The crowd at Sunken Meadow State Park was abuzz with anticipation. It was about the time when the top group of runners should appear in the distance, making their way down the final stretch at the Suffolk Cross Country Division Championships. Who would it be?
Finally, in the rainy distance, a single silhouette emerged.
"Is that Josh?" an onlooker wondered.
And, as the silhouette came into focus, it became clear that it was Josh. Joshua Hadity from Commack, that is. The senior won the 5k championship race in 16 minutes, 32.15 seconds Tuesday. Hadity topped Port Jefferson's James Burke, who finished second in 16:44.62 and Northport's Mike Brannigan, who was third in 16:49.62.
"The first 800 meters, I was trying to stay relaxed," Hadity said. "I tucked behind Burke and took his pace until Snake [Hill]. I took the downhill as fast as I could. Then, when we got to the picnic area, I picked the speed up and took it at my pace."
Hadity said he passed Brannigan at the top of Cardiac Hill. As the three runners approached the finish line, Hadity couldn't help but take a glance over his shoulder.
"I know they both have a pretty good kick," he said. "I don't have as great of a kick, so that's why I had to pick up my pace throughout the course."
East Hampton's Erik Engstrom was fourth in 16:52.62.
Sachem North won the team competition. Jonathan Lauer placed fifth in 16:53.27, the highest Flaming Arrows finish. John Onken was eighth in 17:05.38 and Dan Block was ninth in 17:07.87.
Shoreham-Wading River freshman Katherine Lee won the girls race in 19:02.17. Lee busted off the line in first and kept the lead the entire way, but not without some difficulty. It's never easy winning a late-October race, especially when Cardiac Hill is involved.
But Lee uses her love of music to keep her going when things get tough. As she motored through the wet course, she thought about her favorite songs, Katy Perry's "Roar" and Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," sufficiently focusing on something other than the grueling mileage she was undertaking.
"I just try to think of something other than the race," Lee said. "But when I'm going up a hill, I have to think about both. I have to keep my head out of it and my body into it."
Lee approached Cardiac Hill differently than usual.
"I've walked on Cardiac in every race this season," Lee said. "I was looking forward to this race and telling myself 'you're not going to slow down.' This race, a few people on Cardiac were cheering me on. I feel like it helped so much. I didn't walk today."
Hauppauge's Katie Murphy finished second in 19:17.63. Sachem North's Elise Ramirez was third in 19:38.96. Miller Place's Laura Nolan was fourth in 19:45.46 and Northport's Jackie Thorne was fifth in 19:49.97.
Shoreham-Wading River won the team competition. In addition to Lee's top finish, Alexandra Hays was seventh in 19:53.42 and Kaitlyn Ohrtman was ninth in 19:55.86.