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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
VERONA — Corning’s Sarah Lawson had some goals heading into the NYSPHSAA Cross Country Championships at Vernon-Verona-Sherill High School.

Lawson, who took 12th at states last year, was hoping for a top 10 finish, and she was hoping the Hawks could finish top four as a team.

By the time Saturday ended the Hawks junior was crossing the line sixth in the state, as the Hawks matched the best finish by any Corning girls’ cross country team at states, finishing fourth as a team.

“We finished fourth a couple of times, and we tied that, that’s great,” Corning coach Ray Lawson said. “Coming into the season we lost so many seniors the past two years that most of these girls had never been to a sectional championship and most of them have never been to a state championship, so to be able to win sectionals and come here and race as well as we have ever done, I’m very proud of them.

“They have been getting better each week of the season and they came here today and just really put together a team effort. We beat the fifth place team by two points, and we had seven girls finish in front of their fourth, which means it took our entire team to finish that way. We don’t get fourth today without our sixth and seventh girls racing as well as they did, so complete team effort.”

Corning had 130 team points, edging Orchard Park (132) by two points for fourth place. Saratoga Springs won with a team score of 23.

Lawson had a sixth-place finish, her second straight state medal, with a time of 18:44. Midway through the race Lawson sat in 10th place, but as the race went on she started to pick runners off.

“I definitely tried to remind myself there is still race left,” Lawson said. “I can still get where I want to be and I could see people that I have been telling myself I want to be able to race with those people.

“I heard coach Cartwright too, he said those people you want to race with, make it happen, that just helped me in the back part of the woods the second time move up to where I wanted to be.”

Lawson knew it was going to be a fast race and she was ready for it and she stuck to her race plan.

“I knew it was going to be a very fast start, but we prepared for that in practice and in my workouts,” Lawson said. “I just knew that was where I needed to get out and I saw the teams and some of the individuals I knew I’d be racing and I just tried to stick with them and slowly move my way up the pack.

“I just tried to stay smooth the entire time and stay confident in that so toward the end I could keep moving up so I was happy with that.”

Ray Lawson was happy with the way his daughter put together her best race of the year in the biggest moment.

“New York State is a very, very deep state in cross country and class A is the deepest class in the state, so she beat some very, very good runners today,” Ray Lawson said. “Her races have been all good this season, but she hasn’t had a breakout, great race and today she did so that was a good day to have that.

“She’s been winning races, but not able to race as fast by herself and today she had all the competition she could handle and she beat some very fast girls. You are trying to stay confident late in the season. Everyone is a little dinged up. She had a shin issue going on the past three or four days, but she was obviously able to tune that out and perform well today.”

Finishing sixth, and catching some of the top runners in the state down the stretch just builds confidence for Lawson.

“It helps me know where I am and to see them there throughout the season is something I think about,” Lawson said. “So, to be able to race them and beat some of them feels good.”

Lawson knew she was capable of what she did Saturday if she put together a good race.

“I knew I could do it,” she said. “This season so far I hadn’t, but I knew I could do it. I knew I had the ability to do it so I’m very happy with that.”

Sadie Beres was 65th for Corning in 20:54.2 and Lauren Roche was 67th in 20:59.2, while Cassandra Collins took 70th in 21:08.1 and Ella Grinnell was 73rd in 21:15.7. Taylor Farrell was 80th in 21:28.7 and Meghan McLaughlin was 82nd in 21:32.1.

The second through fifth runners for Corning were within eight spots of each other, and two through seven were all within 17 spots and just 38 seconds of each other.

“It’s the best Corning has ever done in the state,” Sarah Lawson said. “So, it’s really great and this group, I’m proud of everyone. It was really amazing.

“Our training, we try and build through the season so I’m definitely proud of that. Our training also helps because I know we put in the work all season building up.”

Now that the team has a fourth-place finish, they’ll just get back to work.

“We are a really tight group and we really love the sport, so we are going to be working hard the rest of the year into next year,” Sarah Lawson said. ‘Top three would be amazing. We just won’t put any limits on ourselves and I think we have a shot to do it next year.”
IN TOP PHOTO: Corning’s Sarah Lawson. . . PHOTOS BY BRIAN FEES

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