BY MICHAEL KELLY
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Legs pumping and arms swinging in unison, Shenendehowa girls’ cross country’s Danielle Jordan and Julia Zachgo approached the finish line Oct. 13 during a league meet at the Saratoga Spa State Park course. Together, the duo crossed the line without another runner in sight, with Jordan’s right leg swinging across the line first.
In the end, three-tenths of a second separated the two girls in a race that went right to plan — and showed the gameplan the top Plainsmen need to execute in the coming championship season.
“When the bigger races come, it’s going to be important we’re sticking together,” said Jordan, a senior. “It’s really important we finish together.”
The big races are almost here for the Shenendehowa cross country teams, which will race Oct. 31 at the Suburban Council Championships before competing Nov. 6 in sectionals.
Archrival Saratoga Springs will be the Shenendehowa girls’ top opponent at both events, with the Section II Class A race taking more importance. Last year, Shenendehowa and Saratoga Springs tied at sectionals, only to have Saratoga Springs win via a tiebreaker to secure its 15th consecutive area title.
In nine out of the last 10 championships for Saratoga Springs, Shenendehowa finished as the runner-up. The Plainsmen are looking to halt the Blue Streaks’ run this season, and the Jordan-Zachgo combination is the top weapon for Shenendehowa.
That showed during the Oct. 13 league meet, as Jordan finished in first place with a time of 18:18.10, Zachgo was second at 18:18.40 — and Bethlehem’s Holly Machabee finished 24 seconds behind for third.
At the meet, the Shenendehowa girls topped Bethlehem, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, and Troy in team action; meanwhile the Shenendehowa boys — running that day with a reduced roster — lost to Bethlehem and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, but beat Troy.
The remaining Section II schedule for the Shenendehowa cross country teams after their trip Oct. 17 to the Burnt Hills Invitational.
- Oct. 20: At Averill Park for a league meet, with Averill Park, Mohonasen, and Shaker
- Oct. 31: Suburban Council Championships, at Saratoga Spa State Park
- Nov. 6: Section II Class A championship race, at Saratoga Spa State Park
Later that same week, on Oct. 17, the Shenendehowa teams also competed at the Burnt Hills Invitational at Saratoga Spa State Park. At that invitational, the Shenendehowa boys ran their full complement of runners and took fourth place in its 24-team division, with Mitchell Halpern’s 13th-place finish leading the way; meanwhile, the Shenendehowa girls ran with an abridged roster for that invitational and took ninth in an 18-team division, with Taylor Leggett leading the team with a 40th-place finish.
After a busy week with two trips to Saratoga Springs, Zachgo said the Plainsmen runners were using most of the time before their league championships to fine-tune their workouts to make sure they are peaking at the right time.
For herself, that means making sure she is staying right with her training partner at all times.
“I know [Jordan] and me need to stay together and lead the pack,” said Zachgo, a junior. “At sectionals, we need to be together to get the score we want — and we have a lot of goals.”
“We’re feeling really strong and confident,” Jordan said. “We’re really excited heading into the championships.”