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SportsHigh SchoolCross Country

North Shore perseveres on way to state title

Members of the North Shore cross-country team (top

Members of the North Shore cross-country team (top row, wearing the dark hooded sweatshirts) pose with other medal-winenrs at the Nassau Class A championship meet. (Nov. 6, 2010) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

It was an unforgettable moment when the North Shore girls cross country team received the state Class A championship plaque at Lakeside Park in Pawling.

It epitomized everything the Vikings' program has been about and has been striving for the last several years.

"It all came together at the perfect time, at the state meet," junior Samantha Nadel said.

North Shore became the first Nassau cross country team - boys or girls - since the Wantagh girls team in 1992 to win a state championship.

The Vikings didn't lose a meet on Long Island this season. But that doesn't mean everything was all roses. The Vikings experienced most of the typical setbacks other teams do.

"A lot of things happened. People got sick, people got injured," Nadel said. "We didn't actually think we were going to make it. When we actually did it, it was amazing."

Coach Neal Levy agreed.

"Our season was kind of a roller coaster. We started off well at the end of August and the beginning of September," Levy said. "Then we had some physical difficulties. But every week, the goal was to keep going on and improving."

The Vikings improved in a big way as they followed up their championship weekend with third-place finishes at the state Federation championship and the Nike Cross Nationals New York Regional.

Finishing third in the Nike race was significant, because it was good enough to qualify the Vikings for the Nike Cross Nationals championship in Portland, Ore., Saturday, in which they finished ninth.

It was an important achievement for North Shore since only 22 teams in the United States make the grade. Of the 22 teams, 18 are automatic qualifiers. The remaining four teams are at-large selections. North Shore was one of those four.

"It says everything we've done has made it worth it. This was the ultimate goal," junior Brianna Nerud said of qualifying for the Nike Cross Nationals.

North Shore has experienced tremendous success the last half-decade, winning five straight Nassau championships.

The first four titles came as a Class B team. This season, the Vikings competed in Class A.

The Vikings' success is even more impressive considering the fact that three of those titles were overall county championships.

Two of those were as a Class B team. The third - this season - was as a Class A program.

"We're a Class A school by seven kids," Levy said.

So what is the secret?

"The foundation of our program is the middle school team," Levy said. "There needs to be an easy transition from the middle school to the high school level."

Aside from having several experienced runners, the Vikings also boast a fair amount of youth.

Of North Shore's top seven runners, only two are seniors. The rest of the seven includes two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman. Some have been a part of the varsity squad since the eighth grade.

For freshman Molly Reilly, adjusting to the varsity wasn't as tough as she thought it would be.

"I was actually surprised how similar it was to the middle school. I wasn't exactly nervous, but I expected it to be more intimidating at the meets," Reilly said. "I feel like I fit in very well."

Promoting the team concept has also been a major factor.

"A big part of the reason why we do so well is that we all work together and work as a team," Emily Osman said. "This season has been more about the team than any one individual."

So has cross country become more than just a passing fancy at North Shore?

The team certainly thinks so.

"There used to be a perception that cross country was something people did just to jog around, not a big deal," senior Danielle Muoio said. "Now with all these accomplishments, I think people are starting to understand what a great team we are."

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