WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. -- As days go, Saturday couldn't have gone any better for Long Island cross country. Long Island, which has struggled to bring home titles in the fall edition of the state championships in recent years, swept the boys race at the New York State Federation Championships, held at Bowdoin Park.
And it was the usual suspects holding plaques at the end of the cold, sun-splashed afternoon -- Northport's Mike Brannigan and St. Anthony's.
First, Brannigan. After a seventh-place finish in the Class A race at last week's New York State Public School Championships, Brannigan came back to win the Federation title, running the 5K course in 15 minutes, 30.4 seconds.
Long Island did have a winner at states last week, Shoreham-Wading River's Katherine Lee. But Brannigan couldn't match her championship finish.
"I felt bad I didn't win that [public school] state title," Brannigan said. "But I'm on a higher level now . . . I trained for this the whole season. It was my focus."
The state title represented one final hurdle for the senior, who fell just short of winning a public school title last season and sat out of the Federation meet to focus on qualifying for the Nike Nationals.
It also was a return to Bowdoin Park, a course Brannigan has had success on before, winning the New York race at the Nike Regional Championships last year.
"I'm used to the downhill," Brannigan said. "It makes me go faster. It helps my negative splitting . . . This is a grassy course. It helps my hill strength. This is my favorite course."
Brannigan said he stayed in the top three until the first mile marker and took over the lead half-a-mile later, sprinting away from the field.
"I made a big surge and broke away," Brannigan said. "I wanted to push the pack. I was feeling confident and relaxed and I wanted to go for it."
Course conditions can be a major factor in cross country, sometimes having as much of an impact on the race as the runners themselves. According to Brannigan, adverse course conditions were a major reason why last week's finish in Canton, N.Y., was not as high as he would have liked. And the most significant of those less-than-adequate conditions?
"Mud," he said. "And mud is slippery. I'm used to training on Long Island, where there are flat courses. It was the mud that slowed me down [last week]."
With crisp conditions in the hours leading up to the race, the course caused no issues Saturday.
"It was fine," Brannigan said. "It was the same course it was last year. This is not a muddy course. It's all ground."
Syosset's Tyler Italiano finished seventh in 15:49.3.
Then it was St. Anthony's which, six days after its CHSAA Intersectional victory, scored 59 points en route to the Federation team championship. It was St. Anthony's seventh Federation title, breaking a tie with Shenendehowa for the most ever, coach Tim Dearie said.
It also was St. Anthony's first Federation title since 1992, according to Dearie.
"We're so excited. It was all about the team title today," Pat Tucker, who finished third in 15:42.7, said. "The individual title would have just been a bonus. We all race for each other and that what makes us a team."
The victory marked the continuation of a steady postseason climb for St. Anthony's. In a little less than three weeks, the Friars have won three championships at three different courses.
"It's definitely been more pressure," Tucker said of the progression. "It's not like we've been racing at the same place either, so we've had to adapt to wherever we've been running."
The road isn't over for St. Anthony's. They will return to Bowdoin Park on Nov. 29 to compete in the Nike Regional Championships, hoping to qualify for Nike Nationals in Portland, Ore. on Dec. 6. Brannigan is planning to compete in the Northeast Foot Locker Championships, also on Nov. 29, at Van Cortandt Park in the Bronx, with the hopes of qualifying for Footlocker Nationals on Dec. 13 in San Diego.