In order to go faster, Fiona McLoughlin needed to learn how to slow down. In a sport where pacing is key, the Commack senior has learned how to pace herself and not let her relentless work ethic let her down on race day.
Sometimes, off days need to remain off. As much as McLoughlin may want to run on those antsy afternoons, she’s learning that resting is often the greater good.
“I need to take my recovery days easy, because I struggle with that sometimes,” McLoughlin said. “Sometimes I go out a little hard on runs when I’m not supposed to . . . It takes a toll on my mental strength. I have to tell myself, 'This is an easy day.' "
Saturday wasn’t an easy day, it was a winning day. McLoughlin won the varsity A cross country race of the Suffolk Coaches Invitational in 19 minutes, 25.90 seconds on the 5-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park.
McLoughlin won the varsity A race in 18:47.68 at the Nassau Coaches Invitational last weekend at Bethpage State Park, but Saturday marked her major invitational Sunken Meadow debut.
“I was shocked at my time,” McLoughlin said. “I didn’t expect to hit that as my opening [time] . . . I didn’t start out too fast. I have a tendency to start out really fast because you get that adrenaline rush at the beginning. [The start is] one long straight away, so everyone is cheering and you get that any feeling and just want to take off. But I stayed a little more conservative and tried to conserve energy for the hills that, in the past, I’ve had difficulty with.”
Despite a wealth of experience running at the difficult Kings Park venue, McLoughlin has to acclimate herself each year to the harsh terrain.
“You definitely have to run it a little bit before you actually compete," McLoughlin said. "You have to do a couple practices and maybe some hills just to run through the course to get used to the feel. It’s not like any other course . . . We had a crossover meet [at Sunken Meadow] on Tuesday, so we got a little bit in, but not the actual 5K course.”
Sachem North won the team competition with 86 points. Senior Molly Ramirez finished seventh in 21:28.38 and was the highest Flaming Arrow finisher.
Mount Sinai senior Sarah Connelly ran the fastest time of the morning, winning the varsity B race in 19:05.09. Riverhead senior Megan Kielbasa was second in 20:20.19 and the Blue Waves won the team competition with 94 points.
“I’ll admit, I wasn’t happy with my time,” Connelly said. “I wanted to go under 19 [minutes] today, but I felt really strong throughout the course.”