Molly Ramirez of Sachem North places second with a time...

Molly Ramirez of Sachem North places second with a time of 7:20.38 in the Division One 2,000 Meter Steeplechase during the Suffolk Girls Track & Field Championships on May 26, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Sunken Meadow State Park is widely considered one of the toughest cross country courses in the state. Some athletes run it for years and never quite figure it out. On the other hand, Sachem North sophomore Molly Ramirez already has. Running her first competitive 5-kilometer race on the course on Sept. 23, Ramirez won the Varsity A race at the Suffolk Coaches Invitational in 20 minutes, 40.23 seconds.

Ramirez, who played soccer last fall, said she decided that cross country was the better route for her to stay in shape for the indoor track season. She surely doesn’t mind racking up a few wins along the way, either.

“I’ve run 5Ks before, but never that fast,” Ramirez said. “I’m surprised that I could push myself more than I have before.”

The fact that she got through the race was a feet in and of itself. With high temperatures all over Long Island last weekend, it felt like the middle of August as runners lined up to tackle the famously difficult course.

“Before the meet, I was really hot,” she said. “As I was going, I wasn’t really thinking about it too much. In the woods, it wasn’t that hot. It was rough. I was sweating a lot, but I pushed through it.”

Ramirez said she stayed towards the top of the pack in the first half of the race, trusting them to pull her along. Only, that didn’t really happen. Whether it was the heat or just the general ebb and flow of the race, Ramirez kept going and most of the pack fell back. Soon, she was on her way to a thoroughly unexpected victory.

“I didn’t think I was going win the whole thing,” Ramirez said. “I knew there were good runners there. I stayed with the front group at the beginning and, at the first chance I got, I pulled ahead. I never saw them after that . . . I was expecting (the pack) to be right there with me. I think they were pretty close. I didn’t know how far they were behind me, so I just kept going.”

Ramirez won the race by 1.17 seconds over West Babylon’s Tara Hauff (20:41.40). Ramirez added to her week of wins with a victory at the Tom Knipfing- Goldberg Memorial Invitational Thursday. She ran a 21:04.02 in the Varsity A race at Fireman’s Field in Ridge.

Ramirez, who still plays soccer on a club team in Smithtown, said that the win at the Suffolk Coaches Invitational changes how she views her prospects for the rest of the fall.

“I wasn’t expecting to be one of the top girls in cross country,” she said. “This is my first year. I didn’t really know how I stood in the longer distances. I realize that I can stay with some of the top runners.”

And she can beat them too.

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