Westhampton Beach's Ermel Bautista wins the 3200 Meter Run during...

Westhampton Beach's Ermel Bautista wins the 3200 Meter Run during the Suffolk County High School Boys Track meet on Saturday Dec 22, 2018 at Suffolk Community College. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Like a distance run, the track season is long and demanding, and requires proper pacing and self-awareness.

This suits Westhampton’s Ermel Bautista just fine.

The junior won the 3,200 meters with a 10:14.14 at a Suffolk crossover meet at Suffolk CCC-Brentwood Saturday, passing one of his first tests of the young season.

“We’re preparing for the big meets in the future, like at the Armory, so it felt good to win today and get a solid time,” Bautista said.

While Bautista said early-season meets like these were more of a personal barometer and a means to prepare for higher stakes competition later in the season, he still had a very solid margin of victory. He beat out second-place Christian Giampap (Commack) by more than 23 seconds, which was roughly equivalent to the gap between Giampap and the fifth-place runner.

“They tell you what kind of shape you’re in early in the season and what you need to do in the future,” Bautista, who added he is focused on the 3,200 and 1,600 this season, said.

He is coming off a solid cross country season in the fall that saw him earn a spot in the state meet for the second straight year. He said the team is working on “holding on to what we had” from cross country, and while he would like to qualify for the state meet in the 3,200 this winter, “you can’t think too far ahead either.”

While Bautista had one of the afternoon’s more comfortable margins of victory, the 1,000 meters came down to the wire, as Commack’s Howard Svensson edged Huntington’s Isaiah James by about two-tenths of a second.

“I was looking to sit on the leader and then over the last 300, just take off,” Svensson, who posted a time of 2:42.64, said. He said this is his usual approach to the 1,000 because he trusts his own speed.

Like Bautista, Svensson said the value of early season meets is to prepare for bigger events, meaning he was less concerned with the rest of the field than his own time.

“Get faster, prepare yourself for championship races and stay in shape to keep yourself healthy,” he said. “I do like to see where I’m ranked, but early in the season, that doesn’t mean as much as it does later. As long as I’m getting faster, that’s all that matters.”

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