By Christopher Hunt
Photos courtesy Karen Ward/PennTrackXC.com
BEAR MOUNTAIN – Pearl River senior Mike Hickey glanced over his shoulder steps after the first mile of the race. He gauged his pace against his chasers then realized he’d be riding solo for the rest of this one.
He felt that good. Hickey finished his 3-mile race at the Suffern Invitational at Bear Mountain in 15:28:13, his best time on the course. Pearl River finished fifth as a team in the Boys Varsity B race with 148 points. Randolph (N.J.) won with 80 points.
“Right now I’m in the best shape of my life by far,” Hickey said.
Hickey added his performance at the Suffern Invitational to a win last week at the Randolph Invitational where he set a meet record on the 5K course at Freedom Park in New Jersey in 15:48.46. At the Suffern Invitational, Hickey credited his summer training for the way he cruised away from the field Saturday. Injuries kept him from consistently training last summer and Hickey further dedicated himself to his mileage and said he is still running around 75 miles per week.
He has also been training with Brendan Fennell, a former Pearl River star and one of the top distance runners at American University, where he recently graduated. Hickey’s confidence follows him like the dust he kicked up in the trails at Bear Mountain.
“It’s cumulative,” Hickey said. “Over the years I’ve done a lot of talking. It’s time for me to do the walk.”
Only Suffern’s Shelby Greany conquered her race the way Hickey did. Greany won the Girls Varsity A race in 17:26.64. Like Hickey, Greany decided the race in the first mile but likened the race to more of a workout. She had enough energy once she crossed the finish to sprint back down to the start of the long finishing stretch to cheer for her teammates.
“I tried to get out a little faster than I have been,” Greany said after her first race of the season. “After that I worked on staying comfortable, working on form. (Coach Lou) Hall had places where he wanted me to go faster and some places to slow down. I did exactly what he told me.”
Suffern won the Girls Varsity A with 50 points, edging a charging Randolph, which finished second with 56. Both Greany and Hall said the team felt beat up by two hard workouts earlier this week but performed well. The Suffern boys squad said the same.
The Mounties, led by Mike Pereira, won the Boys Varsity A with 51 points. Monroe-Woodbury was second with 95. Pereira, Johnny Mitchell and Aidan Galasso went 5-6-7 for Suffern. Pereira finished in 16:04.80, Mitchell in 16:07.27 and Galasso in 16:09.81, all personal bests on the course. They still seemed frustrated after the race though.
“We have high expectations,” Pereira said.
Sophomore Tyler Frigge finished 10th in 16:16.92 and Terrance Galasso 23rd in 16:55.69. Kevin McKenna, normally the team’s second-best runner, never got settled in the race and finished 32nd.
“We did good,” Pereira said. “We packed in. Everyone was PR-ing all over the place. We had some guys that didn’t run well and this showed that guys can step up when we’re not all running well.”
Frank Fezza of Sachem North won the individual title in Varsity A in 15:48.07. Fezza led the most of the race but never let the chase pack challenge for the lead.
“It was a good pack at first,” Fezza said. “At the hill every one kind of fell off and I was alone. I just kept it going. That’s where I made my move, on the hill.”
North Rockland won its second straight invitational team title by claiming the Boys Varsity C race with 34 points. The race nearly became a dual meet between North Rockland and Northport, which finished second with 44 points.
Northport’s Evan Bloomberg won in 15:45.97, holding off North Rockland’s Christopher Carrington, who placed second in 15:50.49. Nick Hughes of North Rockland followed in third in 15:55.96 then Northport’s Colin Anderson in 16:08.49.
Bloomberg said he felt great, except that since he was leading the race, he was unsure of which direction to turn on the course. He said he even looked back over his shoulder just to make sure that the other runners were still following him.
Northport coach Jason Strom blamed himself. Strom said he didn’t take his team to walk over the course. He didn’t want them to over-strategize but in the end he thinks that’s what might have cost his team the race. North Rockland regularly competes at Bear Mountain.
“North Rockland ran a great race,” Strom said. “They didn’t do too much in the first mile and they came on real strong in the last mile. They knew were to make their moves.”
Bloomberg said his team ran well but might have still been laboring from high mileage and hard workouts. Bloomberg admitted to being tired himself. But on top of running twice a day, he has seven Advancement Placement classes at Northport.
“I think we have a solid team,” Bloomberg said before correcting himself. “I think we have a nasty team. We have a goal to place top-two at states and hopefully make it to NTN (Nike Team Nationals).”
North Rockland packed in with Charlie Lagos and James Naglieri finishing seventh and eighth, respectively. North Rockland coach Barry Baloga said his team’s level-headedness impressed him.
“I think my kids are starting to understand their abilities better than me,” he said. “I was impressed by the way that Northport ran. They pressed us. My guys, they really showed something.”
After some confusion with the scoring, Shaker won the Girls Varsity B race 92-93 over Monroe-Woodbury. Junior Emma Risler led the team in seventh, finishing in 19:01.58.
“Well, we had seven that finished this week which was good,” Shaker coach Marbry Gausle said after her top two runners dropped out of their race last week at the Randolph Invitational with breathing issues.
“Time wise they didn’t run their best. I’m very pleased we beat Monroe-Woodbury though. I would say they performed to the competition.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Hickey photo pulled from race video that will be posted early week.