BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO - It's hard to cap a season that ends with a trip to the state championships - unless you repeat it the next year. That's what the Owego boys team did this year.
The Indians posted another strong season, wrapping it up with an eighth-place finish at the state meet. It brought to an end a campaign that saw Owego win every invitational within the Section IV boundaries in which it entered its full varsity squad. The season also included STAC Metro division and Section IV Class B championships.
"2018 was a great season for the boys team," head coach John Heath said. "This year we were led by a core group of experienced runners. Our numbers have been high in the recent past and the program has been successful at turning new runners into highly competitive athletes.
"My expectations and outlook for the season were high from the beginning. After the first meet I realized that our summer lifting and training had paid once again off."
Owego won team titles at the Windsor Invitational, the McDaniel-Baxter Invitational at Chenango Valley, at its own Owego Invitational, the Bob Greene / Newark Valley Invitational and the Marathon Invitational, winning the latter without its top two runners, Nate Bowers and Cameron Szabo.
The Indians also made the trek to Long Island to compete in the highly-competitive St. Anthony's Invitational, held on the state meet course, and placed eighth out of 28 teams. The only other invite Owego did not win was Stock-Conwicke Invitational. Because it was held the day after St. Anthony's, a second team of Owego runners filled in and finished a respectable fourth.
At the STAC championships, Owego placed third behind Corning and Ithaca, both Class A schools. The Indians won the Class B sectional meet eight days later, scoring 26 points to runner-up M-E's 51.
Bowers had six top-10 finishes, was 12th out of 392 runners at St. Anthony's and placed 31st out of 114 at the state meet. He led the Indians across the finish line in every race except one. Szabo had five top-10 showings, was 13th at St. Anthony's and 31st at states. Gavin Watkins had seven top-20 runs while Eaan Hackett placed in the top 20 four times and Lewis Race did it three times.
"Team leaders Nate Bowers and Cameron Szabo were solid every meet," Heath said, "and Eaan Hacket, Joel Choynowski and James McDonald had breakthrough seasons and were key in our success."
Heath also credited the up-and-coming freshmen Gavin Bowers, Owen Casterline, Matt Miller, Hunter Ellis and Tanner Pratt.
The Indians were second in the STAC Metro division and second at sectionals, just missing winning the Class B championship by four points. Owego beat Class B champ M-E at the Bob Greene invite and qualified three runners for the state championship meet.
"2018 was a very progressive season for the girls team," Heath said. "This year's team was led by a core group of experienced girls combined with a few younger, developing underclassmen. The girls started the season finishing in the middle of the pack at the Windsor Invitational, but then continued to improve individually and as a team all season.
"We were competitive at every invitational we attended this year and our girls continue to bring a winning mindset to the starting line at every competition they're in."
Heath noted that beating M-E at the Newark Valley invitational, "our first whole team strong performance of the season and making sectionals very close and super exciting," was a highlight of the season.
Brittney Sanguinito, Jenna Hunsinger and Chelsea Corey placed 13th, 14th and 15th, respectively at the Windsor Invitational to lead the Indians to third place and Hunsinger was 20th at the McDaniel-Baxter Invitational to lead the team to third there also. Owego was seventh at its own invite with Sanguinito finishing a team-best 30th. Sanguinito also posted team-bests at Stock-Conwicke (3rd), Bob Greene (41st), Marathon (22nd), the STAC championships (30th) and sectionals (4th).
All five scoring runners (Sanguinito, Hunsinger, Corey, Mary-Carol Hoover, Hannah Monell) placed in the top third of the field at Bob Greene to lead the team to a win over M-E.
Hunsinger, Hoover and Corey all finished in the top 10 at sectionals with Saguinito, Hunsinger and Hoover qualifying for states, and Corey missing out by one spot.
At states, Hunsinger was the first Owego runner across the finish line.
"Brittney Sanguinito, Jenna Hunsinger and Chelsea Corey were team leaders all season," Heath said. "First-year varsity runners that made a big impact were state meet qualifier Mary-Carol Hoover, Alyssa Stephens and Ella Reig."
IN PHOTO: Nate Bowers led the Owego boys to several impressive showings.