When the starter’s gun shot off, Ryan Carrick took off. The Riverhead High School senior bolted toward the front and was in third place a couple of hundred yards into the 3.1-mile boys championship cross-country race in the Section XI Division Championships at Sunken Meadow State Park.
Carrick looked good and said he had felt good, but his daring start caught up to him.
Sunken Meadow’s punishing hills took their toll on Carrick, and he finished 34th overall in Tuesday’s meet. His time of 18 minutes and 0.23 seconds was considerably off his best time on the course: 17:32.
“I did not run well,” were Carrick’s first words in a postrace interview. “I think I was a little too ambitious. I went out in the top three. It was a little bit of a mistake, you know. It kind of killed me. I was feeling very good and then I hit Snake (Hill), the first hill, and my legs just wanted to give out and I felt like I wanted to stop right there. Then I regained a little bit of momentum. Then I hit Cardiac (Hill) and that one killed me even more, so it just did not seem like the race (worked) out for me in any way.”
The fast start was a strategy employed in the hope of breaking Carrick’s personal record, a “pr” in cross-country parlance.
“We tried something different this race because he was going out a little slower,” Riverhead coach Matt Yakaboski said. “… He tried going fast again, and then it slowed him up elsewhere, so we got to find a balance.”
The division meet can be seen as a test run, of sorts, for runners like Carrick, who will also compete in the Section XI Championships Nov. 2 at Sunken Meadow.
“We got a week and a half to work on it, and hopefully he can find the right mix,” Yakaboski said. “He knows he’s got to make an adjustment.”
Another Riverhead senior, Ryan Keane, tried a similar approach of getting off to a fast start and had a different experience. Keane turned in a personal-best time on the course, 18:47.84, bringing him 71st place. His previous best time was 18:53.
He said: “I think me and Ryan went about it with similar mindsets, which was to go about the beginning nice and strong and fast in order to put ourselves in front of everybody because with these races it’s so easy to get caught up, and that can mess up your entire race, so I went about it pretty fast in the beginning, too. I tried to stay up in the front. I tried to hold onto Carrick for a little bit. I tried to stay with the top runners and I think that played to my advantage. You know, it tired me out, but in my head I was there and in my head I wasn’t going to let myself fall back too much, and I think that helped me out a lot.”
Sunken Meadow, which will host the state meet Nov. 10, is a demanding course. It can also be a tough one to figure out.
“Sunken Meadow seems like a different course every time” you run it, said Carrick.
Keane wholeheartedly agreed. “It’s so hard to master this course,” he said. “There’s so many different variables.”
Carrick said he underestimated the competition a bit, saying other runners were faster than he thought.
So, what was the lesson of the day?
“Slow it down in the beginning,” Carrick said. “Definitely a lesson learned. I’ve never done that before. Interesting experiment, but sadly it didn’t work out.”
Photo caption: Riverhead senior Ryan Carrick (359) was among the leaders early in Tuesday’s race at Sunken Meadow State Park. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)