Talk about quality. The Shoreham-Wading River, Bishop McGann-Mercy and Riverhead high school girls cross-country teams combined to finish with an impressive 12-3 record with two Suffolk County titles in 2014.
Given what they are returning for this fall, they could very well duplicate their achievements in 2015 and perhaps more.
For example, Shoreham (5-0) has the same team returning that captured the county Class B crown and finished fourth in New York State.
“We have a very good team,” coach Paul Koretzki said.
Start with sophomore Katherine Lee, who won the state Division III championship in 19 minutes 2.17 seconds, by far the fastest time of the competition as a freshman.
“She’s scared to death she’s not going to make the first five of the team,” Koretzki said. “I tell her, ‘Just run.’ ”
Which she does quite well.
Continue with a talented quartet of runners. That includes junior Alexandra Hayes, who finished second to Lee in the Class B county championships, senior Kaitlyn Ohrtman, who has run a sub five-minute mile and is a standout in winter and spring track, and freshmen Francesca Lilly, an all-county third team selection, and Lexie Smith, an all-division pick.
There are five girls who are pushing for a place among the top five. The next two athletes are juniors Amanda Dwyer and Payton Capes-Davis. They are followed by seniors Christy Capec and Marianna McCarthy and junior Maria Smith.
“In the counties, we’re hoping for higher than a fourth-place finish,” Koretzki said.
Expect McGann-Mercy to be a force again in League VII.
The Monarchs, who tied Mattituck for the league title last year, haven’t graduated a runner. So, they are expected to be older, wiser and improved.
Now that’s a scary proposition.
Coach Collin Zeffer will be counting on a talented, returning foursome to anchor the team. They include senior Meg Tuthill, juniors Devyn O’Brien and Kait Butterfield and sophomore Sarah Dern. The first three girls earned all-county honors and qualified for the New York State meet.
Add promising freshman Claire McGrath to the equation and the Monarchs should be a formidable side.
“She’s worked hard during the summer and has done real well at practices,” Zeffer said of McGrath.
Zeffer said the team had a “very strong, tight-knit top five. We have strength at the fourth and fifth runners compared to last year.”
He figured the League VII honors will be battled out between McGann-Mercy and Mattituck again. Both teams finished at 4-1, with the Monarchs losing to their neighbors to the east.
“It should be a pretty similar outlook,” Zeffer said. “Definitely the league and county titles are something we have are eyes on.”
Riverhead (3-3) isn’t rebuilding, the Blue Waves are reloading They have a relatively young team that has been bolstered by a freshman squad made up of mostly middle school runners that won the county freshman title in 2014.
In fact, the Blue Waves are led by an eighth grader, Megan Kielbasa, who finished among the top 15 runners in the county with a time of 20:21 over 3.1 miles at Sunken Meadow.
“She had great success,” coach Justin Cobis said. “She’s someone who came out of nowhere.”
Behind Kielbasa are two experienced runners.
Senior Megan Carrick will begin her second year as captain.
“She’s a strong runner,” Cobis said. “She’s very consistent, also a leader.”
Another hard worker who has shown consistency is junior Gabriella Marcucci. “We want to see her improve her time this year,” Cobis said.
The rest of the Blue Waves’ lineup had not been determined. The candidates include sophomores Aimee Drexel and Olivia Pizutto, freshman Eve Pittman and eighth graders Chrissy Thomas, Emma Panciocco and Delu Rizzo.
Northport and Bay Shore figure to be Riverhead’s biggest League III rivals.
“We didn’t win over any of those teams, but we are running with the best in the county,” Cobis said. “We sure got a good sense of where we were out there in the county.”
Photo Caption: Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Katherine Lee returns this season after a standout freshman year. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)