Aidan Brancaccio of St. Anthony's comes in second at the...

Aidan Brancaccio of St. Anthony's comes in second at the CHSAA boys 2.5 mile cross country league championship at Sunken Meadow State Park on Sunday, October 31, 2021. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

At a time when conventional wisdom might indicate the opposite, the pressure is off Aidan Brancaccio.

The St. Anthony’s senior is one of the leaders of a team considered the best in the state - one that has Federation championship aspirations – and yet, he’s having more fun than he’s ever had on a cross country course.

The change, he said, came toward the end of his junior season, when he changed his running approach to mix in some enjoyment and relaxation.

“I feel like I’m more relaxed, confident, enjoying the race more,” Brancaccio said. “I’m trying to run the race without expectations, just running. The fast times always follow.”

So far, they have. Brancaccio won the St. Anthony’s Invitational last weekend, running the 5-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park in 16 minutes, 43.41 seconds. It was part of a clean sweep for the Friars, who cruised to the team title by taking the first six places.

That wasn’t exactly surprising. Entering this weekend, St. Anthony’s was ranked as the best team in the state by

“It feels surreal, actually, knowing how good we are and how good we could be moving forward in the season,” said Hunter Wilson, who finished second at the St. Anthony’s Invitational in 17:02.52 and is the defending Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA cross country league champion.

Brancaccio was the runner up at the league championships last year, giving a pretty strong indication that 2022 would represent a return to state-wide contention for St. Anthony’s.

“We knew we were going to be pretty good,” Brancaccio said. “We didn’t know when exactly things were going to click for us. Fortunate enough, with me being a senior, we clicked this year.”

As the fall moves along, Brancaccio and Wilson figure to be in the top pack at races with much higher stakes than the one they cruised through last weekend, but Brancaccio is determined to remain relaxed.

“The more relaxed you can be, while still accepting those nerves that come from your adrenaline, really helps you run faster,” he said. “It helps you run looser (and) opens up your stride.”


Aislinn Frazer entered the weekend with the fastest time on Long Island, according to The Friends Academy sophomore ran an 18:15.20 at a league meet at Eisenhower Park in late September.

The time, which came on the ultra-flat, hill-less terrain of Eisenhower, showcased Frazer’s pure flat-ground speed and opened up tremendous possibilities for fast runs at Bethpage State Park, which is hillier than Eisenhower but still relatively fast.

“Knowing what I can do on a course that flat kind of pushes me to think maybe, while I can't go that fast on a course that's not a pancake like Eisenhower, maybe I can run faster than my old (personal best),” she said. “I was well below 19 (minutes) on Eisenhower, so maybe if I can get just below 19 on Bethpage, that would be a great step.”

Frazer, who had an impressive freshman year, said she trained this summer like never before and is already seeing the results in the form of, not only speed, but stamina.

“I moved into a slightly different training plan,” she said. “It just felt like my legs weren’t shocked (in September). So, it was easy to just get going immediately with the training that I needed to run really fast.”

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