Mepham’s James Moehringer had built himself a pretty nice lead two miles into Saturday’s 5-kilometer Varsity B cross country race at the 50th Annual Nassau Coaches Invitational at Bethpage State Park. Running alone, he was primed for victory on the sunny and warm October afternoon.
Or, so he thought.
With approximately one mile left, Moehringer said he heard footsteps and heavy breathing. A slight turn of head revealed that the steps belonged to Great Neck North’s Daniel Amar and Chaminade’s Connor Fitzpatrick, who were suddenly hot on Moehringer’s tail.
But they were not close enough. Moehringer was able to outlast his two challengers, winning in 16 minutes, 42.90 seconds. Amar was second in 16:46.76 and Fitzpatrick was third in 16:48.02.
“You never want to let someone pass you at that point,” Moehringer said. “You know it’s getting towards the end of the race and it can be demoralizing. That’s when you have to pick it up.”
The dwindling lead, while a bit surprising, was nothing that Moehringer couldn’t handle.
“You find yourself slowing down a little bit. It can get a little bit difficult, once you get comfortable like that, to have to speed back up again, but it’s what you have to do,” the senior said.
With about 200 meters left, Moehringer said he finally felt confident that he had the race wrapped up.
“I knew that there wasn’t going to be enough room for them to catch me,” he said. “I just took off right there.”
Chaminade won the Varsity B team competition with 41 points.
Longwood’s Skyler Lattuca got off to a fast start in the Varsity A race and quickly built an insurmountable lead. He won in 16:25.87. Floral Park’s Matt Monahan was second in 17:04.80.
“It’s a mental challenge,” Lattuca said of running virtually the entire race by himself. “The whole time, your brain is telling you to slow down and you have to fight it.”
By the one mile mark, Lattuca said he knew that he would be running the rest of the race alone.
“I went out pretty fast and I kept checking behind me to see if I had people sticking with me, but they just weren’t there, so I had to keep going” Lattuca said.
As a Suffolk runner, Lattuca was in relatively unfamiliar territory. Although he has run the Bethpage course before, he doesn’t have the experience of his Nassau competitors.
“The dirt is a lot softer,” Lattuca said, comparing the Bethpage course to other Suffolk haunts. “Whenever I stepped down, I felt like I sunk into it. You just have to put a little more power into each step. It hurts, but it’s worth it.”
Manhattan’s Xavier won the Varsity A team competition with 40 points.