It was a 10-hour drive through the Adirondack Mountains, nearly to the Canadian border, and a journey more than half a century in the making for the Southampton boys cross country team.
The Mariners made the long trek to SUNY at Canton for the state championships this past weekend, marking the first time since 1951 that the team qualified for states. And with only one senior along for the ride this time, it is a trip head coach Eddie Arnold hopes his team makes again next year.
If they do, however, the Mariners will have a different mindset than they did over the weekend, when they finished eighth out of the 11 teams in the Class C race.
“When you go to states, either you’re just happy to be there or you want to place,” Arnold said. “This year, we were happy just to be at states. Next year, we’d be looking to place and make All-State. Visiting the experience is the most important piece, because now they know what’s at stake.”
Southampton’s team of seven runners performed well in their final race of the season, with three notching personal best times on the 5K course. Sebastian Hunter-Cuyjet led his team, finishing in 17:36, beating his previous personal best time of 17:58. Spencer Crough (17:51) and Ricardo Chino (19:18) also logged personal best times. Kyle Vella (18:33), Ryan McCabe (18:40), Charlie Bedard (19:57) and Michael Minogue (20:14) also finished the race for Southampton.
“I was very pleased with the performances,” Arnold said. “It’s where we thought we’d finish.”
Arnold added that the course conditions were rough by the time the Class C race went off in the afternoon, thanks to snowy and rainy conditions the night before, and wear and tear from the previous races.
Southampton will say goodbye to just two seniors, Vella and Kevin Dexter.
Arnold was recognized for his work with the boys team. He led them to their first county championship since 1951, and was named the co-Suffolk County Coach of the Year, along with Ward Melville’s coach. Arnold was also named the Class C Coach of the Year.
Senior Hannah Connolly-Sporing was the only runner from the Southampton girls team who qualified for states, but she was unable to finish the girls Class B race after getting sick midway through the course.
The Pierson girls cross country team earned the right to compete at that state meet in the girls Class D race after winning the county’s Class D title. At SUNY-Canton, the Lady Whalers finished eighth out of 10 teams in the Class D race.
Pierson’s Hannah Jungck was 40th out of 118 runners in 21:31, while her sister, Caroline Jungck, was 46th in 21:42. Phoebe Miller (22:53), Alaina Goggin (23:50), Arlena Burns (23:51), Maya Buckner (23:59) and Carly Browngardt (26:24) also finished the race for Pierson.
Buckner, a four-year varsity runner, is the only graduating senior, meaning Pierson should be poised for another run at the county title again next season.