Just because he had qualified for the past two New York State boys cross-country championships didn’t mean that the third time was a breeze for Adam Zelin. Actually, it was anything but that.
With some 1,000 meters to go in Friday’s Class B race in the Section XI Championships, Zelin needed to pass a runner in order to squeeze into a qualifying spot for the upcoming state meet. The Shoreham-Wading River senior did just that before finishing in eighth place.
“I really went for it today,” he said.
Shortly after the race at Sunken Meadow State Park, Zelin received word from his coach, Bob Szymanski, that he was in. He had booked a place for himself in the state championships to be run Saturday at SUNY/Plattsburgh.
“It’s definitely making my [senior] season a real memorable one,” Zelin said. “It’s just crazy how much I progressed [since] sophomore year. Each year I’ve gone to states and I keep getting better times here.”
Zelin completed the 5,000-meter course in 17 minutes, 27.87 seconds, about eight seconds faster than he had ever run before at Sunken Meadow. (Miller Place senior Tom Cirrito took first in 16:16.89).
The cold, windy conditions didn’t sit well with Zelin, but he ran with every part of his body covered except his face and neck. He still had to run against a wall of wind down the final stretch to the finish line.
“If there’s no wind, you can live with the cold,” Szymanski said. “I liked running in 30-degree weather with no wind, but when you run in this kind of weather, this can psych you out.”
Zelin said the key to his success is simple: hard work.
“If I wasn’t working as hard, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said. “During workouts, I always keep that mindset, and I’m always trying my hardest.”
The rough weather almost seemed to help the Riverhead runners, five of whom ran the course faster than they ever had before. Freshman Graeme Olsen (47th in Class A in 17:59.94), junior Gabe Burns (60th in 18:24.27), junior Matthew Yakaboski (94th in 19:13.79), junior Pedro Arruda (104th in 19:27.69), senior Brian Noone (116th in 19:39.39) and sophomore Patrick Rowland (128th in 19:55.81) ran for the Blue Waves.
Smithtown senior Michael Danzi was first in 16:28.43.
Olsen, who has broken a number of Riverhead freshman records, beat his previous best time on the course by about 30 seconds. “It’s state quals, so I thought I’d just put it all out there and just leave everything behind and just run the best race that I could,” he said.
This being a state qualifying meet, the stakes were high.
“You feel the intensity overall,” said Burns, who also posted his best time at Sunken Meadow. “You can hear it in people’s voices as you run by them. You can see it in all the coaches around, rooting on the runners because you never know what’s going to happen in this race.”
Riverhead coach Matt Yakaboski, who will return six of his top seven runners next year, said: “They had nothing to lose … I said, ‘Go out and have fun.’
“I’m just really proud of the whole team. From where we started at the beginning of the season to where we finished was a dramatic drop [in times].”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior Adam Zelin qualified for his third straight state meet, finishing eighth in Class B at the Section XI Championships. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)