Leading off today:
Bill Aris is already highly regarded in the distance-running community. If the Fayetteville-Manlius coach's plan for the 2012 cross country season works, he moves a notch closer to genius status in the sport.
With the exception of the Manhattan Invitational in mid-October, Aris is having his varsity teams sit out all the big Saturday invitationals this season. He told The Post-Standard that it is largely a function of having so many upperclassmen on both the boys and girls teams who are being heavily recruited. Fall weekends are a prime time for campus visits, and now F-M athletes won't have to fret about letting the team down.
That's no small consideration, since the Hornets routinely take on -- and beat -- the state's top teams as well as national contenders. The varsity girls have put up perfect scores in the last three NYSPHSAA championship meets and won the prestigious Nike Cross Nationals six straight years. The boys, led this year by Nick Ryan, routinely finish at or near the top in the state meet and have been to Nike Cross Nationals six times in eight years, twice finishing second.
ďItís a pleasant problem to have, an affirmation of their running success," Aris said of all the college interest. "Training and dual meets are the priority in September."
The decision to pass up invitationals has no bearing on F-M's status for the sectional and state meets. Runners need only to run six times during the season (including dual meets) to be eligible for the postseason.
Where it could affect the Hornets is the season-ending national meet in Portland, Ore. Assuming he has five runners with a pulse available the first weekend in December, Aris can count on the F-M girls receiving an at-large berth. Barring a sensational performance at Manhattan followed by a triumph at the state meet, the boys probably need to qualify by snaring one of the two berths allocated at the New York regional in late November because there are too many teams across the country potentially worthy or an at-large berth.
200-game winner dies: Fred Smith, 202-104-15 in a 38-year football coaching career, died Saturday after a battle with cancer. He was 75.
Smith, who retired in 1998 after 30 seasons at Locust Valley, began his career with stints at Friends Academy and Cold Spring Harbor. He coached Locust Valley to three straight Section 8 Conference IV beginning in 1985, bookended by a pair of 10-0 seasons.
"He held everybody accountable, and kids respected that," Kevin Smith, who played football under his father from 1985 to 1987, told Newsday. "As they grew into adults they still respected that. They'd come back to him time and time again for advice and to help them in their careers and in their lives."
More football: Week 2 of the New York season swings into full force Friday night, with St. Anthony's taking on one of the best teams in the Northeast. Details on that, a scandalous disclosure at a powerful private school and more can be found on the football-only blog I filed earlier.