Hands raised and smiling wide, Syosset’s Peter Zimbalist strode across the finish line a winner in the Class I race at the Nassau Cross Country Class County Championships at Bethpage State Park yesterday. But, this was hardly a sure thing a few minutes earlier. In fact, the race looked considerably different as the final mile of the 5-kilometer race began.

Zimbalist moved from fifth place to third in the final 1,000 meters to win in 16 minutes, 11.37 seconds, finally overtaking the lead in the last 300. East Meadow’s Timothy Euler was second in 16:15.75 and Port Washington’s Aaron Siff-Scherr was third in 16:19.54

“The whole race, I was really conservative,” Zimbalist said. “I kept a solid distance behind the pack and I knew that when it came to the last quarter-mile, I would have a lot more than they had.”

Although the race may have looked all but decided to spectators seated across the park’s vast polo field, Zimbalist said he didn’t doubt his ability to catch the field.

“I saw [Euler] struggling,” Zimbalist said. “His form was breaking a little bit. I knew I could keep my form, while keeping a solid distance behind him. He was doing more work than I was at the moment. I was just waiting for the last 400 [meters].”

Zimbalist’s female counterpart, Reilly Siebert also used a final mile surge to move towards a championship. Siebert won the girls Class I race in 19:02.66.

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“I was sitting on the leaders throughout the whole race,” the Syosset junior said.”I was just waiting to make my move and stay as comfortable as I could.”

Siebert said she ‘pushed the pace’ and took the lead around the two-mile mark.

“I really started to roll and make a statement-move,” Siebert said.

Syosset won the girls Class I team championship with 33 points and Port Washington won the boys Class I team championship with 44.

Class II

Garden City’s Trevor Marchhart didn’t need any sort of a late surge to win the Class II championship. Marchhart was all alone after the two-and-a-quarter mile mark, finishing in 16:23.15. Manhasset’s Aidan Caggiano was second in 16:38.15.

Marchhart said the race was tight until he pulled away as the polo field came into view.

“I had a pretty good amount of energy in me. I’m a pretty good sprinter,” Marchhart said. “I think I had some speed left in me for the last part.”

The late surge was, at least in part, by design. While some runners enjoy having an opponent right with them, Marchhart relishes the relatively stress-free atmosphere of running by himself.

“I would rather be ahead of [the field] by a lot by the end than have to sprint past them at the end,” he said.

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And not having anyone next to him for the majority of the final mile did nothing to slow down his time.

“I always try to run harder, even if someone is not coming up behind me fast,” Marchhart said. “It’s sort of like a race against myself.”

Great Neck North’s Samantha Law was a little surprised to find herself all alone on the final straight away. She figured it would would be a lean-at-the-line kind of day. Instead, a line of well-wishers cheered Law as she won in a personal-best 18:56.55. South Side’s Carly Woelfel was second in 19:31.66.

“We all took it out pretty fast,” Law said. “The girls stayed with me until about the mile mark, where we were at 5:47. It was a very fast opening mile and I think that took a lot out of (the field). But, that’s how I like to race.”

Manhasset won the boys team title with 23 points and the girls team title with 40.

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Class III

Wheatley’s Brianna O’Brien, who was already the top Class C runner in the state, according to rankings on the website Tully Runners, won the Class III championship in 18:30.78, a new personal best.

O’Brien said that she has started to ‘dial back’ her training, hoping it will help her avoid a post-season wall.

North Shore’s Jack Rosencrans won the boys race in 16:45.37.

North Shore won the boys team title with 31 points and the girls team title with 40. It is the tenth straight year that the girls have won a class county championship, coach Neal Levy said.