Zaria Hall of East Meadow, left and Isabella Spagnoli prepare...

Zaria Hall of East Meadow, left and Isabella Spagnoli prepare to cross the finish line in the Class A girls 5K race the Nassau cross country state qualifiers on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. Credit: ED QUINN

Sophomores Joanna Kenney and Zaria Hall won their first Nassau state qualifier races on Saturday, and they held off respective defending champions to do it.

Kenney, of North Shore, and Hall, of East Meadow, punched their tickets to the public school state championships with wins at the cross country qualifiers on Bethpage State Park’s 5-kilometer course.

Kenney won the girls Class B race in 18 minutes, 47.18 seconds, the fastest girls time of the day. Hall won the Class A race in 18:52.7.

“I was just trying to go for it,” Kenney said. “A lot of hard training, running over the summer, consistency and a good mindset all play into it.”

Kenney went out with Aislinn Frazer of Friends Academy, who won the Nassau Class B qualifier last fall. Kenney said they ran close for the first two miles before she took the lead with about a mile to go.

Kenney held that lead around the final turn and told herself not to get outkicked.

“I definitely picked it up,” Kenney said. “I was thinking, ‘Don’t let her pass you.’ She’s a really great runner.”

South Side won the Class B team title with 46 points, led by Claire Bohan, who finished third in 19:27.45.

Hall narrowly held off Great Neck South’s Isabella Spagnoli, who won the Nassau Class A qualifier last fall.

Hall, Spagnoli and Port Washington’s Ashley Carillo entered the final 1,000 meters around the polo field as a lead pack.

But that was part of Hall’s plan.

“Me and [East Meadow coach Michael Ringhauser] discussed a strategy to stick with them the entire race until we got to the polo field,” Hall said. “And I had to kick it in at the 400, but there were other moves that needed to be made at the 100 and the 55.”

Hall kept adjusting her kick because Spagnoli wouldn’t quit. Spagnoli pressured Hall until she crossed the finish line and finished second by 0.4 seconds.

“It was pretty tough,” Hall said. “Me and Isabella Spagnoli, we always push each other, and she’s a great competitor.”

Hall finished third at the Nassau Class A qualifier behind Spagnoli and Carillo last year.

Syosset won the Class A girls title with 60 points, led by Rin Furukawa, who finished seventh in 19:50.4.

Wheatley’s Shannon Flachner won the Class C race in 19:38.83. Oyster Bay won the team title with 24 points, led by Jocelyn Schadler, who finished fourth in 21:44.93.

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