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This winter was one for the ages for area sports.

Three schools had athletes bring home state titles. It makes six state titles this school year and an incredible 14 state titles between Corning, Horseheads and Elmira the past two years.

Corning is securely cemented as the City of Champions as Gyasi Ruffin brought them their 12th state title in the past two years, but Elmira and Horseheads are quickly gaining a reputation as Title Towns USA.

As the joke goes, there must be something in the water, as athletes around here are just doing things you don’t see anywhere else.

The truth is, the area is just blessed to have so many incredible athletes, who work hard and hate to lose, and a group of coaches in the area who are just so dedicated to making area athletes great.

Just how incredible was this winter? Let’s just take a minute to recognize the greatness, sport by sport.

* Cullin Cole won a state title in the 50 free, the first state title in nearly 40 years for the Blue Raiders. He won both the NYSPHSAA title and the Federation title and was also an All-American. He also took fourth in the 100 meters and he joined Shoonfon Li, Kaden TenEyck and Alexander Villegas in taking seventh in the 400 free relay.
* Brenden Jardin-Reed won a sectional title in diving. Elmira's Creed Hackett was also a state qualifier.

* The Elmira boys captured the state title, the first state title in any sport for the Elmira Express program. The Elmira girls took fifth.
* Emily Huntley of Horseheads was a state runner-up in the individual state tournament and Cameron Kennedy of Corning was fifth in the boys’ competition.
* Corning’s boys won STAC and Section IV titles, while the Elmira girls also won a sectional title and captured the state qualifier.

* Corning’s Gyasi Ruffin won a state title in the 600 meters. Elmira’s Vicky Mordvinova medaled at states in the 1000 meters and Corning’s Taylor Farrell (1500 race walk), Gabe Cornfield (1000 meters) and Gabe and DJ Cornfield, Tevin McLaren and Marcus Homa (3200 relay) all medaled at states.
* Sarah Lawson of Corning became an all-american in the 5000 meters.
* Corning, Elmira, Horseheads and Notre Dame all had state qualifiers this year.

* The Elmira Express won the Section 4, Class AA title. Meanwhile the Horseheads girls won a STAC championship on the day.
* Elmira boys and girls, Horseheads boys and girls, Corning boys and girls, Notre Dame boys and girls and Edison girls all qualified for sectionals this season.

* The Horseheads boys wrestling team won the STAC title, they won the Section IV duals title, making state duals, and also won the title at the Section IV individual championships. The Horseheads girls also won a sectional title. Corning, Horseheads and Elmira all had multiple qualifiers for the state championships between the boys and the girls, with Donavan Smith finishing second in the boys championship. Edison wrestling also had a girls' state qualifier.

* The Horseheads girls won a Section IV title, taking fifth at the states. Edison’s girls won an IAC Championship.

Also throw in state qualifiers in gymnastics and alpine skiing for Corning

Throw in some milestones this winter like Payton Littlefield of Edison and Alyssa Dobson of Corning scoring their 1,000th career points and Ryan Massengale of Horseheads getting his 1000th career win on the wrestling mat.

Throw in plenty of success by area graduates at the college level again this year and it’s clear to see how dominant area sports are at this time.

So much of the greatness is more than just physical skill, it’s mental toughness.

The Elmira bowlers were down 190 pins after two games, and came back over the next four games to win states. They did the same thing in the state qualifier. They are kids that never get down when they are behind and have the mental fortitude to finish strong. Nothing epitomized that more than a 7th grader, Frankie D’Angelo, striking out in the 10th frame with the state title on the line to help Elmira win.

Cole is a swimmer who just hates to lose and is never satisfied. He had the second best time in the prelims and was immediately trying to figure out what he could do different in the final. In the final he won the state title by three tenths, a huge margin in a 50, but still wanted more and went even faster as the leadoff of the 200 free relay to become an All-American.

Ruffin improved his time meet after meet, going from not where he wanted to be in the preseason to state champion by the end of the year.

Want to know how consistent the greatness is? Every sports season, fall, winter and spring, over the past five seasons the area has had at least two state titles. It’s truly incredible

And, what’s truly special is that there could be plenty more state titles on the horizon.

Corning’s 3200 relay won states last spring in track and field. They graduated 3200 meter state champion Jack Gregorski, but return three runners from the team this year. They also return state medalists Sarah Lawson and Ashton Bange this year, and Ruffin is coming off an indoor state title, while Mordvinova was a state medalist for Elmira in the indoor season.

The Horseheads softball returns a large chunk of their roster from a team that won sectionals last year, and the Blue Raiders baseball team won sectionals last year and put a scare in the state tournament. Notre Dame’s softball team returns nearly an entire roster coming into the year as well and the Corning boys and girls lacrosse teams are loaded with Division I recruits.

Future years look just as bright for area teams. Elmira returns all five of their top five bowlers next year from the state championship team, and only one of them is even a junior as they have a seventh grader, a ninth grader and two sophomores, along with one junior on the team.

Angie McKane returns next year for Corning. She won two state titles this year, and already has three state titles in her career.

The Corning cross country team has won the past two state titles and while they graduate a strong group of runners, they still have talent returning that can give them a chance to be right there again next year. The girls also took third at states and return the bulk of their lineup, led by star Lawson.

While Cole graduates after winning a state title, Li was in states in four events and returns next year along with TenEyck. While Jardin-Reed and Creed Hackett of Elmira both made states in diving this year and return next year.

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