James McNaughton of Northport crosses the finish line in the 5K New...

James McNaughton of Northport crosses the finish line in the 5K New York State Federation Championship race held in Wappinger Falls, New York, Saturday, November 19, 2022. Credit: Louis Lanzano

WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. — Running is about handling the unexpected and unwanted. What James McNaughton got early in the state Federation cross country championships on Saturday was both of those things.

The Northport senior started to feel sick 400 meters into the race, suddenly faced with having to navigate one of the biggest races of the year with an unexpectedly upset stomach. It wasn’t anything fun, or even satisfying once he finished it, but McNaughton walked away the fastest Long Islander of the event.

“It felt like how you feel before you throw up,” McNaughton said. “I didn’t know what I’d have to do, but I thought ‘let’s hang in and see what we can do’ . . . I usually am good about thinking positively during races. But, it freaked me out a little bit.”

McNaughton finished 14th in 16 minutes, 36.8 seconds on the 5-kilometer course at Bowdoin Park, in a race that pits the top runners in the state against each other, regardless of classification.

“I really didn’t feel good at all for the entire race,” McNaughton said. “My stomach felt really awful and I was worried about how it was going to affect my performance. But, my legs felt really strong the entire race. I knew if I hung in, that I was around some guys that I was trying to compete with all year. I was just able to hold on and kick well.”

Sometimes, when runners begin to feel sick on the course, adrenaline will fight it off — at least for a moment or two. McNaughton had no such luck.

“It just got worse,” McNaughton said. “There wasn’t much I could do. I saw some of the runners from (Suffolk). I saw they weren’t far in front of me, so I just tried to latch on to them and forget about everything else.”

McNaughton opened up a run of Long Island finishes. Smithtown’s Douglas Antaky was 16th (16:37.7), Bay Shore’s Jake Gogarty was 18th (16:38.1), Chaminade’s Jack Higgins was 20th (16:40.3), Northport’s Timothy Sheahan was 26th (16:45.7), North Shore’s Robby Levy was 29th (16:46.9), and St. Anthony’s Aidan Brancaccio was 30th (16:47.2).

“I went out fast, around five (minutes) flat,” Gogarty said. “Around the two-and-a-half mile mark, it started to get to me.”

Monroe-Woodbury’s Collin Gilstrap won in 15:51.3. Monroe-Woodbury also took the team title with 109 points. St. Anthony’s was second with 120 and Northport was third with 205. 

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