Max Haynia (left) and Gavin Ehlers (right) both of Westhampton congratulate...

Max Haynia (left) and Gavin Ehlers (right) both of Westhampton congratulate each other on their first (Ehlers) and second (Haynia) place finishes during the Suffolk Cross County Division Championships on October 28, 2021 at Sunken Meadow State Park. Credit: Dawn McCormick

When it comes to boys cross country on Long Island, the culture is shifting on the east end – specifically in Westhampton. Fast times are getting faster and the team’s top racers are starting to gel. So, it was not a huge surprise that the first two runners to emerge from the distance at Thursday’s Suffolk division cross country championships were decked out in Westhampton green.

Gavin Ehlers led the way, winning on the 5-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park in 16 minutes, 24.9 seconds. His teammate, Max Haynia was second in 16:28.3. For good measure, Westhampton’s Trevor Hayes was fourth in 16:48 flat.

"We start building a culture where a bunch of guys run fast and fast times don’t seam as hard to do," said Ehlers, a senior. "My eighth grade year here, 18 minutes seemed like something that was impossible for a guy to do. Now, that’s what our (top) four guys run. It’s kind of expected. We work on that."

Ehlers continued: "It’s definitely a team philosophy that we all believe we can run fast and we go out and try to do it."

Ehlers and Haynia worked together at the front of the pack to make sure they secured the top two spots.

"I think the biggest thing was just the trust between us," Ehlers said. "I knew when Max was taking it out that I could stay right behind him. He set a good pace … Max and I just know that if one of us is doing something, it’s best for the both of us. I was keeping an eye out for who was behind him, letting him know how things were going."

Once Ehlers passed into first place, Haynia kept the pressure on, ensuring that his teammate carried that lead to the finish.

"Coming down the moat, he was right on me. I couldn’t give it to him. I had to push myself the whole way," Ehlers said. "We got out well and pushed it from the front. It’s always fun to do."

Ehlers is the top runner on Long Island right now and ranked sixth in the state in the latest speed ratings released by Haynia is third on Long Island and 17th in the state.

Haynia said that the team expects to finish in the top two in Class B at next months public school state championships.

"I think, after today, we should be in a really good position," said Haynia, a junior.

Despite taking three of the top four places, Westhampton was still left short of the overall team title. Northport, a program with unending culture, won with 85 points. Bay Shore was second with 113 points. Timothy Sheahan was the top Northport finisher, taking eighth in 17:17.8.

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