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Cross Country: Kielbasa’s at her best in rain

It rained, but it didn’t rain on Megan Kielbasa’s parade, nor that of her teammates on the Riverhead High School girls cross-country team.

The course conditions at Sunken Meadow State Park were muddy and — one would think — slow for the Section XI Division Championships as a light but steady drizzle fell Tuesday afternoon.

All in all, though, Kielbasa wasn’t complaining. Temperatures were in the low 60s/high 50s, and that suits the senior just fine.

“Honestly, cooler conditions are kind of better,” she said. “They’re more ideal for cross country.”

That may be one explanation for why Kielbasa ran her fastest time ever on the 5,000-meter course: 19 minutes and 54.99 seconds. It brought her fourth place in Division I. Teammate and fellow senior Christina Yakaboski was fifth in 20:06.96.

“I knew going into it that I just had to work on myself personally, do the best I could do, try to [run a personal record] myself, and I did that, so I’m really happy,” said Kielbasa, who had mud splattered on her legs. “It was just fast. Everybody went really fast today, which you had to adjust to.”

Also running for Riverhead were junior Linda Pomiranceva (14th in 21:12.14), senior Madison Kelly (26th in 21:43.65), freshman Lauren Matyka (28th in 22:00.11), junior Jordyn Jager (35th in 22:21.66) and senior Kristina DeRaveniere (45th in 22:57.15).

After the race and before the team results were released, Kielbasa was asked about Riverhead’s aim to repeat as the Division I champion.

“We’ll see what the results are,” she said. “I’m not sure yet. I don’t want to jinx anything.”

Then the verdict came in: Riverhead took second in the division to Ward Melville, which had 50 points. Riverhead had 70 points and an average time of 20:59.57, the best in the program’s history, according to coach Justin Cobis.

“We’re a really good team,” Kielbasa said. “Everybody’s so sweet, and we really care about the sport.

“It’s been a really good season. I’m very happy with the team. This easily is Riverhead’s best top seven [runners] that we’ve ever had.”

Shoreham-Wading River senior Nicole Garcia was third in Division III in 20:02.12.

Garcia went into the meet with the second-fastest time this season at the Sunken Meadow 5K course. Her 19:59.34 was second only to Mount Sinai senior Sarah Connelly’s 18:36.39. Connelly was first Tuesday in 18:40.81.

SWR’s Zelin ninth in D-III. Given his druthers, Adam Zelin would prefer not to run in rain. Having said that, he added, “But I enjoy running, so I’d rather run in rain than not run at all.”

And, all things considered, Zelin didn’t do badly for himself at all. The Shoreham-Wading River senior finished ninth in Division III in 17:51.88.

“It was a little bit rough with all the rain,” Zelin said. “Yeah, it definitely could have been worse. I mean, the course was definitely a bit muddy. I was so proud of my time considering everything.”

The boys championship race Zelin ran in was the first of six races on the course, which was already in rough shape.

Zelin said, “Definitely rough because what happened was there was like mud patches everywhere, so you really had to go where you wanted to go because otherwise you were stuck in a mud patch and you get your shoes all wet.”

Photo caption: Despite the rain and mud, Riverhead senior Megan Kielbasa ran her fastest time ever on Sunken Meadow State Park’s 5,000-meter course (19 minutes and 54.99 seconds) to take fourth place in Division I. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

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