BRANDYWINE HUNDRED — Ryan Banko finished nearly 46 seconds ahead of the runner-up for the individual championship at the DIAA cross country state meet on Nov. 13 at Brandywine Creek State Park. But he saw some familiar faces along the route, as several of his Salesianum schoolmates cheered him on as he battled the terrain and the elements along the course.
Banko was boosted by loud cheers and a big Salesianum flag as he entered the closing stretch at the Creek. It was his second individual state championship, and the Sals had all five scorers finish in the top 17 as they defeated defending champ Cape Henlopen, 56-72, and earned the title after a two-year absence from the top spot.
The other Sals scorers were Matt Miller in seventh, Sam Felice in 10th, Jack Sutton in 11th and Michael Toy in 12th. Banko said the Sals were happy to take back their crown on their home course.
“I love Brandywine,” he said. “I was here freshman year. It was really cool to get back.”
The rain had stopped by the time the boys’ races began, but the runners had to deal with brisk temperatures and lots of mud earlier in the day. It was definitely a factor, Banko said.
“It’s all grass. It’s all loose. That really makes it slippery,” he said.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be super fast. We knew it was going to be a tactical day.”
The Sals had just one meet this season at the Creek, which is their home course, but their ability to get hill work in paid dividends in the state meet, Banko said.
“We know this course. We love it. We embrace the hills,” he said.
It was the first state title for the Sals under coach Scott Davis.
In the boys’ Division II race, Tatnall School had a dominating performance, placing all five scorers in the top 12 spots for a comfortable win over second-place Conrad.
Saint Mark’s improved one place from last year, finishing third. The Spartans had two runners in the top 10. Casey Winnington finished seventh, and Connor Stockton was in 10th.
Julian Facciolo led Archmere with a 17th-place finish. The Auks came in ninth place.
All photos by Mike Lang.