10/24/12 7:00am
10/24/2012 7:00 AM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTOS | Mercy junior Delina Auciello (left) and freshman Meg Tuthill finished third and fifth in the team qualifier race Tuesday at Sunken Meadow.

Delina Auciello and many of her track teammates at McGann-Mercy were already working out and training in late August. They figured they were preparing for the winter track season, which was still more than three months away.

Only a few weeks before the start of the school year did they learn that Mercy had brought back a cross country program.

“We were running over the summer,” Auciello said. “Our coach gave us schedules from track. But we found out the last few weeks and everyone was like, Yeah!”

The newest team on the block has been turning heads all year, especially Auciello, a junior running her first season of cross country. At the Section XI Division Championship Tuesday, Auciello ran an impressive time of 20 minutes 32 seconds over the five-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park.

The Monarchs ran in the team qualifier race (the top two teams in each league ran in the championship race) and Auciello finished third out of 179 runners. Her time would have been good enough for third place in Division IV of the championship race.

It was her best time by more than 25 seconds.

“My coach really wanted me to win, but I’m fine with third place,” Auciello said. “I’m so happy about what I did. By the end of the season I want to at least get down to 19′s.”

Auciello began the season running in the mid-21′s.

“I PR’d at every race, which is all I could ask for,” she said.

Her teammate, freshman Meg Tuthill, wasn’t far behind. She finished fifth in the team qualifier race in 21:05.5.

An outstanding distance runner during the track season last year, Tuthill also got her first taste of cross country this fall.

“I was really excited,” Tuthill said about the chance to run cross country. “I just knew it would make me a better runner for track.”

Her times have improved by about two minutes from the beginning of the season, she said. One of the biggest challenges she faced was learning how to run downhill.

“I’m afraid I’m going to fall so I slow myself down,” she said.

Running uphill, however, was less of an issue. “I think I like running uphill,” she said, a statement rarely before uttered in human history.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Mercy senior Patrick Derenze ran a personal best time Tuesday of 19:45.2.

Junior Jen Perugi ran 24:22.6 and senior Courtney Walsh ran 25:58.4.

On the boys side junior Matt Abazis posted the top time for Mercy in 18:28.4. He finished 34th overall in the team qualifier race.

Abazis said he started cross country to help train for track. But he found cross country might be his calling.

“After doing the season I think this became my more prominent sport,” he said.

All the runners said a big part of the success this season was the closeness between everyone. Neither the boys or girls had many runners, but they trained together and formed a close bond.

“I don’t know what it is about cross country, but I feel like the team was a lost closer than the track season,” Abazis said.

Auciello said: “We’re so small, but we’re so close.”

Abazis noted how while the small team has brought them together, the lack of depth has also been their biggest weakness.

“It’s a weird tradeoff,” he said.

Mercy senior Patrick Derenze ran the second-fastest time for the boys with a personal best of 19:45.2. Like many other runners, he joined cross country as a means to train for track.

“I want to run in college, so I was trying to build for my track performance later in the year,” he said.

Mercy coach Tricia Nunez said a goal this season was to teach the kids to run their own race.

“Now it’s toward the end of the season and I think they have a good feel for the course,” she said. “It’s like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it.”

joew@timesreview.com

10/23/12 6:31pm
10/23/2012 6:31 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River junior Ryan Udvadia (454) at the front of the pack for the start of Tuesday’s championship race at Sunken Meadow State Park.

Shoreham-Wading River coach Bob Szymanski has seen just about everything during his long tenure as the boys cross country coach.

But two sub-16 minute times at Sunken Meadow State Park?

Well, that’s about a once-a-decade kind of achievement.

Shoreham junior Ryan Udvadia ran personal record time of 15 minutes 57.1 seconds Tuesday afternoon at the Section XI Division Championship. It was a superb time that landed him the top spot in Division IV by more than a minute.

Amazingly, however, it still wasn’t the best time of the day.

Northport sophomore Mike Branigan narrowly edged Udvadia for the best time by running 15:56.3. Udvadia held a slight lead on Branigan as they raced down the final straightaway before Branigan found an extra kick with about 20 meters to go.

“I got near the finish and I started to kick,” Udvadia said. “I thought I had him.”

While Udvadia was disappointed in finishing second overall, Szymanski was thrilled to see him run such a fast time, even if it meant second place.

“This is one of the great races at Sunken Meadow,” Szymanski said.

In almost any other year, Udvadia would have been a winner by a wide margin. Only three runners have ran under 16 minutes at a division meet at Sunken Meadow since 1998 before Tuesday.

In 2004 two runners both ran under 16 minutes at the division championship when Kevin Tschirhart of Northport clocked in at 15:46.6 and Ryan Sheridan of Walt Whitman followed in 15:47.0.

The championship race at Sunken Meadow features the top two teams from each league. As the runners come across, the results are divided into four divisions. So the Wildcats ended up winning Division IV for the fifth time in the last six years.

It came down to Shoreham and Bayport-Blue Point. The Phantoms had the second and third runners behind Udvadia. But the Wildcats grabbed fourth and fifth behind senior Dan Purschke (17:22.4) and sophomore Matt Gladysz (17:28.9). Senior Joe Whelan (17:39.8) and junior Keith Steinbrecher (17:55.7) rounded out the top five for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats tallied 28 points to Bayport’s 37.

Shoreham narrowly edged Bayport in the first dual meet of the season, which propelled the Wildcats to an undefeated League VII title. Bayport will again be the team that stands in the way of the Wildcats winning the Class B county title, which would allow the entire team to head to the state championship.

Szymanski said the way Shoreham beat Bayport Tuesday, “it could psyche them out,” come the county championship. Although in that race, it’ll be a different makeup.

“You won’t see all these bodies in front,” Szymanski said, noting that it’ll basically be the two teams racing against each other in what will be the Class B-C-D championship.

Szymanski said Udvadia is a great hill runner, which makes Sunken Meadow an ideal course for him with its infamous ‘cardiac’ hill.

“He’s probably the best hill runner here,” Szymanski said. “If you saw the race, you don’t see him most of the time. He’s fourth, fifth. So when he came out someone said, ‘Look, it’s Udvadia!’ And I said I told you, he’ll be there, no worse than third.”

Branigan is a standout 1,600-meter runner in track, giving him better leg speed than Udvadia.

Szymanski said the only mistake Udvadia made was giving Branigan too much room going into the cardiac hill.

“You made up 25 meters and he beat you by a second,” Szymanski told him. “If you’re 10 yards closer, you win that race.”

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Anthony Galvan ran 17:13.7 to finish sixth in Division II Tuesday.

Riverhead senior Anthony Galvan ran a personal best time of 17:13.7 to finish in sixth place in Division II. He’ll get a chance to compete next week at the state qualifier.

Coming into the race Galvan hoped to break 17 minutes. But he was still happy to shave two seconds off his previous best.

“My last PR before this was 17:29 and then I dropped it to 17:15 a week ago,” he said. “I knew if I wanted to get into guaranteed states I’d have to do it again by 15 [seconds]. But at least I PR’d and I’m into all-league, all-county.”

Riverhead coach Patrick Burke said Galvan has been improving his time every race since his sophomore season.

“I’m really proud of him,” Burke said. “As a coach he’s everything you ever wanted. I just feel for him that he didn’t meet his goal in his mind. If you PR every single race, you can’t do more than that.”

Galvan has been a two-time captain for the Blue Waves, who went 3-2 in League IV dual meets putting them in a three-way tie for second place.

In a competitive championship race that features the top runners in the county, it can create a crowded race. Galvan said he prefers it that way.

“You always have someone to stick next to you,” he said. “Someone’s always trying to pass you. You just latch on to someone and you’ll be fine.”

Galvan started the race near several Walt Whitman runners, who he met during the summer at a camp.

“I tried to stick with them, but I know they’re a lot better than me,” he said. “So I’m like, if I lose them, I lose them. But at least I have them in sight.”

Riverhead junior Joseph Gattuso ran the next fastest time for the Blue Waves in 19:02.9. He was 21st overall in Division II.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River freshman Kaitlyn Ohrtman ran 20:32.5 in the championship race Tuesday.

The Shoreham-Wading River girls competed in the team championship race and freshman Kaitlyn Ohrtman posted the top time in 20:32.5 for 10th in Division III.

Four of Shoreham’s top five runners were in 10th grade or younger. Eighth-grader Ali Hays ran 21:32.3 and sophomore Maddy Kelly ran 21:59.0, which was the first time she cracked 22 minutes, Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki said.

The Wildcats had a strong league season, going 4-1 and losing only to Miller Place, the Division III champion.

Looking ahead to the state qualifier, Ohrtman will have the best chance to qualify for the state meet. The top five in each class go the states in addition to the winning team.

“She’s probably sitting fifth, sixth now in the B’s,” Koretzki said.

The Riverhead girls ran in the team qualifier race. Junior Rachel Conti posted the top time in 22:36. She was 28th overall in a race of 179 runners.

“She’s a top athlete in track and this is her first year [running cross country],” Burke said. “I told her it’s a mental game. They don’t understand that cross country is a completely different animal.”

The Blue Waves have a young team, which could be primed for big things next year, Burke said.

“We’re going to be focused next year on putting the girls team on the map,” he said. “I’ve said that before, but I really feel we finally have a commitment.”

joew@timesreview.com

10/23/12 12:00pm

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Ryan Udvadia leads Shoreham-Wading River into the division championship today.

After an undefeated dual meet season in League VII, the Shoreham-Wading River boys cross country team will race against the top teams in the county this afternoon at the Section XI Division Championship at Sunken Meadow State Park.

The top two teams in each league, plus four at-large teams, make up the main championship race. An overall winner is declared, as well as for each of the four divisions.

Shoreham has won Division IV in four of the last five years, including last season.

For teams that didn’t qualify for the championship race, they compete in the team qualifier race.

Be sure to check back tonight for a full recap with results from all local teams.

09/20/12 8:00pm
09/20/2012 8:00 PM

BILL LANDON FILE PHOTO | McGann-Mercy freshman Meg Tuthill ran indoor and outdoor track last season and will now run for the newly formed cross country team.

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.

joew@timesreview.com

09/19/12 9:00pm
09/19/2012 9:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River freshman Kaitlyn Ohrtman will be the Wildcats’ top runner this season.

At this time last year, in her first season running varsity cross country, Shoreham-Wading River’s Kaitlyn Ohrtman would clock in on the plus side of 21 minutes. As the season progressed, the eighth-grader continued dropping her time, emerging as one of the Wildcats’ top runners.

Now as a freshman, Ohrtman comes into the season as the Wildcats’ No. 1 runner. She’s already gotten off to a strong start, finishing 10th overall Saturday at the Suffern Invitational at Bear Mountain State Park. She ran the three-mile course in 19:51.45 as the Wildcats finished sixth as a team.

Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki said the Wildcats are still young this year but have a lot of strong runners. The Wildcats lost their first dual meet to Miller Place, but the Panthers will likely be in contention for the county title.

“We got a shot at the rest of the people,” Koretzki said. “Our goal is to make the county championship race and see what happens there.”

Sophomore Rose Andrews returns for the Wildcats. She finished 34th overall at the Suffern Invitational in 21:04.45.

Senior Laura Lee is one of the few upperclassmen among the Wildcats’ top runners. Sophomore Maddy Kelly and eighth-grader Ali Hays will both be key runners this year for Shoreham. Hays was Shoreham’s fifth runner across the finish line Saturday.

The team will also rely on seniors Claire and Laura Shanklin and Anya Uzo.

The Wildcats will run this weekend in the Bob Pratt Invitational at Sunken Meadow State Park.

Riverhead girls assistant coach Christy Salerno couldn’t believe the number of girls who came out for the cross country team this season.

“The team doubled in size,” the second-year coach said.

The Blue Waves benefitted from several track runners deciding to run cross country this season. Salerno said the track coaches suggested to many of the girls that they run year round and use cross country as preparation for the winter and spring seasons.

The Blue Waves had a young team last year and just about all the girls are back this season. Salerno, who takes the lead with the girls team while head coach Pat Burke focuses on the boys, said the commitment from the runners over the summer was outstanding.

Junior Rachel Conti and freshman Megan Van Bommel are two of the track runners who will be running cross country. The two ran together on the 4 x 800 relay team last winter that won the League III title.

Sophomore Maurinne Sullivan returns for the Blue Waves after a strong season last year. She was one of three runners to compete in the team qualifier race at the division championship last year.

Freshman Megan Carrick should be another key runner.

The Blue Waves lost their first League IV dual meet to Bellport, 22-37. Salerno said the team’s goal is to win a few dual meets and for each girl to continue hitting her personal best times.

“I’ve never seen such team spirit,” Salerno said. “The girls are always cheering each other on.”

joew@timesreview.com

09/19/12 7:00pm

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River junior Ryan Udvadia has won both races for the Wildcats to start the season.

After losing John Lee and Tyler Keys, who were first and third in the Class B county championship last season, Shoreham-Wading River coach Bob Szymanski expected the beginning of this season to be a bit of a transition.

Instead, the Wildcats came out in mid-season form.

Shoreham opened the season with a dual meet victory over Bayport-Blue Point, which came down to a tie-breaker. The Wildcats and Phantoms are expected to be the top two teams in Class B.

Then last weekend the Wildcats ran at the Suffern Invitational at Bear Mountain State Park and finished first as a team, again a one-point victory.

“I think they trained really well over the summer,” Szymanski said. “They would run together as teammates.”

A big part of the Wildcats’ early success has been the performance of Ryan Udvadia, who’s grabbed the No. 1 spot. He ran the top time in the dual meet win over Bayport and also won the Suffern Invitational in 15:59.64.

Szymanski said Udvadia won by about 12 seconds while breaking 16 minutes against Bayport.

“That’s hard to do for three miles at Sunken Meadow,” he said.

Matt Gladysz was eighth overall at the Suffern Invitational in 16:40.11. Keith Steinbrecher, Jack Kelly, Evan Purdy, Joe Whalen and Dan Purschke all finished in the top 30.

After winning last season’s county title on a tiebreaker, it ended up being the third straight meet the Wildcats won by the slimmest of margins.

Shoreham tallied 65 points while Delbarton took second with 66.

“When I saw the score, [girls coach Paul] Koretzki said you won’t believe this, but that’s the third meet you won by a point,” Szymanski said. “You can’t really get any closer than that.”

joew@timesreview.com

09/17/12 8:00pm
09/17/2012 8:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTOS | Riverhead’s top two runners return this season in Anthony Galvan (left) and Travis Wooten.

The Riverhead boys cross country team will begin each race with a simple motto: stick together.

The Blue Waves’ goal is for their runners to partner up, staying within arm’s reach of one another. The strategy has several benefits.

For starters, sticking next to each other allows the runners to motivate and push each other. And in a race where points are tallied by the place each runner finishes, the closer they can stick together the better.

“The more gap, the more of a chance for another team to get in there,” said Riverhead coach Pat Burke.

The Blue Waves come into the season with just about all their key runners back from last year. Leading the pack are senior Anthony Galvan and junior Travis Wooten, who will run together as Riverhead’s first group.

“We want more people to join Anthony and Travis’ group, but they’re not there yet,” Burke said.

The Blue Waves’ success in dual meets will often come down to the finishes of their next group of runners. Sophomore Nicholas Cunha and junior Joe Gattuso will form the next group. Burke said he’s expecting big things from both runners this season.

“Joe has been training very hard over the summer,” Burke said. “And Nicholas, we’re expecting a lot out of him.”

Junior Matt Tuthill and sophomore Jeremy Bornstein both return for the Blue Waves and will be vying for one of the top-five finishes in meets to count toward the team score.

The Blue Waves have depth with senior Jonathan Gao, junior Matthew Cutrone and a newcomer, sophomore Owen O’Neill.

“We feel excited and confident about this year,” Burke said.

The Blue Waves got a strong commitment from the runners during the summer. Burke said they’ve been training since early July, culminating in two-a-day practices (non-mandatory) to give the runners as many chances to run as possible.

Burke said a big turnout of runners in the middle school program has provided a pipeline to the high school.

“We had a large turnout of ninth graders,” Burke said.

The Blue Waves opened the dual meet season with a win over Half Hollow Hills West led by a first-place finish from Galvan in 17 minutes 26 seconds.

“They’ve always been a major contender,” Burke said. “I was very happy about that. But it doesn’t mean we’re going to walk over anybody else.”

joew@timesreview.com

11/16/11 3:00pm
11/16/2011 3:00 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior John Lee ran the fastest time for the Wildcats last weekend at the state championship.

Running a cross country meet during November at an upstate course presents inherent weather risks.

When runners arrived in Verona, N.Y., last Friday for a practice run before the New York State Championships, they discovered a course that had been frozen from snow. By the time the real races began Saturday, the course had thawed out, leaving behind a muddy, slippery mess.

“It became like a horse stable, all mud,” said Shoreham-Wading River boys coach Bob Szymanski, whose team qualified in Class B after narrowly edging out Harborfields in the Section XI Championship.

The Wildcats had their troubles as both of their top two runners ­— seniors John Lee and Tyler Keys ­­— took spills during the race. But the Wildcats fought through to finish in sixth place in Class B, which had some of the top runners overall when combined with the other three classifications.

When the times were combined with every team, the Wildcats finished 12th out of 40 teams and had the best finish of any school from Long Island. Rush-Henrietta, an A school, had the top times overall.

Szymanski said he felt the team would have done even better had the conditions been more suitable. He said the Wildcats were ranked fifth going into the meet, but probably could have done as well as third because times at Sunken Meadow, where the Wildcats normally run, are slower than where the competition from upstate competed.

Lee posted the top time for Shoreham in 18 minutes 1.1 seconds for 30th overall in Class B. Keys followed in 43rd place in 18:15.1. Both runners finished the season as first-team All-County.

“The times were slow,” Szymanski said. “This is a faster course by 30 seconds [compared to Sunken Meadow].”

Only six boys in all the races broke 17 minutes. By comparison at the Section XI Championship, eight boys in the Class A race broke 17 minutes on the typically slower course at Sunken Meadow.

“Close to 100 kids went down in all the races,” Szymanski said.

Shoreham sophomore Ryan Udvadia posted the Wildcats’ third fastest time in 18:17.6. Junior Keith Steinbrecher followed in 18:32.9 and junior Evan Purdy rounded out the scoring in 18:41.1. Sophomore Jack Kelly ran 18:46 and junior Dan Purschke ran 19:27.1.

Udvadia finished the season second-team All-County. Szymanski said all seven runners finished the season with All-League and All-Division honors.

Szymanski said his top runners could have continued this weekend at the federation championship. But given the uncertainty of the weather, they decided to end the season, take some time off and begin focusing on winter track, which begins this week.

The Southold boys competed in the Class D Championship and finished in 10th place. Freshman Jonathan Rempe led the team with a time of 21:02.6.

He was followed by the team’s core of seniors: Frank Cone (21:39.6), Griffin Quist (22:02.2) and Matthew Reilly (22:46.8). Junior John Tomici ran 23:04.5, sophomore Ian Toy ran 23:27.7 and junior Ryan Hanrahan was the final Southold runner in 23:51.8.

Southold coach Karl Himmelmann said the tough course conditions created an extra challenge for all the runners.

“It created a situation for all the students where they had to really be careful and maybe not run at their very fastest pace because if they were going down hills, it was complete mud,” he said. “It would be very easy to lose a footing and slip down a hill.”

Mattituck had two runners qualify for states as individuals in the Class C race. Corey Zlatniski finished 43rd overall in 18:57.6. Casey Grathwohl ran 19:21.7 to finish 66th.

Zlatniski qualified for states by running 17:42 at the qualifier at Sunken Meadow State Park, making him the fifth-fastest runner in Mattituck history. Grathwohl is currently the eighth-fastest all-time.

joew@timesreview.com