WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. - Garden City's Stephanie Gerland knew there was no time to waste in the New York State Federation Championship.
"I had to start out really fast," Gerland said. "Last year, I started out too slow and got boxed in the whole time."
Getting boxed in, which can limit mobility and prevent a runner from accelerating at will, can happen easily in a field as large as Saturday's's, in which there were 255 finishers. Gerland's quick start helped her to a sixth-place finish, completing the 5K course at Bowdoin Park in 18 minutes, 45.3 seconds.
To have a shot at a title, you have to run with the best. So Gerland went out with Warwick Valley's Megan Reilly, who won the Class A title at last weekend's New York State Championships in Queensbury. "I wasn't next to her, but I knew that I couldn't get too far behind her, either," Gerland said. "I didn't think I'd be able to get as close to her as I was."
Gerland, who considers hill running one of her strengths, said she solidified her top 10 finish by passing a large pack on a hill in the wooded portion of the course. "When everyone was dying on the hill,'' she said, "I was able to pick it up."
Calhoun's Grace Moore was 13th in 19:02.6. "The hills were pretty tough today," she said. "I pushed at them as much as I could. I wasn't feeling great during the first mile. That's where there were the most hills.
"On the downhills I caught as many people as possible."
Tiana Guevara ran 14th in 19:03.7 for Miller Place, fifth overall with 229 points. "I didn't have a good hill-climbing day," she said. "It took a toll on me mentally. But the team made up for it and pulled through. I couldn't be more proud."
Talia Guevara ran 26th in 19:27.3, with Laura Nolan 27th in 19:28. "We all have each other's back," Tiana Guevara said. "If one of us has a bad day, there's always someone to pick us up."
After the "very grueling" opening mile, Talia stayed confident she could finish strong.
"As long as you have the mental toughness for it, you can keep pushing yourself forward," she said. "You forget about the pain after a little bit."
Ward Melville's Alesia Mucklebust finished 23rd in 19:23. Glenn's Sarah Hardie ran 32nd in 19:39.5.
"I passed about 15 girls in the last 600 meters," Hardie said. "The race was a challenge because I've never run this course before and it's very crowded. But running with all these amazing runners makes up for that."