The finish line was in view and suddenly the cheers for Alexandra DeCicco were real. As the Sachem East junior navigated the 5-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park, she was imagining people cheering for her. When her running fantasy turned into actual adulation, a single voice rose above the rest.
"She's right behind you!" it shouted, a sense of urgency ripping through the cold Halloween air.
"She" was Hauppauge's Katie Murphy, who was barreling toward the line.
"I wanted to get away [from Murphy] so I could finish as high as I could," DeCicco said.
And it would have been impossible for DeCicco to finish any higher than she did, winning the Class A title in 19 minutes, 13.55 seconds at the Suffolk County Championships on Friday.
DeCicco said she took the lead atop the treacherous Cardiac Hill.
"On the way up to the picnic area, I felt really good," she said. "I just stayed in control on Cardiac because you don't want to go up too fast. At the top, I just took off."
DeCicco's finish helped the Flaming Arrows win the team title, the first in the school's history, assistant coach Pete McNeil said.
"We're making history and it's really exciting for us," DeCicco said.
The race acted as Suffolk's state qualifier. The victory secured a spot for DeCicco and her teammates at the New York State Public School Championships, next Saturday at SUNY Canton.
Murphy, who was second in 19:16.80, also qualified.
Shoreham-Wading River's Katherine Lee won the Class B championship in 19:15.38. Her teammate, Alexandra Hays was second in 19:39.13. The finishes helped Shoreham-Wading River win the Class B team title.
Center Moriches' Ryleigh Donegan won the Class C championship in 20:09.44. It was the senior's fourth Class C championship. She's been running varsity since the seventh grade. Like DeCicco, Donegan said she began to pull away on Cardiac Hill.
"Hills are my weakness," said Donegan, who had a practice session at Sunken Meadow last week. "It was more of a mental thing to come do the hills. I felt like it was something I needed to do."
After six years of competing against the unforgiving Cardiac, Donegan was happy to say goodbye to the course's biggest obstacle. "The whole time I was up there, I was thinking 'this is the last hill. It has to be good,' " Donegan said.
Mattituck won the Class C team title. Melanie Pfennig was second in 20:31.41. Shelter Island's Lindsey Gallagher won the Class D championship in 21:05.73. Pierson won the team title. Hannah Jungck was second in 21:08.96.