The significance of North Shore's girls cross-country league meet Wednesday was lost on no one. With 99 consecutive league meet victories under the program's proverbial belt, this wasn't an occasion that crept up on them or caught them by surprise. Quite the opposite. One hundred straight was a special number and one in which the current team was well aware. They saw it as not only an accomplishment, but a tribute to Vikings gone by.
"It was our goal coming into the season," Diana Vizza, a senior, said. "Last year, we knew we were 89-0. This year was the year for the big 100. It's really cool. We're not just running for each other. We're running for the seven-year legacy. We're running for alumni. That's pretty special."
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And once the historic victory, a 18-38 win over South Side at Bethpage State Park, was signed, sealed and delivered, the significance of what they had helped accomplish finally set in.
"It was a really exciting day," Stephanie Bazan said. "I was really proud to be a part of the legacy that the team has been creating for the last seven years. It's pretty cool."
The triple-digit league meet victory streak dates to 2007. North Shore also has won eight consecutive county titles and two state crowns in the last 10 years, coach Neal Levy said.
"I think it shows complete continuity and commitment to excellence," Levy said. "We've maintained perfection in not only the league record, but the postseason record as well. We've been able to maximize the team's ability in both the regular season and the postseason . . . It shows a longevity. We've had multiple cycles of kids that have come through here. I think that's a credit to the system and the idea that everything should be important and we shouldn't take things for granted."
That system is a source of pride for those who are involved in it. The program, and the history behind it, is not only well known, but treasured by those who currently don the maroon North Shore uniforms.
"We stay in touch with all the girls who have come before us," Bazan said. "[Alumni are] all a really big part of the team. They always come visit. We're really proud to be running for them."
Said Vizza: "Our alumni are very important to us. They've left some big shoes to fill."
Vizza completed the 5K course in 18 minutes, 17.7 seconds Wednesday. Emma Rivera ran it in 20:25.4. Bazan turned in a 20:30.7, Morgan Nerud clocked a 20:58.2, and Monica Morra ran a 21:10.3.
League meets often carry with them far less expectations or pressure than a large weekend invitational does. Some use it to work on strategy, testing out race plans to see if they make sense to use in larger competitions. Others use them to ease back into racing after an injury or illness.
But with a streak as large as this, it was hard to treat Wednesday as anything less than a big race. The runners simply care too much about the history to treat it as anything else.
"You can't not go all out for your 100th win," Vizza said.
Now, with the streak secure, North Shore turns its attention to larger goals, winning another county and state public school title.
"Based on last year's speed rating and what we've been doing this year, we have a special opportunity to have a chance to win a state championship," Vizza said. " . . . To have this opportunity is rare and special. We're looking forward to it."