Colette Steele was undoubtedly happy enough to have qualified for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association girls cross country championships for the second year in a row. But then the Southold sophomore sounded thrilled upon hearing the news that she will have plenty of company upstate.
Backed by Steele’s individual runner-up performance, Southold won the Class D team title in the Section XI Championships on Friday at Sunken Meadow State Park. Southold finished with 33 points, four less than second-place Stony Brook.
As a sectional champion, Southold will send its entire team to the state meet, which will be held at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School on Nov. 12.
“Oh, awesome,” Steele said. “It’s going to be so much more fun.”
Steele completed the 3.1-mile course in 21 minutes 46.00 seconds. It was her best time at Sunken Meadow, but it left her second to Stony Brook sophomore Margot Rashba, who won in 21:14.00. Still, Steele said running against Rashba helped her.
“Whenever I’m running with Margot, she always pushes me real hard,” Steele said. “I felt good during the race. I was going faster than usual because of Margot, and I ran well.”
The First Settlers also had Shelby Pickerell take fifth in 23:57.50, Katie Connolly finish sixth in 24:24.80, Shannon Guyer come in ninth in 25:22.00 and Megan Moran nab the 11th spot in 27:06.60.
It all helped.
“It came down to every single runner out there,” Southold coach Karl Himmelman said. “It wasn’t a tiebreaker, but it was close. I was telling Megan Moran, my [No. 5] runner, I said, ‘You’re going to make the difference today,’ and she did. That was really the key. I tell the kids all the time, it’s not about who comes in first. Yes, that’s important, but it’s about everybody on the team. The fourth- and fifth-place runners are just as important as one and two.”
Himmelman, the second-year coach whose Southold boys team also won a sectional crown, called it “a very exciting day.”
Mattituck, which was second to Center Moriches in the Class C team scoring, will send two runners to the state meet, freshman Kaylee Bergen and eighth-grader Audrey Hoeg. Both runners are in their first cross country season. Bergen was beaten out by Center Moriches freshman Ryleigh Donegan in a sprint to the finish line and lost by 1.5 seconds. Donegan’s winning time was 20:35.50. Bergen was clocked at 20:37.00. Hoeg took fifth in 22:03.80.
“I knew it was going to be close,” Bergen said. “I really wanted to get first. Sometimes you try really hard, but someone is just a little bit better than you. You just have to accept it.”
Despite feeling a cramp in her midsection near the end of the race, Bergen managed to slice 37 seconds off her previous best time at Sunken Meadow.
“Kaylee really pushed [Donegan] to run well, and she pushed Kaylee,” said Mattituck coach Jean Mahoney.
An eighth-grader, Kaitlyn Ohrtman, was the first Shoreham-Wading River finisher in the Class B race. She came in 11th place in 20:51.90. Her teammate Audrey Kelly was 19th in 21:20.90.
“I felt good,” said Ohrtman, who is in her first high school season after having won all of her races at the middle school level last year.
Ohrtman made the all-county team with her run, putting her among the top 35 runners in the county.
Shoreham-Wading River coach Paul Koretzki said, “She’s going to be a star.”