There are a lot of things about high school cross country that Eastport-South Manor’s Taylor McClay will miss. The hills at Sunken Meadow State Park certainly aren’t among them. They are steep. They are punishing. And they are something that McClay, in her final race at the infamous Long Island course, has finally conquered — once, and perhaps more importantly, for all.
McClay won the Class A race at Friday’s Suffolk State Qualifier in 19 minutes, 14.23 seconds. That qualified her for the state Public School Championships, set for Saturday at Chenango Valley State Park in Chenango Forks.
“I wanted to stay near the top for the majority of the race, but not to control it until the end when I knew I could kick and win,” McClay, who is committed to run cross country and track at North Carolina State next year, said.
While she admitted that Sunken Meadow’s hills were, once again, the most challenging part of the course, McClay’s years of experience and strength training made them bearable.
“This was my last time running up Cardiac (hill) and Snake (hill),” McClay said. “We trained really hard this year. Our team training is combined, so it was good to really crush some workouts with the boys.”
Ward Melville won the Class A team title with 68 points and will be going to Chenango Forks as well. Ashley Warokomski was the Patriots’ highest finisher, placing ninth in 19:56.74.
Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee won Class B in 18:10.37, the fastest time of the meet. Lee, who won the Class B public school state championship in 2014 and was third last year, is the fourth-fastest runner in the state and fastest in Class B, according to rankings on the website Tullyrunners.
Shoreham-Wading River, regarded by most as the best team on Long Island regardless of class, won the Class B team title with 26 points. Maria Smith was third in 19:14.55, Payton Capes-Davis fourth in 19:25.40, and Alexandra Hays sixth in 20:06.35.
Mattituck’s Melanie Pfennig, along with her team, won the Class C title (26 points). Pfennig ran 20:28.52.
Shelter Island’s Lindsey Gallagher ran 21:09.50 to lead her team to a Class D victory (27 points).
Sachem North’s Christopher Tibbetts ran the fastest boys time of the meet, a 16:09.40 that had him topping Class A. Teammate Jonathan Lauer was second in 16:17.70. Smithtown won the team title with 56 points. Michael Grabowski was third in 16:21.77.
“We went out hard, like we normally do,” Tibbetts said. “It was a little more packed up going out hard. Going up Snake (hill) people started to thin out. Jon (Lauer) and I put heat on each other the whole way.”
Westhampton’s Jack Ryan won Class B in 16:42.18. Miller Place (57 points), led by Brendan Murphy (17:08.74), won the team title. Port Jefferson’s Sam Walker won Class C in 17:33.78 and Center Moriches (31 points), which took places two through four, won the team title. Freshman Kal Lewis’s 17:00.44-win led Shelter Island (19 points) to the Class D championship.