The progression of Eastport South Manor freshman cross country runner Taylor McClay continues.
McClay finished with a time of 18:30, which placed her 24th out of 107 runners in the New York State Cross Country Class A Championship race on Saturday at Queensbury High School. It’s the best placement an ESM girls runner has ever had at states, and her time placed her 39th overall in the state, out of the 492 runners—and it was tops among fellow Suffolk County runners in the race.
McClay’s season continues this Saturday, when she’ll compete in the Federation Championship Race at Bowdoin County Park in Wappingers Falls. The Federation race is by invitation only, and it includes all public, Catholic and New York City schools. No Lady Shark has ever competed in it.
ESM girls cross country coach Brian Methven said that Saturday’s race could have been one of the best races in state history. It was an extremely fast start, and McClay was able to stay ahead of the second pack of girls throughout the race. McClay bounced between 15th and 25th place before crossing the finish line 24th.
“She maintained her position,” Methven said. “She did well.”
With McClay leading the team next season, Methven said, with the majority of the team back, there is no reason why it can’t compete with some of the top Class A teams in Suffolk County, such as Sachem East and Northport.
“I think we can do it next year,” he said. “We have a lot of girls coming back, a lot of junior high girls coming up. If everyone comes back the way they can, I can see us breaking through into those top echelons of teams.”
ESM senior Tom Meehan ran in what wound up being his final race of his high school career when he placed 38th out of 108 runners, in 16:04, in his Class A Championship race on Saturday at Queensbury. Even though he improved his by 14 seconds from last year’s state meet, ESM head coach Mike Doyle said Meehan’s result was a little disappointing.
“I was hoping he would finish somewhere between 20th and 25th place,” he said. “He was just a little off, and in a race like that, you can’t be a little off. Being a little off can cost you 15 placements in a very competitive race like that was.”
Doyle said he liked where Meehan was at 1.5-mile marker. At the 2.5-mile marker, Meehan was running in 25th place, but a dozen or so runners passed him in the final mile of the race.
Doyle explained that the course ran much faster than the new 5K course at Sunken Meadow Park, which is where almost all races take place in the county. Because of that, almost all Suffolk County runners upstate last weekend ran personal bests.
All in all, though, it was a good season for Meehan, who became the only ESM boy to have run at states twice. He continued what has become a long lineage of top runners at ESM, which began with Zack Thorne in 2009, then Ben Tuttle in recent years before Meehan took over. And with Ryan Corbett just finishing a successful freshman season, it appears that lineage will continue.
Hampton Bays junior Nick Berglin enjoyed his second trip to states, placing 29th overall out of 132 runners, in 16:47, in the Class C Championship race, which was also at Queensbury High School on Saturday. Berglin was second among Suffolk County runners, as Port Jefferson junior James Burke placed third overall, in 15:59.
Hampton Bays head coach Fran Arato commented that many runners in Suffolk County have complained about the new 5K course at Sunken Meadow, that it runs too slow. Berglin improved his 5K personal best upstate by a minute, and Arato seems to think that Sunken Meadow has something to do with that. “I think it was good that it was tougher on the runners,” he said. “Maybe they caught some kids by surprise?
“Nick felt good all week,” Arato continued. “He was confident he was going to have a good run, so we were happy.”
Berglin will return to Hampton Bays this week and continue to lead the boys cross country team with his twin brother, Christian. Arato is hoping that the Berglin brothers can help lead the Baymen, which does not have a winter track team, to success next season, if a few runners can continue to improve.
“That’s the conversation I had with all of the guys at the end of this season, that Nick and Chris have continued to run in the offseason, and I’m hoping that the rest of the team follows their lead,” Arato said.