WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. — In what was a bit of a test run for next Saturday’s Nike Cross Regional meet, Northport’s Aidar Matthews reacquainted himself with the 5-kilometer course at Bowdoin Park.
And oh, what a reunion.
Matthews ran the hilly terrain in 16 minutes, 31 seconds at the state Federation cross country championship Saturday afternoon, placing eighth overall and first among Long Island runners. Pittsford Mendon’s Sam Lawler won in 15:57.2.
Matthews had run the difficult course earlier in the season, placing 11th in 17:02.20 at the Section I Coaches Invitational on Oct. 19.
Matthews was one of three Long Island runners in the top 20 at the Federation championships. Seaford’s Jason Linzer was 14th in 16:39.1 and Eastport-South Manor’s Michael Silveri was 18th in 16:40.6. Eastport-South Manor was the highest-finishing Long Island team, 11th with 298 points. Northport was 14th with 304. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake won the team competition with 151.
Matthews estimated that he was in 30th place during the first 500 meters of the race, a sometimes treacherous situation because of a large bottleneck toward the beginning of the course. Knowing that many a speedy runner has had a Bowdoin race ruined by that blockage, Matthews worked his way up the pack enough not to get caught.
“I was a little bit worried [about] if I was going to get out of the group,” Matthews said. “But I listened to my coach [Jason Strom] and I stayed on the outside of the lanes so that I would be able to move up from the outside, which I did.”
Once he broke the bottle, Matthews got to work on the hills.
“I attacked the hills really well. I felt good and made quite a few passes,” Matthews said. “I made most of my moves going up the hill ... I just consistently moved up from where I started.”
The day was very different from a week ago, when Matthews placed 38th in 15:21.7 in the Class A race at the state public school championships in Plattsburgh. That course was fast and flat, with temperatures hovering in the mid-20s and snow on the ground. Saturday, the weather was almost 20 degrees warmer and not a snowflake could be seen.
“Coming into this race, we knew it was going to be a lot better conditions,” Matthews said. “But we did know it was going to be more hilly, so conditioning for it after [public school] states was more important. We just came in and remembered when we first ran this course. We knew how to run it.”
Matthews returns to Bowdoin next Saturday to run at Nike Cross Regionals.
“Just staying strong toward the end," he said, "not easing up on my pace, keeping it consistent, and fighting through the pain that I’m going through in the last 1,200 meters will be a key part of me finishing and getting a better time."