Mariners End More Than 60-Year Drought, Win County Cross Country Title; Engstrom Leads East Hampton

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The last time the Southampton boys cross country team won a county championship, none of the current members of the team was even alive. Neither, likely, were any of their parents.

On Halloween, the Mariners ended a more than 60-year drought at Sunken Meadow State Park in the Section XI (Suffolk County) state qualifier meet, beating out Port Jefferson to win the county ‘C’ title.

The victory on Friday means that Southampton will send its top seven runners to compete as a team at the New York State meet, scheduled for November 8 at SUNY-Canton (Section X—St. Lawrence Area). In cross country, the winning team in each classification (AA, A, B, C and D) makes it to states, as well as the top five individual finishers in each class not from the winning team.

Southampton, as has been its trademark all season, used its depth to beat the Royals, who have one of the top runners among all schools in Suffolk County, James Burke. Southampton head coach Eddie Arnold knew that no one on his team could beat Burke—who won the 5K (3.1-mile) race handily, in 16:57—and likely would not beat Port Jeff’s second-best runner, Justin Julich. But his theory was that his squad’s depth could overcome the strength of those two runners—and it proved to be true. Southampton’s top six runners finished fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, 12th and 18th. Port Jeff, meanwhile, took first and second, with Burke and Julich, but then finished ninth, 15th, 25th and 30th.

Southampton finished with 36 points, while Port Jefferson had 51, with the low score winning in cross country.

“The boys who had to do their jobs did it, and they did it so well,” Arnold said, referring specifically to Southampton’s middle-of-the-pack runners. “It was a storybook season,” he added.

Sebastian Hunter-Cuyjet was first for Southampton, taking fourth overall, in 17:58, a personal best, and a full minute faster than he ran a week earlier at the division meet. Spencer Crough was fifth overall, in 17:58, also a personal best; Kyle Vella was seventh (18:17); Ryan McCabe was eighth (18:18); Mike Minogue was 12th (18:48); Charlie Bedard was 18th (19:32); and Ricardo Chino was 22nd (19:44).

Arnold said he knew Port Jefferson was legitimately concerned about losing the county title to his team, because the Royals showed up for the meet wearing different-colored shirts. Instead of purple, Port Jeff’s main school color and the color of the team’s usual jerseys, the Royals wore white shirts, which Arnold said made them blend in more with the crowd and thus would make it more difficult for his runners to keep track of them during the race.

“I took it as a sign of respect toward us,” Arnold said of the four-time defending county champs. “They knew they had to do something to get an advantage.”

Lady Mariners Sending One

Hannah Connolly-Sporing will take the trip to SUNY-Canton with the boys, as she earned a spot at states as an individual after a strong performance at Sunken Meadow. The senior finished eighth overall, in 22:07, and was fifth among runners who were not from the winning team (Mattituck). Lumei Abatangelo finished ninth for Southampton, in 22:25, just missing out on a spot at states.

Engstrom Leads East Hampton

Junior Erik Engstrom will represent the East Hampton boys cross country team at states after taking third in the Class B race with a time of 17:09, grabbing one of the top five spots outside of the winning team (Bayport/Blue Point). As a team, East Hampton finished third overall with 75 points, edged by Harborfields (69) and Bayport (39).

Thomas Paradiso was 14th, in 17:59; Josh Dempsey and Jackson Rafferty took 17th and 18th, respectively, with identical times of 18:05; Geo Espinoza (18:50) was 24th; and Eric Perez (19:02) and Sean Moucha (19:12) also had personal-best times.

“It was an amazing season,” head coach Kevin Barry said. “Our team was runner-up in the league and in the division, and we won the Peconic Invitational in September. The future looks really bright.”

East Hampton will graduate four seniors, including Moucha, Paul King III, Harrison Kennedy and Liam McGovern.

Paradiso Represents Girls

Freshman Liana Paradiso officially ended the season for the Lady Bonackers, finishing in 21:39 in the girls Class B race, taking 25th place, as the lone representative for her team at the county meet.

The Lady Bonackers will lose just two seniors, Dana Cebulski and Merissah Gilbert, and are hoping for improvement next season with a strong group of young runners.

Pierson

The Pierson girls cross country team narrowly edged out Shelter Island to win the Suffolk County Class D championship at Sunken Meadow on Halloween.

It’s the first county title for the Lady Whalers since they won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008. Pierson finished with 33 points, followed by Shelter Island (36).

Lady Whaler Hannah Jungck (21:08) suffered her first loss of the season, finishing second in the race to Shelter Island’s Lindsay Gallagher (21:05), although Jungck’s time was a personal best for the season. Pierson had several clutch performances by its runners. Caroline Jungck finished fifth, in 21:51, beating out Shelter Island’s Caitlin Binder by 7.5 seconds. Pierson’s Maya Buckner took 11th, in 24:03, edging Shelter Island’s Francesca Frasco by five seconds. If those two Pierson runners had each finished one place behind, the teams would have tied—although the tiebreaker belonged to the Lady Whalers, since their sixth runner finished ahead of Shelter Island’s sixth runner. Only the top five places are counted.

Head coach Jim Kinnier added that Hannah Jungck was in fourth place with roughly a half mile left in the race, but she passed two girls in that final half mile, a move that gave Pierson an additional three points.

Other scorers for Pierson included Phoebe Miller (seventh, 23:11), Arlena Burns (ninth, 23:36), and Alaina Goggin (10th, 23:47). Eighth-grader Carly Browngardt took 19th, in 26:39.

The Pierson boys cross country team had two runners compete in the Class D race, with Angelo Toscano taking 14th, in 21:12, and Harrison Yardley finishing 21st, in 22:38.

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