope you line up that day and everyone can run their best.”
NYSPHSAA Cross Country Championships
Saturday, Nov. 9 at Queensbury H.S.
Section VII Qualifiers
Peru: Abby Adams, Shauna Fliss, Meghan Mazzella, Maria Remillard, Cheyanne Dobozy, Lillian Adams, Taylor Durocher.
Saranac: Elysha O’Connell, Abby Cerne, Taylor Manor, Ludia Miner, Janyll Barber, Andrea Strong, Lexi Haley.
Individuals: Samantha Smith (NCCS), Sophia Theron (Saranac Lake), Johanna Mohrs (Saranac Lake), Claire Deshaies (PHS), Anna Stitt (B’town).
Seton Catholic: Margaret Champagne, Ashley Leta, Melissa Whyman, Sophia DeJordy, Maddy Munn.
Individuals: Nina Armstrong (Lake Placid), Gabby Armstrong (Lake Placid), Naomi Forkas (Ticonderoga), Erin Scufka (Lake Placid), Casey Hargett (Lake Placid).
Peru: Brady Terry, Ethan Feazelle, Tristan Archambeault, Andrew Caswell, Jared Banker, Benjamin Morgan, Thomas Gwinn.
Beekmantown: Colin Quackenbush, Jonathan Graziane, Everett Sapp, Cory Couture, Jordan West, Myles West, Patrick Sullivan.
Individuals: Jeriqho Gadway (PHS), Zach LePage (Saranac), Connor Cota (PHS), Chad Dashnaw (Saranac), Justin Liechty (Saranac).
Ticonderoga: Tyler Belden, Shawn Silliman, Kody Parrott, Jacob Young, Coleman Granger, Martin Glazer, John Cook.
Individuals: Evan Page (Seton), Jon Gay (Westport), Karl Schulz (Lake Placid), Caleb Moore (Seton), Forest Ledger (Lake Placid).