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Every year around this time, Suffolk County has two meets. The first meet, the Tom Knipfing Invitational, happens on Friday night at the lesser known Fireman's Park in Ridge. This course is a flatter, two loop course that makes for a nice change in pace from the hills of Sunken Meadow. The meet gives the kids experience on a different course and is attended by many of the east end schools.
The second of the two meets is hosted by CHSAA powerhouse, Saint Anthony's. This year, the meet was changed from Friday to Saturday in hopes of attracting some teams from further away to possibly attend.
On an afternoon where the weather could not get much more perfect for racing, many runners threw down excellent performances. Fireman's Field is not used for races often, so comparing times is a little difficult. Typically, if you break 20 minutes as a girl, or 17 minutes as a boy, you had a very good day. Generally, the races are split up between larger schools and smaller schools but with all of the transportation problems, some schools arrive late and have to run in the second of the two races.
In the boys large school race, Bay Shore's Jake Gogarty continued rolling and got another dominant win while also leading his team to the title. Not only did he break 17, he broke 16 and crossed the line in 15:55. He had the fastest time of the day and finished 27 seconds in front of an impressive performance from Mattituck's Trevor Zappulla who had the second fastest time of the day in 16:22. Both runners, as mentioned in previous posts, have an excellent chance to not only make the state meet in November, but to win their respective classes. Zappulla will look to win the Class C title and Gogarty will try and capture the Class A title. Tullyrunners speed rated the race very highly and many runners seemed to have reached a new level if the speed ratings are accurate.
The second race of the day, although not quite as fast as the first race, was led by Gregory Baldinucci from Connetquot. Baldinucci was the only one under 17 minutes. He won the race in 16:56 in front of Port Jefferson's duo of Brendan Capodano and Colin Veit who ran 17:00 and 17:13.
In the team races, Bay Shore dominated the first race by scoring only 30 points to East Hampton's 91. Bay Shore continues to get stronger with the return of Dylan Beggins. Normally a 2:20 first through fifth spread is a problem, but with a front runner like Gogarty, their team is looking the best it has all season.
The second race, Port Jefferson put up an impressive team win by 25 points over Kings Park and Shoreham who both had 67 points. Port Jeff will be very difficult to beat in Class C and they have shown much more depth than in years past.
North Babylon's Alicia DeFillipis continued her hot streak from the last couple weeks by winning the first race of the day in 20:04. She outkicked East Hampton's Dylan Cashin who is a class B states hopeful. DeFillipis has ascended to a new level this season and is putting herself square in the middle of the state qualifier conversation. She is absolutely a runner to watch for the next 5 weeks.
The second girls race was won by Class C favorite Kayla Hayes. She had a 20 second win over Connetquot's Marissa McDougall and Mount Sinai's Paige Sheiffele who both ran 19:47. McDougall had an incredible finish to pass Sheiffele for second place. McDougall is also another runner to watch for a possible states spot in November, with this type of improvement, and especially with the finishing kick she showed this weekend.
The team battle in the first race was won by Hauppague who averaged just over 21 minutes. They were led by Reese Coughlin who ran 20:28. East Hampton was second with 88 points led by Cashin's second place finish.
Connetquot won the second race over Mount Sinai who ran their full team for the first time this season. Connetquot was led by their second and fourth place finishes from McDougall and Olivia DiGaetano. They averaged 21:23 to win ahead of Mount Sinai's 22:06 average.
The meet directors set up a special race, made for William Floyd's superstar Zariel Macchia. Macchia was going after the National Mile record in cross country. She ended up crossing the line in 5:04 in a race where she was the only participant. This would not be the last time we hear from Macchia this weekend...
The Saint Anthony's Invitational was held Saturday morning at Sunken Meadow. Unfortunately, the weather was not quite as nice as it was on Friday afternoon for the Knipfing Invite. Rainy, cold, and windy conditions seemed to noticeably slow the times. The speed ratings did not show much love to this meet, especially when you compare it to the meet the day before.
Host team Saint Antony's dominated the boys race. They prepped for Manhattan by going 1-6 led by their recent #1 Aiden Brancaccio who covered the 5k in 16:43. He won by almost 20 seconds over his teammate Hunter Wilson. Brancaccio was the only runner under 17 minutes on the day. The first Suffolk finisher was Northport senior James McNaughton who ran a 17:25. McNaughton led Northport to a second place team finish. Northport put four runners under 18 minutes in their first invitational at Sunken Meadow. They remain the Class A favorite but Bay Shore seems to have closed the gap recently, especially based on speed ratings. Northport averaged under 17:50 and only had a 59 second spread but Bay Shore has a lot of room to improve. Look for Saint Anthony's in next week's Eastern States Championship at Van Cortlandt Park.
The top three finishers from June's State Qualifier 3000 meter faced off on Saturday. Zariel Macchia, Mia Wickard, and Emily LaMena finished in the same order they did last spring. Macchia decided to run her second race in 18 hours after running the mile the night before. She put on an absolute show; running an extremely easy looking 18:49 to easily outdistance Wickard, Northport's superstar middle schooler. It has been a very long time since a girl ran under 19 minutes during the regular season (only referring toSuffolk County runners, North Rockland's Katelyn Tuohy broke 17 in September during her junior year to set the course record). Next weekend, Macchia will be racing in the Eastern States Championships, do not be surprised if she is battling for the win with some of the best runners in the Northeast.
Behind her, Wickard became the second Suffolk runner under 20 minutes this season. She completed the course in 19:47 after running the beginning of the race with LaMena. Wickard has been Northport's top runner in both of their invitationals this season. LaMena was slightly slower than last week, most likely a result of the weather and slower conditions. She seems ready to challenge for the Class B title in a few weeks.
The team race was a very close battle between Section 8's Class B powerhouse South Side and last year's third place team from the Class A public school state meet, Northport. Northport, for the second invitational in a row, was not running a full team. They seemed to be without Mia's twin sister, Finnley Wickard, who may have affected the team scoring if she competed. South side followed a very strong top four runners (they had four in the top 11) to beat Northport by 2, 47-49. Northport's average time was six seconds better than South Side's but they could not overcome South Side's fourth girl finishing in front of Northport's third girl Katie Hayes. Northport will need to reach a new level if they want to stay ahead of East Islip and West Babylon by the end of the season.
Many teams rested and skipped this weekend's meets in order to get ready for a trip to the prestigious Manhattan Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park. Other teams may have sat out these two invitationals because of a big dual meet coming up. Due to the Holidays, Section XI is having dual meets on Monday this week, which is very rare. This Monday, two of the four best teams in Section XI will race each other before they go to Manhattan. Defending League 3 Champion East Islip and West Babylon will race at Sunken Meadow on Monday and it should be the best dual meet of the season. Both teams will be a major factor in November and hopefully at the Federation meet. Section XI generally doesn't report many dual meet scores publicly, and even if they do, there are very few stats on what happened. Next week's write up will have some dual meet information if any is reported.
The Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational is often a launching pad for a lot of top teams. Most of the overall top teams will now be in the Eastern States race but the letter races still have excellent competition. One of the more memorable team performances (although not by a Section XI team) was in 2004 by Fayetteville Manlius' team. Tommy Gruenwald led that team when they put five runners under 13 minutes and catapulted themselves to the #1 team in the country. That team was so good, they had future state champion Geoffy King not even place in their top five. Look for some teams to emerge as county favorites after next weekend.