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Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014: F-M runners sweep at Manhattan Invitational

   Leading off today: Fayetteville-Manlius swept the Eastern States Championships team races in the Manhattan Invitational on Saturday at Van Cortlandt Park.

   The Hornets won the boys race with 80 points to 122 for Liverpool and 147 for St. Anthony's as New York schools held down the top three spots and five of the first eight.

   Individually, Alex Ostberg of Darien, Conn., placed first in 11:57.2 over the four-kilometer course. Bryce Millar of F-M was second in 12:02.3 for the course's No. 3 all-time performance, Dan Dracup of Ithaca placed fourth (12:17.4) and F-M's Kyle Barber grabbed sixth (12:23.8).

   In the featured girls race, Fayetteville-Manlius (48) easily outdistanced La Salle Academy of Rhode Island (81) and Shenendehowa (109). Weini Kelati of Heritage (Va.) Lee was the winner in 14:20.6, followed by Annika Avery of Fayetteville-Manlius in 14:24.7 and Carly Benson of West Genesee in 14:27.9.

   Running in the girls Varsity C race, sophomore Jessica Lawson of Corning posted a 14:18.8 performance for the fastest time of the day.

   "It's a huge race and there were three girls going into it that were each in different races who were billed as the top three runners," Corning coach Ray Lawson told The Leader. "The first girl ran 14:20 and Jessica knew that time. Jessica wanted to have the fastest time of the day -- that was one of her goals. She just had to go out and push herself."

   Overdue recognition: Onondaga held a ceremony during halftime of its homecoming game loss to Cato-Meridian on Saturday to retire the No. 32 football jersey of Mike Hart, the most prolific running back in state history.

   From 2000 to 2003, Hart rushed for 11,045 yards and scored 1,246 points for the Tigers.

   Hart went on to set University of Michigan records for career rushing attempts (1,015) and yards (5,040), then spent three seasons in the NFL. He's now an assistant football coach at Western Michigan and was unable to attend the Onondaga ceremony.

   Milestone: In Buffalo, Nichols coach Larry Desautels, who began in the sport in 1979, recorded his 500th victory coaching girls soccer with a 3-1 win over Mount Mercy on Saturday.

   "He's the perfect teacher-coach model, you don't see that much anymore,” Nichols AD Rob Stewart told The Buffalo News. "Not only has he been a great coach for these kids, he's been a great contributor to the school and just a great guy."

   Bitter N.J. rivalry: After a week of spectacular hype, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic scored a 21-14 win Saturday over Don Bosco Prep, rated by several organizations as the nation's No. 1 team.

   Paramus Catholic pulled ahead for good on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Willy Hansen to Marquis Spence with 6:13 left.

   The teams could meet again in New Jersey's non-public Group IV playoffs at the end of the season.

   To get a feel for the competitiveness (bitterness?) of the rivalry, check out the fireworks set off mid-week when University of Michigan freshman Jabrill Peppers alleged an elaborate recruiting process at Don Bosco that at the very least would fall into a gray area under New Jersey rules.

   Point-ed criticism: The Poughkeepsie Journal's Mike Benischek lashed out at the Section 1 football playoffs seeding process, which is hardly an uncommon sentiment at this time of year. football site

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   Benischek, whose coverage area includes schools in two sections, pointed out that Beacon has a clear win-and-you're-in scenario this week at home against Spring Valley in Class A. Should the Bulldogs lose and Eastchester win, though, their fates will be decided by the Piner formula -- even though Beacon and Eastchester would have identical records and Beacon won the head-to-head matchup.

   In Class AA, John Jay East Fishkill could lose to Clarkstown South and slip into a tie in the standings with Arlington. Though JJEF owns a head-to-head win, the reporter's calculations indicate Arlington would be seeded higher based on Piner points.

   "You can easily figure out who in Section 9 is alive, who was eliminated and who must do what to get in, simply by looking at the standings," he wrote. "To do that in Section 1, you need a calculator, a spreadsheet, and at least one semester of credits from MIT."

   To be fair, let's remember that the number of teams in a particular class in a section comes into play when discussing the pros and cons of a system. With 25 Section 1 schools in Class A potentially eligible (several struggling programs opted out this year to form their own league), it's impossible for everyone to play everyone else -- which makes a standings-based format impossible and requires that you have some sort of numeric system to fall back upon; even if you have 21 teams divided into three divisions and want to base your eight-team tournament on standings, some formula will have to determine the third-place team that ends up staying home.

   The Piner system in Section 1 takes a team's winning percentage, adds the winning percentages of the teams it beat, and subtracts the losing percentages of the teams to which it lost. It's hardly unsolvable, but there are so many moving parts that a team can genuinely have no idea where it stands at any given moment once the first result of the week comes in.

   At its extreme, a team could enter the final week of the season holding down the last postseason berth by a slim margin, win its Friday night game and then still be nudged out of the playoffs based on results of its earlier opponents the following day -- i.e., your rating slips because teams you played previously lose.

   While other seeding systems also allow for a winning team to fall out of the race, at least those systems tend to rely on positive, whole numbers that only rise each week rather than fractions played out to the third decimal place that can go up or down. It's a far, far easier calculation for coaches, players and fans to make independent of the football committee.

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