It’s been six seasons since the last time Shoreham-Wading River won a county championship in girls cross country. For most teams, such a drought would hardly seem abnormal. But for Shoreham, a program that has contended for titles year after year, six years can seem like a long time.
There are no guarantees that streak will snap this year. But with a team that returns nearly its entire roster from a year ago, the Wildcats appear poised to make a run at the Class B title.
As longtime coach Paul Koretzki can attest, it often comes down to which team can stay healthy.
“That’s really the factor,” he said.
In the league and county, Miller Place and Bayport-Blue Point will represent the top competition for the Wildcats. Miller Place graduated the superb duo of Talia and Tiana Guevara, but still return a deep squad.
The top of the lineup for Shoreham this season spans three grades: freshman Katherine Lee, sophomore Alexandra Hays and junior Kaitlyn Ohrtman. All three are expected to be among the top runners in Class B this season.
As an eighth-grader last year, Lee emerged as the top runner for Shoreham. She ran the 5-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park in 20 minutes 7.37 seconds during the state qualifier meet, second only to Tiana Guevara.
Hays is coming off a tremendous season during spring track. At the state qualifier meet, she finished second in the 3,000 in 10:23.92. Ohrtman is entering her fourth year on varsity. As an eighth-grader, she was the team’s top finisher during cross country in the county meet.
The Wildcats have depth in the lineup with senior Rose Andrews and sophomores Maria Smith and Amanda Dwyer. A big addition is the return of senior Maddy Kelly, who was never at full strength last season as she dealt with a lingering hip injury.
“Dwyer and Smith look really good in preseason practice,” Koretzki said.
The Wildcats will also two eighth-graders vying for scoring positions in Alexandra Smith and Francesca Lilly. Sophomore Payton Capes-Davis, who ran relay events during the track season, will add some more depth to the cross country team.
“We’ve added some pretty good kids,” Koretzki said.
What quickly jumps out to Riverhead coach Justin Cobis entering the season is the size of the Blue Waves’ team. The Blue Waves have doubled the number of runners on the team and now boast a roster of close to 25 girls, Cobis said.
“The youth coming through is looking to really make a contribution, probably from its first year,” he said.
Starting during the summer, with informal running sessions at Indian Island, the Blue Waves have been preparing for this season. The team lost two girls to graduation, but returns the bulk of last year’s core.
Leading the team is junior Megan Carrick and sophomore Gabriella Marcucci.
“I expect their times from last year to be significantly improved,” Cobis said. “They’re definitely more experienced and more confident this year. They both came off a great spring track season. So I think that’s going to carry over.”
Two seniors, Izabella Marcucci and Maurinne Sullivan, will provide some leadership and depth to the team. They’re both fourth-year cross country runners, Cobis said.
“We really have a nice group of kids,” Cobis said.
Throughout the season, the Blue Waves’ fourth and fifth runners could vary. Even some freshmen might sneak their way into the top five, Cobis said.
“I think you’ll see several underclassmen in that top seven,” he said.
Junior Meghan Van Bommel figures to be in the mix for a scoring spot during most races.
The Blue Waves will face a tougher road in the league this year after getting bumped up to League III. The Blue Waves face perennially strong programs in Northport and Bay Shore.
For all of Bishop McGann-Mercy’s success in outdoor track over the last six years, developing an equally strong cross country program hasn’t been as easy. This year, the winter and spring track coach, Collin Zeffer, will coach the cross country team, giving him the trifecta of coaching all three seasons.
The Monarchs have a smaller team with 10 girls, still more than in some recent years. The Monarchs don’t have any seniors, but do return a state qualifier in junior Meg Tuthill. She’s coming off a tremendous sophomore season that saw her qualify for the state meet in all three seasons.
This year, she’ll enter as the Monarchs’ top runner and she’ll have her sights set on a return to the state meet. Coming into the year, she’s ranked in the top five of the county for Class C based on last year’s times.
Zeffer said two other strong runners for the Monarchs could vie for a trip to states as well: junior Devyn O’Brien and sophomore Kaitlyn Butterfield.
“I think our top five is coming along,” Zeffer said. “Two of them are freshmen so it’s going to be tough to put pressure on them.”
The Monarchs open the season at the Jim Smith Invitational Saturday at Sunken Meadow State Park. They’ll face some tough competition in the league against Mattituck and Center Moriches.
Saturday’s meet, which is less about team scores, will provide a good barometer to see where the girls stand.
“Kind of let them off their leash this weekend and see what they can do,” Zeffer said.