For a school that prides itself on its track and field program, which for the girls has become a consistent league champion in recent years during the spring, McGann-Mercy was missing a key part of developing runners: cross country teams.
That is until now.
Mercy reintroduced cross country for both boys and girls this fall for the first time in several years.
“Mercy is known as a running school,” said coach Tricia Nunez. “That’s what we do and we do it well. So it seemed logical to add cross country back.”
Nunez is coaching both teams, which have started off small in the first year. The Monarchs have 14 runners total between the two teams.
“It’s quite small right now, but that’s fine,” Nunez said. “You start small and then you build off the momentum.”
The Monarchs may be new to cross country, but they begin the season with some strong runners. For the girls, junior Delina Auciello and freshman Meg Tuthill are the top two runners. Both girls were two of Mercy’s top runners in the track season last year. Auciello was third at the Division III championship last spring in the 800-meter run. Tuthill was Mercy’s top distance runner in the 1,500 and 3,000.
“The first two meets we had the girls ran beautifully,” Nunez said.
The Mercy girls opened the season with a 21-34 dual meet victory over Port Jefferson, the team that has become their biggest rival in track and field.
Nunez said her team got a warm welcome from Port Jefferson coach Don Slingerland.
“He’s one of the nicest and most knowledgeable coaches out there,” she said.
The girls also ran at the Peconic Invitational at Red Creek Park last week and finished fifth as a team. Auciello ran 21 minutes 15.47 seconds for second overall. Tuthill was ninth in 22:42.26.
Seniors Jen Perugi and Courtney Walsh were next, followed by juniors Francesca Vaccari and Carrie Gehring.
The boys are led by junior Matt Abazis and senior Patrick Derenze. Abazis posted Mercy’s top finish at the Peconic Invitational in 20:09.06 for 12th overall. Derenze was 22nd in 20:46.36. Freshman Daniel Dern, junior Elijah Louis and sophomores Brandon Perez and Jake Gardner were the next to cross the finish line for Mercy.
Nunez said the addition of cross country will only help the winter and spring track teams improve.
“The kids are coming in with such a strong base off of cross country where before many of them didn’t have a sport or were doing soccer, which is great for that initial burst of speed, but this is the best training,” she said. “If you can get athletes that are running year round, there’s nothing better than that.”
Next year Nunez hopes the team will grow even more. Students had a bit of short notice for cross country this year, which contributed to some low numbers to start.