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.