For most teams, winning a division title would be cause for celebration.
The Shoreham-Wading River boys cross country team clinched the Division IV title Tuesday afternoon at Sunken Meadow State Park, the team’s fourth in the last five years.
A fine achievement, led by senior John Lee’s sixth place overall finish in the championship race, but as longtime Shoreham coach Bob Szymanski poured over the results, he could spot the caveat in the team’s win.
While the Wildcats finished fifth in the championship race — which is made up of the top two teams in each league plus four at-large teams — Harborfields had just edged the Wildcats for fourth place.
As a Division III team, Harborfields didn’t factor in with Shoreham when the results were divided among the four divisions. But when the teams meet again at the Section XI State Qualifier Nov. 4, both schools will compete as Class B teams.
So for the Wildcats to win the more coveted county title and advance to the state meet as a team, they must find a way to get through the Tornadoes.
“It’s Harborfields and us,” Szymanski said.
It was Harborfields last year that blocked the Wildcats’ path to a county title. To get back the crown this year, the Wildcats will first rely on their top runner in Lee. The defending county champion, Lee ran 16 minutes, 43 seconds Tuesday afternoon, a time that left him a bit disappointed.
Lee was in position for fifth place but got taken just before the finish line by the surging Ryan Scarpelli of Sachem East. He edged Lee by four tenths of a second.
“I wanted to try and come in the top three,” Lee said. “It’s not that far off my [personal record], but I was just hoping to do a little better.”
Lee finished ahead of Harborfields’ top runner, Austin Coneys, who was ninth overall in 16:55.3.
The top time was by Hauppauge senior Ryan Colabella, who finished in 16:17.6. Lee said he was with the top group for most of the race until he started losing steam toward the end.
It was the first time Lee lost a race to Scarpelli, he said.
“I got to hand it to Ryan,” he said. “I was beating him all throughout high school and he finally beat me this year.”
Scarpelli’s time was nearly a minute faster compared to the division race last year. Lee’s had a tremendous overall season, winning invitationals at Brown University and Van Cortlandt Park among others.
“Most of those invites I didn’t even have to go all out to win them,” Lee said.
The Wildcats rounded out their scoring Tuesday with senior Tyler Keys (17:15.7), sophomore Ryan Udvadia (17:42.4), junior Evan Purdy (17:56.5) and junior Dan Purschke (18:04.4).
Shoreham came into the division meet off another unbeaten league season (6-0 in League VII).
The Wildcats haven’t won a county title since 2008, when they were also the overall division champions as the top team in the county combined with every team.
The Mattituck boys team also competed in the championship race Tuesday after finishing the League VIII season in a three-way tie for first place at 5-1. The Tuckers finished tied with Port Jefferson and Center Moriches.
Mattituck finished 21st overall in the championship race. Senior Corey Zlatniski posted the top time for Mattituck in 17:59.9. The next four finishers were: junior Casey Grathwohl (18:39.7), freshman Marcos Perivolaris (19:04.9), junior Anthony Howell (19:56) and sophomore Jake Nolan (20:39.9).
The Tuckers will compete in the State Qualifier in Class C. They finished ahead of Center Moriches in the division meet, an important baromter looking ahead to the county meet. Port Jefferson ran in the team qualifier race and finished 14th with an average time of 19:36.48. Mattituck’s average time in the championship race was 19:16.08.
Southampton and Babylon from League VII also factor in as Class C teams.
The Riverhead boys ran in the team qualifier race and finished sixth out of 28 teams to earn a spot in the State Qualifier. Riverhead coach Patrick Burke was thrilled with his team’s finish.
Junior Anthony Galvan, who’s been the team’s top performer all season, posted Riverhead’s best time. He ran 18:19.4 for 20th overall.
“The real thing about today is everybody did their job,” Burke said. “I told everyone you have to do a 19:30 to continue this and go to the state quals. My last kid [sophomore Joe Gattuso] ran a 19:35. And his best time was a 19:50.”
The Blue Waves’ middle runners were sophomore Travis Wooten (19:10.6), senior Kevin Williams (19:25.7) and freshman Nicholas Cunha (19:32.9).
“We needed those bottom guys to step up and they did,” Burke said.
The Southold boys also ran in the team qualifier race and were 24th overall. Freshman Jonathan Rempe had the team’s top time at 19:59.7. Senior Griffin Quist ran 20:15.9 followed by Frank Cone (20:30.9), junior John Tomici (21:34.2) and senior Matt Reilly (21:44.6).
The team went 3-3 in League VIII dual meets this year, an improvement over the previous season, coach Karl Himmelmann said.
“The boys team has really grown in size tremendously over the last year,” he said. “I see a lot of growth, especially my top five or six boys. Not only in terms of times, but just their technique and running style, I really see a lot of improvement.”
Southold will compete as a Class D school in the State Qualifier.