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Boys Cross-Country Preview: SWR’s Zelin seeks third state visit

Bob Szymanski remembers Adam Zelin as a youngster, participating in a Shoreham-Wading River youth track and field program. What Szymanski recalls is the evident enjoyment Zelin got out of it.

“He enjoyed running as a little kid,” Szymanski said. “… He’d show up all the time and he’d run the mile as an 8-year-old and he’d come back an hour later for the two-mile run. The thing was, he didn’t have great speed, but he was tenacious and would run long.”

Fast forward to the present …

Now Zelin is an All-County senior captain for Szymanski’s SWR boys cross-country team. He has competed in the state championships the last two years.

Last year, when the state meet was run at Sunken Meadow State Park’s five-kilometer course (a demanding course Zelin had described as “brutal”) for the first time in 10 years, he finished 81st among Class B runners in 18 minutes and 12.5 seconds.

At last year’s Section XI Championships, Zelin turned in his fastest time at Sunken Meadow: 17:49.19. That brought him seventh place in the Class B race.

“My job is now to make sure he makes the state team three years in a row,” said Szymanski, who expects Zelin to be among the top handful of runners in Suffolk County.

SWR (2-5 last year) also has Jacob Jablonski, a junior who missed the entire 2018 season with a knee injury. He was the team’s No. 3 runner as a freshman. The Wildcats’ other top runners are senior Camden Sisler, senior Gabriel Kent (his first year running cross country), sophomore Connor Blunnie, senior Ben Carrier and freshman Noah Parrinello.

“I think we’re going to get better as the season goes along,” said Szymanski, whose team will face tough competition in League VI from county champion Westhampton Beach and Miller Place. “I like the kids. They’re no problem and they work hard for me.”

The bulk of this year’s Riverhead team will be together for a while.

The makeup of the Blue Waves’ 33-member roster is interesting: two seniors (including one who is new to the sport), 10 juniors, nine sophomores and 12 freshmen.

“There’s a lot of upside,” coach Matt Yakaboski said. “We’re looking for big jumps from them individually.”

Three juniors were among Riverhead’s top seven last year: Gabe Burns, Ben Catanzaro and Matthew Yakaboski, the coach’s son. It looks as if junior Pedro Arruda, sophomore Patrick Rowland, freshman Graeme Olsen and first-year senior Brian Noone will be scorers. Olsen crushed the Riverhead freshman record for 1 1/2 miles at Sunken Meadow recently with a time of 7:41. Ryan Carrick held the old record of 8:02 that was set in 2015.

Riverhead (1-5) makes the jump from League III to League II, which Matt Yakaboski believes to be a tougher league with Bay Shore, Commack, Sachem East, Sachem North and Ward Melville. “That’s some of the top teams in the county,” he said.

As for his young runners, Matt Yakaboski said: “I like that they push each other, that they’re really sort of tight with times. They have good daily workouts because of that.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior Adam Zelin has run in the last two state meets. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)