The H-AC seniors are among the top runners in the Finger Lakes League. The Wolves kick off the postseason next weekend with the Finger Lakes League Championship, with the sectionals the following week.
With just 14 athletes on their roster, the Harley-Allendale Columbia boys cross country team probably isn't the most intimidating squad on first sight. When the race starts though it's hard to miss the two Wolves battling for first place.
H-AC seniors Aamir Zain and Russell Hegedorn have been two of the top runners in the Finger Lakes League this fall.
The Wolves ended the dual meet portion of their schedule on Tuesday and kick off the postseason with the Finger Lakes League Championships on Oct. 26. One week later Zain and Hegedorn will take aim at a Class D title at the Section 5 Championships.
"When you watch (Russell) run he looks like a natural runner, like it comes easily to him," said Seth O'Bryan, H-AC head coach. tough. "He is gong to give it everything. He's a really reliable runner with lots of experience and is never intimidated by the race or opponent.
Aamir could run forever. He looks so happy, like he could run 50 miles at the same pace and run down. In practice he does exactly what you tell him. He appreciates the work you have to put in."
The duo has finished in the top five at every league meet this fall and three times Zain and Hegedorn have finished first and second. Zain has won three of the dual meets, while Hegedorn won the league meet on Oct. 1 at Keuka State Park.
Zain recorded some memorable performances in some of Section 5's biggest meets, running a career best time at the McQuaid Invitational where he finished in sixth in the small schools race. One week earlier he finished third out of 126 runners at the GCC Inviational, site of this year's sectional meet.
"I feel like I have been running times I should have been running," Zain said. "I feel good, I feel healthy. I haven't had any injuries for which I am thankful. I am just looking forward to the end of the season, doing well at sectionals and then getting back to states."
Zain is quick to credit Hegedorn for getting him into cross country. Zain played soccer as a seventh grader but after training with Hegedorn during the spring track season, he decided to make change sports.
While Zain was just learning the ropes of cross country in the eighth grade, Hegedorn was trying to move up the varsity lineup.
"Back then I was just pushing myself to get better because I was the youngest guy," Hegedorn said. "It's been an interesting experience going from the middle of the pack to the front."
Hegedorn's career got off to a memorable start as he was running on the varsity in eighth grade and was part of the team who won the Class D team title his freshman year. The next two seasons though Hegedorn faced challenges off the course.
Knee and back problems slowed him down throughout his sophomore year, then he battled an illness last season. Going into this postseason, Hegedorn's health is no issue.
"I want to go out there and have a relaxed race, have fun and see what happens," Hegedorn said about sectionals. "I want to get to states because it's my last chance to."
With Hegedorn battling injuries Zain emerged as the Wolves top runner last fall. He culminated an excellent junior season by qualifying for the state meet.
"Going to states was my greatest accomplishment," said Zain, a three-sport athlete at H-AC who also competes on the boys swim team. "It was a surprise, I never exepcted myself to do it. I hope Russell and I can get there this year."