By Will LeBlond
Ithaca High School senior Silas Derfel is making sure that he ends his Little Red cross country career with a bang.
He ran away from the competition on Saturday, November 11, when he claimed his first Class A New York State Championship with a time of 16:00.2 at Wayne Central High School. It was a story of revenge as well for Derfel, who came in second at the Section IV Championship just a week ago to Corning’s Quinn Nicholson. With the state title on the line, Derfel pulled through, while Nicholson claimed third.
“On that day, I was just feeling pretty good,” said Derfel on his win. “I was expecting a little bit more of a pack out there, but it was tough conditions and not everyone does best when there’s mud out there.”
The wet and slippery terrain at the school located in Ontario (near Rochester) was something that Derfel was ready for and he was able to use it as an advantage.
“It’s more of a mental thing than anything else,” said Derfel. “Everyone has to race in the same conditions, especially in cross country. I knew with the way that I trained that I may have a bit of a mental edge.”
While Nicholson was his closest competitor in the sectional meet, he had a different foe in the state meet, as Warwick Valley’s (near NYC) Behailu Bekele-Arcuri was hanging around with Derfel for most of the race. With his sights set on a first state title, Derfel was able to pull ahead when the time was right.
“After about a mile and a half, it separated into him and I,” said Derfel on his battle with Bekele-Arcuri. “I had raced him before, so I knew that as long as I could make a good move with a little less than a mile to go, I’d be able to hopefully take the win and that’s what happened.”
The high school competitive season pressed a week after the state title win, when Derfel and his Ithaca teammates made their way to Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls for the New York State Federation meet. The Federation meet is where runners from all classes in the state join together to decide the best of the best.
On the 3.1-mile course, Derfel was able to reach the finish line with a time of 15:57.4, which was good enough for a second place finish just behind Mason Gatewood of St. Anthony’s (Long Island). While he was able to claim the title of second best in the entire Empire State, it wasn’t the performance he was looking for on that day.
“I was a little bit disappointed,” said Derfel. “But looking back at it, anytime you can finish second in the state in a Federation meet, and you can consider it not your best race, you can’t be too upset with yourself.”
His finish, in addition to a top-100 time from Ben Supron and top-200 times from Noah Mattice, Cade Eells and Alexander Simpson, earned Ithaca an eighth-place team finish.
Now Derfel plans on taking part in the upcoming Nike Cross Country Nationals in Portland, Oregon. After that, the track and field season awaits, before he heads off to Syracuse to continue his running career with the Orange.