Suffolk Spotlight: Week 9 - Sectional Champs

This year, MileSplit NY is highlighting specific communities within New York State. Vince Brock, a contributor from Section 11, will be running a Suffolk recap each week

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After 10+ weeks and a long summer of training, the big day for many Section XI runners finally came, the County/Sectional Championships. Cross Country, like many team sports, is all-or-nothing when it pertains to advancing to the State Championships, you earn your spot by winning/placing high enough or you don't go. To qualify, runners must finish within the top five as an individual or be one of top seven runners from the winning team. Between each of the four classes, A, B, C, and D, 48 runners from each gender will travel upstate next week.

Before we continue with the Sectional's recap and write up, we have to extend an apology to one team that ABSOLUTELY deserved to be in the previews last week, Kings Park. The boys have been one of the top teams all season in Class B and we completely missed them. We knew how talented their team has proved to be this season, but we mistook them as members of Class A and a step behind the other top teams.  The truth is, they are very close to a skilled Miller Place team.  The boy from Kings Park did not compete in the Tuesday race last week at Divisions but instead raced in the Thursday race (which did have much better conditions) and ended up finishing right behind Miller Place in the merge.  Apologies to the Kings Park boys for the oversight, very commendable season, we will not mix up your class again.    

The County Championships, in addition to being the pathway to qualify for states, it is also the main way to earn All-County. The exact formula for earning All County was mentioned in last week's article, but with this being the most important meet of the season, it counts the most for All County honors. The top 45 runners regardless of class size in each gender receive All County honors. 

Similar to last week, there are three races for each gender to decide who travels upstate (Class C/D run together because of the small fields).  Girls Class A ran first followed by Boys Class A, followed by Girls C/D, Boys C/D and then the last races are run by the Girls B and the Boys B.  

When most teams arrived, a tremendous amount of fog encapsulated the entire course and kept the temperatures relatively cool.  With the first race of the day held at 1:30, and temperatures predicted to get into the low 70's, most athletes and coaches welcomed the fog.  The course was in good shape and if the weather stayed cool, times were surely going to be fast.  Unfortunately, a couple of minutes after the start of the first race, the fog vanished revealing the sun and the temperatures rose.  

The Girls A race individual winner was never in doubt.  As she has done since 8th grade, Zariel Macchia was the dominant winner.  She went on to easily outdistance second-place, 8th grader from Northport, Mia Wickard. The two were first and second for the second consecutive year in very similar times.  Macchia had the fastest performance of the day in 19:14 and Wickard had the second fastest performance of the day in 19:37.  Behind Mia, her twin sister Finnley had the best cross country race of her career and was third in 19:45.  She improved upon her sixth place from last year and really helped set the tone for the Northport team.  North Babylon's Alicia DeFilippis continued her breakout season and earned a well deserved spot at states with her fourth place finish and huge personal best of 19:59.  Ward Melville's Amanda Probst qualified for the second year in a row, just missing breaking 20 minutes for the first time when she finished right behind DeFilippis in 20:01.  For the first time in quite a long time, Comsewogue had a state qualifier in cross country. Madison Cole ran the race of her life to get sixth in 20:16. Anna Gansrow from ESM whomst is no stranger to making state meets was the last Individual state qualifier when she crossed the line in 7th in 20:17. The rest of the top ten was filled out by Commack's McKenzie Newman, West Babylon's Jade Dockery, and Connetquot's Olivia DiGaetano.  All three girls finished the course in 20:34 or faster, and all of them return next year for another crack at qualifying for the State Championships.  The Class A race ended up being much deeper than it seemed earlier this season. A ton of individuals stepped up and ran excellent races when the lights shined the brightest.  

In August, we wrote about how the team title would come down to one of three teams. West Babylon, East Islip, and Northport seemed to be headed for a battle at this meet based on returning runners and previous years successes. For the first time all season, all three teams raced each other at full strength.  Northport left no doubt as to who would be representing Section XI from Class A. The Northport girls put five runners in before any other teams third, earning their second title in a row, scoring 42 points, 62 in front of East Islip's 104 points.  Early in the season there were questions about Northport's back end following the Wickard sisters. Northport got a huge boost from freshman newcomer Kayla Forsch who finished 14th in 20:47. Rounding out the team's top five was senior middle distance runner Katie Hayes. Emily Wickard, one of the three Wickard sisters in Northport's top 5 finished as their third runner in 20:37 for 11th place. West Babylon finished close behind East Islip with 115 points.  Both of those teams may be able to secure a federation bid if Northport can perform considerably at states.  

The boys Class A race was an excellent race on both the individual side and the team side.  Jake Gogarty has officially reached a new level.  He won the individual title in a huge personal best of 16:31.  Gogarty is just a junior and his future looks incredibly bright as he took the title by 13 seconds over Smithtown's Douglas Antaky who also ran a nice personal best of 16:44.  The next three finishers all broke 17 minutes for the first time in their careers. James McNaughton from Northport, Connetquot's Gregory Baldinucci, and Northport's Tim Shaehan stopped the clock in 16:52, 16:55, and 16:58 to round out the top five.  Brian Leibowitz rebounded from last week and qualified for the state meet by running a 17:04.  The breakout performance of the meet on the boys side was from Deer Park's Evan Attrino who beat multiple athletes with faster personal bests than him by nabbing the last state qualifying spot in 17:07.  He ran 17:25 in September, so based on that...he was definitely going to be in the mix but fell slightly off the radar after a 17:49 at Divisions. After he finished, the team race became incredibly interesting.

All season, Northport has been the overwhelming favorite on the boys side.  The boys seemed to have four runners that were going to be too much to overcome for any other team.  None of the invitationals that any team ran led anyone to believe that this wouldn't be true at the Sectional meet.  The only problem with all that is that no one told that to Bay Shore.  We mentioned Bay Shore as the most likely challenger to Northport in the preseason write up but all season, they have been a step behind when comparing teams.  Like all good teams, Bay Shore saved their best race of the season for last and threw everything they possibly could at Northport.  They were beating Northport after four runners and the county title came down to both teams' fifth runners.  Northport's fifth runner Thomas Cavuoto, played the role of the hero by running a 17:49 to seal the deal for Northport.  The final score was 55-63 but it definitely seemed closer than that if you witnessed the race.  Both teams should get a bid to Federations, if they apply, where they will get to race again.  Bay Shore will likely move way up in the state rankings and will surely be rooting for a strong performance by Northport at states to help lock in their Federation bid.  

The next race of the day was the girls Class C/D race.  In the combined race, it can be hard to figure out where you stand because not all of the athletes are in the same class.  The overall race and the Class C title went to pre-race favorite Kayla Hayes from Babylon.  She earned a dominant victory in the time of 20:25, well ahead of second placer and perennial state qualifier Ava Vaccarella. She finished in 21:06 to get second in the race and in Class C.  Center Moriches Emma Gold was next in 21:32.  Jeorgiana Gavalas from Southampton finished in fourth place with a time of 21:52.  Mattituck teammates Georgia Buckley and Ruby Vallani were fifth and sixth in 22:17 and 22:24.  The last two state qualifiers were Center Moriches' Lauren Spivak and Babylon's Olivia Moriates who ran 22:36 and 23:29.  

The girls (and boys) Class C races were extremely close.  Since Section XI does not have many Class C or D schools, they are naturally very close in scores, more often than the larger school classes.  Mattituck had only five finishers...and that's all they needed.  In an extremely tight battle, those 6-7 runners can come up huge by displacing runners, but Mattituck did it the hard way, with only five.  They were leading through 4 runners and their fifth runner was close enough to Center Moriches' to lock down the title 32-34. Their race upstate will be difficult but it's always an honor to represent your section and your school against New York's best.  

Boys Class C and D went very close to how we expected it to.  Individually, Trevor Zappulla did what Trevor Zappulla usually does...He dominated small school opponents.  He set himself up well for states by winning  comfortably in 17:23. Next week he will look to get an All State medal but this week, he gets to enjoy winning back to back titles just like Jordan did in '91 and '92.  He won the Class C title by 60.4 seconds over Ryan Steinberg from Center Moriches.  Right behind Steinberg was his teammate Spencer Buff, seven seconds back.  A second Vaccarella is going to states because Ava's brother Tanner finished fourth in 18:41 to easily qualify for states.  Behind Vaccarella, Kieran Brennan finished fifth in 19:05.  The next three finishers finished very close to each other.  Tanner Marro, Colin Fitzgerald, and Noah Norinder finished sixth through eighth and Norinder was the last of the state qualifiers.  They ran 19:16, 19:17 and 19:19 respectively.  

Girls Class D is basically a dual meet between Pierson and Port Jefferson.  The team race is usually separated by only a few points and this year was no different.  Pierson got the best of Port Jeff this year by the score of 26-30.  Pierson won this race due to their top three finishing in front of Port Jefferson's pack.  Josephine Mott won the Class D title in 21:45 for Pierson and she was followed closely by her teammates Sara O'Brian and Greylynn Guyer who finished second and fourth.  

**The main reason we started writing this column/weekly article was because we wanted athletes who deserved recognition, to get recognition.  The sport is not covered with much effort by our local paper (Newsday) and we were tired of seeing athletes not get the praise they deserve.  Annalyn Loiacono from Smithtown Christian qualified for the state meet by finishing third in 21:51.  We can not remember any other Smithtown Christian athlete coming anywhere close to qualifying for the state meet.  Milesplit had very few results from anyone from Smithtown Christian.  Congratulations to Annalyn for accomplishing a lot without much previous success from runners at her school.**

Port Jefferson had the next five finishers in the race.  22:07 to 25:04 was Port Jeff's entire 1-5 and no one else could get in between them.  Unfortunately for Port Jeff, Pierson had done enough with their first three to get the team win.  4 out of the 5 individual qualifiers were from Port Jeff (Loiacano was the other).  

The boys Class D race was not quite as suspenseful as the girls.  Port Jeff boys are one of the top ranked Class D schools in NY and they proved why at the sectional championships.  Led by enthusiastic senior Brendan Capadanno, Port Jeff scored 25 points to easily outdistance Southold by 22 points.  Capadanno won the race in 17:36 over Flynn Klipstein from Southold who ran 18:17.  The bronze medal went to Pierson's Justin Gardiner who ran 18:22.  After him, Port Jeff showed their depth with the next three finishers.  The final three individual state qualifiers were teammates Matthew Molnar and Jack Goscinski from Southold and Shelter Islands Jaxson Rylott.

The highly anticipated Class B race was the last girls race of the day.  All season, we have been writing about how competitive the five individual state qualifier spots were going to be.  This race lived up to expectations.  1.5 miles into the race, the top four girls were separated by less than a second and it wasn't until after Cardiac Hill where Sayville's Mullane Baumiller took the lead and fended off challenges from Mount Sinai's Paige Sheiffele and Elwood's Emily LaMena.  Baumiller stopped the clock in 19:50 for the fourth fastest overall time of the day.  Sheiffele ran 19:56 and LaMena just missed breaking 20 minutes when she crossed the line in 20:00.8.  7th grader Cali Gabrielson outkicked Olivia Pesso for fourth place 20:14 to 20:15.  East Hampton's Dylan Cashin grabbed the final state qualifier position when she finished sixth in 20:31.  

Sayville, as expected, dominated the team competition in Class B.  They will go into the state meet as one of the favorites to win as a team.  They scored only 35 points to beat Shoreham by 33 points.  They had the second fastest team average of the day and they had four girls under 21 minutes and all 7 of their runners ran 22:00 or better.  They are very deep and that depth will help them tremendously upstate.  It is very rare for a Section XI team to be in the mix for winning a state title, and Sayville has a great opportunity next weekend. 

The boys Class B race was won by the top Suffolk runner all year, Max Haynia from Westhampton Beach.  Haynia chose to run with his teammate for the majority of the race and then kicked it in to run a very easy looking 17:15 over his teammate Trevor Hayes who ran 17:24.  Haynia did not lose to another Suffolk runner this season, has the highest speed rating of anyone, and is one of the favorites to win the Class B state title.  James Ricci finished third in 17:28, he was the low stick that Harborfields needed to challenge Miller Place.  Jack Bisbee from Half Hollow Hills West was next in 17:29.  Our favorite long named runner, Benjamin Wyszomierski from Shoreham grabbed a seat on the bus with his fifth place finish.  Harborfields got another boost from Hartley Semmes who was sixth.  Third place through sixth place were all separated by one second each.  This was a very exciting finish to watch.  The last individual runner to make states on the day was Rocky Point's Trevor Greene in 17:41.  

Last week we wrote about how well Miller Place ran at the Division meet and how they were the favorites going into the Sectional meet.  Harborfields saved their best performance for the most important meet of the year and got the win in convincing fashion.  One week after they barely managed to average under 19 minutes, Harborfields averaged under 18 minutes and only scored 54 points, 13 ahead of Miller Place.  Harborfields did a tremendous job of peaking at the right time and they were rewarded with a trip to VVS. 

Congratulations to all of the runners that qualified for the State Championships and good luck next weekend.  Good luck to all the teams that are hoping to get a Federation invitation as well.