Zariel Macchia of Floyd crosses the finish line in the...

Zariel Macchia of Floyd crosses the finish line in the 5K Champs Sports Northeast Cross Country Regional Championship at Van Cortlandt Park on Saturday. Credit: Louis lanzano

For 99% of Long Island, Thanksgiving weekend marks the end of the cross country season. They sit down with their turkey and stuffing, reflect on the hundreds of miles they’ve run since the school year began (not to mention over the summer) and start to get their legs primed for the indoor season.

But, for a select few, cross country season lives on – and now, the truly “cross country” part of it begins. Those select few aren’t really select at all – they are the two best individual athletes, and the best team, on Long Island. Westhampton’s Max Haynia, Floyd’s Zariel Macchia and the St. Anthony’s boys team all earned bids for national championship races – set to take place on the West Coast throughout the next month – at regional qualifiers across the state Saturday afternoon.

Haynia, a senior who won the state public school Class B boys championship two weeks ago, ran the 5-kilometer course at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls in 15 minutes, 57.9 seconds and won the New York race at Nike Cross Regionals. The victory qualified him for Nike Cross Nationals, scheduled for Dec. 3 at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Oregon.

The St. Anthony’s boys team, led by a 10th-place finish from Aidan Brancaccio (16:30.2), placed second with 76 points and qualified for Nike Nationals as a team. Corning won the New York race with 71 points.

“It’s been a dream. It’s been a movie,” Haynia said of the last month of victories. “It’s everything I wanted to do in the summer and everything I’ve wanted to do since freshman year. It all went according to plan.”  

All movies are subject to unhappy endings and, on a course as difficult as Bowdoin Park, those can happen in a flash. But, in a welcome twist, Haynia said the course wasn’t that much of a factor Saturday.

“I didn’t feel like it was that difficult today,” said Haynia, who won by more than five seconds. “I feel like in year’s past when I’ve run this course and this race, it’s just been terrible. Today it wasn’t that bad. I think that was because it wasn’t as muddy. It was easier to hold to the ground and stay upright. I just hit the hill and, after that, it was over (as far as) if I was going to qualify or not.”

Haynia continued: “I was in second (place) at a mile and a half, at the peak of it. (The course) is uphill one way and downhill the other. After that, I just took over, started to pound away, and make a gap on everyone else.”

Macchia, who won the state public school Class A girls championship two weeks ago,  placed third in the Champs Sports Northeast Regional, running the 5K course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx in 17:47.9. The finish qualified her for the Champs Sports National Championships, scheduled for Dec. 10 at Balboa Park in San Diego, California. It is Macchia’s second consecutive trip to the event, which bore the Eastbay name last fall. Massachusetts’ Ellie Shea won the race in 17:10.7 and Cornwall’s Karrie Baloga was second in 17:24.9.

“Me and (Baloga) were leading at the start,” said Macchia. “I think we went through the mile in 5:07. Halfway through the back hills, (Shea) caught up to us. We were pushing the pace. They broke away a little bit and me and Ruth White from Maine (who finished fourth in 17:51.8) were racing to the finish.”

Both Macchia and Haynia elected to skip last weekend’s state Federation championships at Bowdoin Park – which pitted the top runners in the state against each other regardless of classification or school size. The week off, which came after public school state championship wins, state qualifiers, and county championships in consecutive weeks, allowed the two standouts to rest their weary legs.

“It’s a lot off your mind and a lot off your legs,” Haynia said. “You’re ready to go, ready to run.”

Said Macchia: “Since I didn’t go to Feds, I was able to get some really good training in.”

Macchia will also run in the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships, scheduled for Dec. 3 at John Hunt Running Park in Huntsville, Alabama.

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