Connetquot’s Brandon McCormick is never one to shy away from a challenge. So, when a friend jokingly expressed doubt in his ability to win the Suffolk Officials Invitational, held Saturday morning at Sunken Meadow State Park, he wanted nothing more than to cross the finish line first, and with the last laugh.
“He kind of doubted me, but I had to prove him wrong,” he said with a smile.
No one could touch McCormick, who won in 17 minutes, 36.49 seconds, 20.13 seconds ahead of the field. Westhampton’s Juan Lasso was second in 17:56.62. Holy Trinity’s Harshil Patel was third in 17:58.43 and Westhampton’s Ermel Bautista was fourth in 17:59. Bellport’s Thomas Brock rounded out the top five, running an 18:06.93.
McCormick worked the field early in the race, looking for space and a way to leave his competition behind. By the time he hit Cardiac Hill, he had outpaced everyone and just had to concentrate on finishing strong.
“Everyone around me was picking it up and going fast right from the start,” he said. “So, I just stayed with them. I worked the first hill and tried to get some distance on the first guy. After that, I just kept striding out, gaining more distance. By the time I hit the second big hill, Cardiac, I couldn’t really hear them. So, I just kept going.”
The optimal plan, of course, is leaving the field far away early to create wiggle room for any potential mistakes or decrease in speed. But McCormick knows there are other options as well.
“If I can break away, that’s the goal,” he said. “That’s what I go for. If I can’t, I run as fast as I can and hope I do well.”
Breaking away from the field makes the hills of Sunken Meadow a little less daunting but no less difficult.
“The hills are always annoying,” McCormick said. “The hills are the hardest part. But, as long as you charge up them, you feel fine once you get to the top.”
Despite a messy morning, McCormick said footing was not much of an issue.
“It wasn’t as muddy as I anticipated,” he said.
With the Suffolk Division Championships coming up Oct. 24, McCormick saw the morning race as a measuring stick for his ability to perform in less-than-ideal conditions.
“This told me that weather can’t really affect how I run,” he said. “I still ran a pretty good time and I hope to improve that before divisions.”
McCormick said he would like to run as close to 17 minutes as he can.
Mount Sinai won the team competition with 97 points. Sean Higgins finished tenth in 18:34.80 and Jack Pilon was 15th in 18:41.99.