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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
A year ago Ashton Bange went out strong, leading the state championships for a good portion of the race.

In the end the Hawks standout finished fourth, with his teammate Jack Gregorski winning.

This year Gregorski is in college, and Bange knows he faces tough conception this season, but that just makes things more fun.

“It’s going to be a tough fight, so those are always the most fun,” Bange said. “Every single day has been how can I improve just for Saturday.”

While fourth place was special a year ago, Bange knows he just missed winning it all.

“Coming in fourth last year, it was nice, but it’s a little bit of a sting, we’ll see what we can do this year.”

In the speed ratings on New York Mile Split the Hawks senior is ranked 10th, but he likes the challenge. Bange is considering if he may go out fast again this year as he did a year ago.

“I think I might employ that tactic again and just try and hold stronger, but during my visualization (of the race), I’ll decide that,” Bange said.

With a possible very wet course after heavy rain is expected all day Friday and Friday night, Bange knows that it might be even more important to get out fast.

“I would say it’s pretty tough, especially weather permitting, it’s supposed to rain Friday,” Bange said. “It possibly could be very muddy and it’s hard to catch up on a muddy race instead of leading it.

“If it’s muddy it’s going to be on everybody’s mind to get out fast and hard, but I know I have a better kick then them.”

This year will be a bit different for Bange as he’ll be racing in a state meet without Gregorski to run with.

“I have experienced racing by myself in big races before, like nationals, but racing cross country this is kind of it for me,” Bange said. “I’ve never done this so it’s going to be a cool experience.”

Bange knows many of the runners in the state field, but there’s also some runners he hasn’t raced before, and he’s excited to see what happens.

“There are a few I don’t know at all so it’s going to be cool picking out the ones I know and racing the ones I don’t,” Bange said.

As a team Mile Split predicts the Hawks as the top team, though it’s projected that both Monroe Woodbury and Fairport will be right in the hunt as well.

“We have gone through ups and downs,” Bange said. “We’ve had so many sicknesses and injuries and hopefully to be able to pull it together, it’s going to be tough, but I think our boys are capable of it.”

For Bange winning states as a team last year was amazing, but things are a bit different when it’s his senior year.

“It’s much different just the little junior as opposed to being a senior and leading,” Bange said.

While this is his final state meet, Bange has always approached races with that mindset.

“I went into last year like this might be my last chance, but it is a little different knowing this really is going to be my last chance,” Bange said.

The Hawks standout knows that teams will be keying on Corning some after they won states last year, but Bange is excited for the challenge.

“We are always kind of running with a target on our backs, it’s not much different, but now it’s a larger target I guess, but it’s going to be fun,” Bange said.

A year ago the Hawks won the title running at Chenango Valley State Park, a course they ran multiple times during the year. This race at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill is a course that the Hawks ran just once at pre-states.

“That course I only ran it once,” Bange said. “Last year I got to run the states course twice before. This is kind of interesting not really knowing the course as well. But, to be able to turn fast you can definitely run fast at that course.”

The course has one big hill, but it’s also one that can lead to fast times.

“There is one big hill that you go up twice, but other than that it’s quite a flat course, so pulling out a fast time is possible if you keep focused,” Bange said.

While the course is fast, it does have enough to make you wonder if you can run fast the whole race and keep that pace.

“You have got to get out fast, but you also have to think about there are rolling hills in there, so you have to think about am I going to be able to run those and sustain that fast pace,” Bange said.

The weather could really impact the speed of the race on Saturday.

“It’s going to be pretty whipping, but if it’s muddy it might come down to a tactical race instead of a fast race,” Bange said.

After winning states as a team last year, Bange would love to see the Hawks win again this year. He’d love to win as an individual as well, but the team result is what matters most to him.

“That would be pretty cool to bring home some hardware,” Bange said. “Definitely the team one means more to me because it shows that as a team we can run fast, and that we are deep, but an individual title would be quite nice as well.”

There is a banner on the wall in the gym for the team title. And, Bange would love nothing more than to add another team banner to the wall. But, he does know that an individual state title banner would also be special.

“It would be pretty cool to see my name on there, I’m not going to lie,” Bange said.

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