The annual trip to Brown University in Providence, R.I., always includes an added bonus for the Shoreham-Wading River girls cross country team: a trip to the mall.
“There’s no way I can take 40 kids to a restaurant,” said Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki.
For nearly 20 years the Wildcats have made the trip north for the Brown Invitational, even staying in the same hotel. Koretzki said the woman behind the counter when they first arrived at the Quality Inn years ago is now the manager.
“She takes care of us,” Koretzki said.
It’s become a trip the team marks on the calendar each year, and with even more enthusiasm this year given the quality of the Wildcats’ lineup.
In the Division I varsity race on Saturday, the Wildcats posted a first-place finish by dominating the competition. The Wildcats tallied 52 points, well ahead of second-place Hackley School with 132. Points are determined by adding together the finishes of the team’s top five runners.
Shoreham’s fifth runner, junior Amanda Dwyer, finished 16th in 19 minutes 16.18 seconds over the 5,000-meter course.
“We pretty much thought we could win it,” said Koretzki. “At a small school level, under 1,000 [students], we’re tough to beat. When we run up against somebody our own size, we’re good.”
The Wildcats got another superb time for sophomore Katherine Lee, who clocked in third overall in 17:58.09. Lee is the defending Class B state champion.
“She’s running just as well as she did last year,” Koretzki said.
Her teammate Alexandra Hays, a junior, hasn’t been far behind. Hays finished fifth overall in 18:20.03 Saturday. Freshman Francesca Lilly ran 19:09.55 for 13th place and junior Payton Capes was 15th in 19:15.10. Junior Maria Smith (19:26.51) and senior Kaitlyn Ohrtman (19:40.35) rounded out the Wildcats’ lineup.
Koretzki said the girls ran as well or faster than their times last year on the same course.
“Especially Dwyer, Smith and Capes,” he said. “The three of them had really good races compared to last year.”
The Wildcats also wrapped up a second straight League VI title on Tuesday with a dual meet win over Mount Sinai, 19-40. It capped a 6-0 league season for Shoreham in advance of the Section XI Division Championships next week.
The Wildcats will have a shot at winning the overall division title. They’ll hope to get Ohrtman healthy. She’s typically one of the Wildcats’ fastest runners, but has been hitting a wall late in races recently. Koretzki said they plan to give her some time off to hopefully get back in gear.
The McGann-Mercy girls team ran the same race as Shoreham and senior Meg Tuthill finished 12th overall in 19:05.75. Junior Kaitlyn Butterfield ran 19:29.94 for 22nd.
The Riverhead girls also competed at Brown and for the first time, made it an overnight trip. Coach Justin Cobis said it was a big help for the runners, who got the opportunity to run early morning races on fresh legs without having to step off a bus after several hours and hit the course.
Eighth-grader Megan Kielbasa had the highlight of the day with a victory in the freshmen 4,000-meter race.
“We wanted to let her build some confidence,” Cobis said. “She’s one of the better runners in the county. We could have thrown her into the championship race, but I thought the appropriate thing to do to have her try to win the freshmen race which she pulled through with no issues.”
Kielbasa ran 15:17.08, well ahead of the next runner from St. Anthony’s in 15:41.12. There were 145 runners in the race. Riverhead freshman Eve Pittman was 13th in the freshmen race in 16:17.75 and eighth-grader Christine Thomas was 33rd in 17:31.75. Freshman Taylor Albinski ran 17:55.47.
Cobis said he was excited to see Kielbasa run an aggressive time, even without anyone breathing down her neck. It was the second best time in the course history for freshmen, he said.
“That’s pretty elite competition as far as past results and who has run that course at that age,” he said.
In the varsity D-II race Saturday, junior Gabriella Marcucci posted the top time for the Blue Waves, with a personal best time of 20:13.69. Sophomore Olivia Pizzutto ran 20:37.88 and sophomore Aimee Drexel ran 21:40.18.
“I call them my captains in training,” Cobis said of the sophomore pair. “While they’re young, they’re also extremely mature and they’re physically getting better and better.”
The Blue Waves have been without one of their veteran runners for most of the season. Senior Megan Carrick has been sidelined with a hip injury, Cobis said, which hurt the team in the final few league dual meets.
Riverhead finished 2-3 in league dual meets.
Photo Caption: Riverhead eighth-grader Megan Kielbasa won the 4,000-meter freshmen race Saturday at the Brown Invitational. (Credit: Raphael Bieber)