The race will be the same distance. But this time, the Delhi boys and girls cross country teams are hoping to take it a step further.

The Bulldogs will look to improve on a pair of third-place finishes at last year’s state meet Saturday, Nov. 16, as SUNY Plattsburgh and Section VII host the NYSPHSAA Cross Country Championships.

Seven competitors will run for each team as they seek their respective state titles. They will be joined by two other local competitors on the boys side.

“I think we are in the mix for the boys and the girls,” Delhi coach Skip Baxter said. “We are going to go out there to race as hard as we can and hopefully we get the outcome we have worked for. If we have a great race, we are going to be happy either way.”

Oneonta sophomore Korbin Jones will compete in Class C after taking fifth at the Section IV championships Thursday, Nov. 7, and freshman Brennan Finch of Gilbertsville-Mount Upton will compete in Class D after taking 11th at the section meet.

Harsh conditions are expected as Saturday’s high in Plattsburgh is forecast as 23 degrees, with a low of eight. Snow is expected for Friday.

While the weather can make it more difficult to predict the outcome, Baxter said his squad planned to double down on the strategies that helped them reach this stage.

“Our focus is whatever the conditions are, the layout, whatever, it’s the same for everyone so we try to take it in stride, no pun intended,” Baxter said.

On the girls side, eighth-grader Ellie Lees paced the Bulldogs with a third-place finish at the section meet. Baxter said that he expects some in his squad to push for places in the top 20 and earn the accompanying All-State designation, but the lower likelihood of pushing for the individual title lets his team focus on its strengths, teamwork and depth.

“We just trained running our race, and our race is sticking together to push each other and not worrying about the competition,” Baxter said. “The girls know that if one falters, another is there to take that place so there’s no pressure. They just have fun doing it and they just run to run.”

Cella Schnabel, a junior, is the senior member of the seven-person squad, despite the Bulldogs winning three straight section titles. Eighth-grader Gretel Hilson-Schneider is joined by sophomores Anna Tessier, Lonnie Weiss, Sienna Dorr and Camille Mueller in the youth movement that rounds out Delhi’s squad. All seven of them placed in the top 14 at the section meet.

“Four of the top five are in their first year there. It speaks to our team work ethic that we are able to reload,” Baxter said. “We lost some key girls last year and the girls that have filled their spots have done so very ably.”

Delhi won state titles in 1978, 1979 and 1981. Last year’s third-place finish was the highest since the 1981 championship.

There is greater speed at the top of the boys lineup, and greater experience throughout. Jonathon Hadley was Delhi’s top finisher at the state meet as a sophomore in 2018, taking 17th. He won this year’s section title by more than 30 seconds and leads a boys squad that features just one senior.

That senior is Ty Saleman, who finished third in the section and 27th at states last season. Diego Aguirre, a junior, was fourth in the section and took 20th at states a year ago.

Sophomores Marco Shaw and Sam Lees are joined by freshmen Jared Coleman and Luke Schnabel in the lineup. Only Coleman will make his state-meet debut.

Despite boasting some of the state’s top competitors, Baxter said the team will rely on that maturity to keep a team-centric focus throughout the lineup.

“Ultimately, they are racing for a team but the way you can help your team the most is to do well individually,” Baxter said. “We might have higher individual finishers, but our guys at the back of the pack have a chance to really make a difference because they are surrounded by lots of other guys, where for the guys in the front it is harder.”

The Bulldogs planned to depart for Plattsburgh on Friday morning. The Class D boys race is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, with the girls taking off at 12:30 p.m.

The trip from Delhi to Plattsburgh is about 240 miles, but that’s a short jaunt for a group that has run about 450 miles each this fall, according to Baxter’s calculations.

“These kids really understand the relationship between hard work and achievement,” Baxter said. “It’s a big commitment, but they come and run together several times a week over the summer. They are just out there everyday giving it their all and its pays off.”

The Bulldogs are not the only area runners seeing a late-season payoff as Jones and Finch each made their way to the state meet by themselves. State qualifications go to the top seven finishers not on the winning team, and Jones’ breakout performance put him squarely in that group even before consideration of Class C champion Watkins Glen’s finishers.

For Finch, his finish nabbed the final spot on the Section IV team in Class D. That achievement was made more impressive by having just one other teammate, Hamid Williams in 17th, finish in the top 60.

Finch will start at 10:30 a.m. in the boys Class D race, while Jones will begin his five-kilometer test at 10 a.m.

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