The Section XI (Suffolk County) Class B Cross Country Championship race lived up to the hype.
With six teams vying for the top spot in the county and a trip to the New York State Championships, the race at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park on Friday was too close to call by the time the majority of the runners were in. It took at least 10 minutes before officials finally released the final times and point standings, which determined that East Hampton was the county champion with 82 points, edging out both Southampton and Miller Place, who tied for second with 96 points each. (Low score wins in cross country). Only a few points separated the next three teams, Mount Sinai (108), Westhampton Beach (110) and Bayport/Blue Point (110).
The Mariners had the fastest average time in Class B (18:40), but East Hampton had more runners who placed higher, which gave the Bonackers the edge. Southampton senior Gustavo Morastitla placed second overall in 17:27, about 15 seconds behind winner Tom Cirrito, a sophomore from Miller Place. Mariner sophomore Artemi Gavalas placed 10th in 18:22, but Southampton did not have any other runners place in the top 20. Freshman Zac Mobius (19:04) placed 25th and eighth-grader Billy Malone (19:11) and senior Travon Jenkins (19:13) placed 29th and 30th, respectively. East Hampton had runners place fourth, 13th, 15th and 18th.
“It was very nerve-wracking for all of us coaches at the end. No one really knew who was going to be the winner, but I honestly can say that I was very proud of all the boys,” Southampton head coach Eddie Arnold said after the race. “Honestly, on paper, East Hampton was the better team. We knew it was all about placements. Like I said before, it was their seven against our seven. The boys have been great, I can’t ask for any more, it just didn’t fall the way we wanted it to.”
On a positive note, Morastitla qualified individually, for the third consecutive season, for states, which are this Saturday, November 11, at Wayne Central High School in Ontario, New York, just outside Rochester. The top five individual runners outside of the winning team can qualify for states, and since Morastitla placed second overall, he was able to punch his ticket without issue.
Morastitla said the humidity—it was 75 degrees in Kings Park—made Friday’s race difficult. He also had trouble sleeping in the days leading up to the race.
“This whole week I’ve just been trying to rest up … hasn’t happened,” he admitted. “These races get me so nervous it’s hard to fall asleep.”
Morastitla said his goal upstate is to finish with the best time from Suffolk County and place in the top 10 overall.
Gagliardo Finishes 29th
Southampton sophomore Michelle Gagliardo, the only Lady Mariner to qualify for the county race, placed 29th overall in 23:01 and was not able to qualify for states. She finished well outside the five placements that are given to individuals outside of the winning team’s runners.