Kellenberg's Kathleen Healy crosses the finish line in a time...

Kellenberg's Kathleen Healy crosses the finish line in a time of 16:44.72 in the CHSAA girls 2 1/2-mile cross country league championship at Sunken Meadow State Park on Sunday. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Kathleen Healy stopped speaking and ran toward her father, George. Wrapped in a warm embrace, the reality of what she had just done set in. The Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA cross country League Championship was always special to Healy, a Kellenberg senior, and finally it was hers.

Different races mean different things to different runners and for Healy, the league championships were just different.

"I’ve wanted this since freshman year," said Healy, who won the girls championship in 16 minutes, 44.72 seconds on the 2.5-mile course at Sunken Meadow State Park Sunday. " . . . It’s the leagues. I wanted to go out there and represent my school well. This is a big meet for us."

Healy continued: "My freshman year was really competitive and this was seen as ‘the meet,’ and I’ve always wanted to win big meets."

It was hardly a final 500 meters of basking as longer distance races sometimes are. She battled down the stretch to keep two hard-charging St. Anthony’s runners, Kiera Udell and Olivia Czoch, behind her.

"I knew I had to push," said Healy, who transferred to Kellenberg from Sacred Heart before her sophomore year.

But, with a dream mere meters away, Healy kept her competitors at bay. Udell was second in 16:46.34 and Czoch was third in 16:53.63.

The hard charges, although not enough to take home the individual title, did help St. Anthony’s win the team championship with 24 points. In addition to Udell and Czoch taking second and third, Blair Davi ran fourth in 17:01.83 to help St. Anthony’s win.

Healy said she strengthened her core this season, allowing her to build up strength and hold a pace in the ‘big meets.’

"I’ve just been trying to focus on all the small things," she said. "They’ll add up . . . We’ve done some different workouts this season, a lot of strides and shorter stuff. I knew that if it came down to a sprint at the end, I could trust my training, and it worked."

On the boys side, St. Anthony’s Hunter Wilson held off teammate Aidan Brancaccio and Chaminade’s Brendan Anselmo en route to a 13:33.35 victory. It was a sight not often seen at a cross-county meet — a runner entering the final 300 meters with an actual chase pack in striking distance.

"Within the race, you push the whole time and then you have to have enough willpower at the final straightaway to really kick it in," Wilson said.

In a sport where a race is often decided a mile away from the finish line, the excitement was at a high level as the line came into view with nothing decided.

"It’s a lot of fun," Wilson said. "It really gets your adrenaline pumping."

Brancaccio was second in 13:35.46, Anselmo was third in 13:38.36 and St. Anthony’s Jeremy Paredes was fourth in 13:42.54. St. Anthony’s won the team title with 22 points.

Wilson said that he took the lead after Snake Hill before Brancaccio began to push him in the back meadow.

"The whole season we’ve been back and forth in all the races," Brancaccio said of Wilson. "It’s always good to have him with me. It’s comfortable going down the flats."

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