At the mile mark of Saturday’s 5-kilometer state qualifying Nassau Class B race, South Side’s Carly Woelfel wasn’t thinking about winning, or going to the state championships, or breaking 19 minutes. Woelfel was just thinking about finishing.
“For the first half of the race, my breathing was super heavy,” Woelfel said. “It was not in sync. I was feeling like I was going to have to stop. It was really affecting me. But mentally, I thought ‘I have to stay in this.’ . . . That first straightaway was really tough. I started at an unfamiliar spot — all the way down at the end. That start was significantly faster than the others.”
But thanks to some in-race adjustments, Woelfel got her breathing under control and was able to do everything she wasn’t thinking about at the mile mark. The sophomore won in 18 minutes, 52.55 seconds, a personal-best, at the Nassau State Qualifier at Bethpage State Park. The victory qualifies Woelfel for the public school state championship, scheduled for Nov. 11 at Wayne Central High School in Ontario Center.
Woelfel will be bringing her teammates along. South Side won the Class A team championship (47 points).
It will be Woelfel’s second straight trip to the state championships. She went as an individual last year.
“Last year, the race got to me a lot more mentally,” Woelfel said. “I let certain people pass me that were slower than me and kind of got mentally defeated by the end of that race. It taught me that I really have to be able to stick with the competition and know that I have a lot more in me than I think I do.”
Syosset’s Reilly Siebert clocked the fastest time of the afternoon, an 18:25.55 to win the Class A race. It was the fastest time Siebert had ever run at Bethpage, she said. Syosset (47 points) won the team title.
“I think the weather, and thinking about getting my team to states, helped,” Siebert said. “We all had a purpose going into today. I think that really helped in the middle of the race.”
For the majority of the afternoon, runners were bathed in sunlight, with crisp air filling their lungs and cool temperatures aiding them at difficult moments. Siebert, who won by well-over 30 seconds, said she started to break away at the 1,000-meter mark, leaving behind a pack that had settled into a comfortable pace.
By the time she reached the mile-and-a-half mark, Siebert could no longer hear any competing footsteps or hostile breathing. She knew she was all alone and, like she’s apt to do, continued to dominate with her legs.
“I knew I had to look up, pretend that people were in front of me, and keep pushing,” Siebert said.
Oyster Bay, led by Greta Flanagan’s winning 21:10.63, took the Class C team championship (18 points).