In his 20-plus years of coaching, Pierson boys cross country head coach Joe Amato has never witnessed such harsh running conditions that were at this year’s New York State Cross Country Championships on Saturday.
Amato described the conditions at Wayne Central High School, located just outside of Rochester, as a slushy and bumpy surface which froze over Friday night, creating sections of hard and irregular surfaces to go along with temperatures in the 20 degree range on Saturday morning.
It led to a difficult time for the four Pierson runners competing in the state Class D race but they all ran tough, Amato said. Hunter Hansen, a junior, finished the boys 5K in 21:01, which placed him 101st out of 117 runners. Freshman Ben McErlean crossed the finish line in 21:55. Shelter Island sophomore Kal Lewis won the Class D race in 16:44.
Penelope Green, a freshman, finished the girls 5K in 22:52, placing 51st out of 109 runners, but second among fellow Section XI (Suffolk County) runners, having beat out both Southold sophomore Olivia Lynch and Shelter Island sophomore Emma Gallagher, two runners she had never beaten this season, Pierson girls head coach Jim Kinnier said. Caroline Jungck, a junior, completed the race in 23:12, placing 62nd.
“Many male athletes in the morning complained of sore feet and twisted ankles. By the afternoon, during the girl’s races, the ground had thawed creating sections of ankle-deep mud,” Amato explained. “All athletes were covered in mud and the entire field looked like something out of a Spartan adventure race.”
It’s just par for the course as cross country is all about dealing with conditions on trails. Amato said the only time a cross country meet will move its start times or postpone events is due to lightning. Back in 1992, he said, kids ran through 8 inches of fresh snow in Rochester.
The state race is expected to come down to Long Island next year at Sunken Meadow State Park, where a majority of the races during the regular season are held for Suffolk schools. It should lead to more favorable conditions, and both Amato and Kinnier expect their teams to vie for Class D titles, both at the county and state levels.