VERNON Alex Hall has always stood above his high school cross-country competitors in the literal sense.
But at Saturdays Section 3 championships on Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High Schools muddy and windy 5K course, Hall stood above his peers both literally and figuratively.
The 6-foot-3 senior from Beaver River placed first in the Class D boys race, helping the Beavers win their sixth straight sectional title.
To highlight the girls action, Victoria Campanian celebrated her birthday by placing second in Class D and leading South Lewis to its second sectional title, and first since the mid-1980s.
Immaculate Heart Central junior Gabby Thompson and South Jefferson senior Nick Tyler each qualified individually for Saturdays state meet, joining the Beavers boys and Falcons girls teams at Elma Meadows Golf Course and Park, near Buffalo.
The South Jefferson boys and girls teams each claimed the Class B-2 championship, but will not advance to states due to their scores being lower than the Class B-1 champion in each race.
Hall made his move late, passing Sauquoit Valley junior Nicholas Spina in the last quarter mile to become the Frontier Leagues only individual champion.
He finished in 17 minutes, 25.7 seconds, making his minute total lower than his shoe size 18.
I was at the bottom of the hill telling him he had to go now because he only had a half-mile to go, Beaver River coach Jay Steiner said. Within a quarter-mile he was running side-by-side with (Spina), and then he just pulled away from him. That was probably one of the hardest races of his life.
Nathan Cobb placed seventh, Dustin Neddo was 11th and Troy Purcell finished 18th to help the Beavers take the team title with 59 points. Sauquoit Valley was second with 88 points.
At the start of the race I was so nervous, because theres so much competition between us and Sauquoit, Hall said. But we all pushed through.
South Jeffersons Tyler earned a third-place finish in the Class B race, finishing in 17:13.8.
It will be Tylers third appearance at the state meet. He finished fourth in the Section 3 meet last season and fifth in 2010.
The Spartans finished with 157 team points to earn the Class B-2, small school title. Westhill-Ludden, the B-1 champion with 76 points, received the automatic bid to states over South Jefferson.
Campanian advanced to states for the fifth year in a row with a 20:04.1 race. She will be joined at the state meet by her South Lewis teammates for the first time, making her birthday all the more special.
A trio of Falcons freshmen accompanied Campanian in the top 25 as South Lewis finished with 60 team points for the Class D championship, 28 better than Sauquoit Valley.
Christina Platt placed ninth, Sierra Corbett was 11th and Heather Tripp took 22nd.
Im really happy we can go as a team, and Im proud of how all of us ran, said Campanian, who has two individual titles and three second-place finishes at the sectional meet to her credit.
South Lewis coach Jack Bernard said that it was just the second sectional title for the girls team, and the first time the Falcons will advance to states as a team since the boys did it in 2003.
IHCs Thompson finished third in Class D in 20:30.9.
Thompson will make her second straight trip to the state championships, and her third state meet appearance overall. She advanced to states in Washington as a freshman before moving to the area.
Skylar Pastor placed ninth in the Class B race, leading South Jefferson to the Class B-2 championship. But like the boys team, the Spartans lost the automatic state meet bid to B-1 champion Westhill-Ludden.
Course conditions were less than ideal. The hilly surface was wet and muddy, and temperatures were in the mid-high 30s throughout the day with a harsh wind making it seem even colder.
You just got to put it outside of your mind. This is sectionals, this is what gets you to states, this is a true test of what youre doing, Thompson said. Especially here on a hard, muddy course, its windy. But its fun. This is cross country.
The state meet is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The four girls classes will run first with the D race, where all the local runners will be featured, slated third with a tentative start time of 10 a.m.
The boys races begin at 11 a.m. The B race, featuring Tyler, will run first, while the Beaver River competitors will run the D race at noon.
Its going to be another challenge, Hall said. But at this point, after this race, Im looking forward to it.