Max Haynia of Westhampton wins the boys Class B race...

Max Haynia of Westhampton wins the boys Class B race during the NYSPHSAA cross country championships in Verona, N.Y., on Saturday. Credit: Mark McGauley

VERONA, N.Y. — Max Haynia could hear the breathing, loud and laborious, as his competition battled through the first mile of the Class B race at the public school state cross country championships on Saturday morning. It was almost strange. He just didn’t feel the same. In fact, he felt fine.

As the race continued, Haynia couldn’t hear that breathing anymore. No one was around him, and he still felt fine. And, when he saw the finish line, Haynia felt better than fine — ecstatic, relieved, sentimental even.

Haynia, a Westhampton senior, won the public school state Class B championship in 16 minutes, 9.7 seconds on the 5-kilometer course at Vernon Verona Sherrill High. He beat the field by more than 20 seconds.  He ran the third fastest time of the meet, which featured four class-specific races.

“I realized that I wasn’t breathing yet, and they were breathing hard,” Haynia said. “I was perfectly fine. We hit the one hill on this course. I turned over quickly, flew down it, and no one was near me after that.”

When Haynia heard the field working so hard, he took advantage.

“I (thought) ‘you know what? I’ll make a gap and just go with it. Make them pay later,' " he said.

Haynia said he ran alone for most of the final two miles of the 3.1-mile run. 

“I don’t think I had anyone near me after the first mile,” he said, “I was thinking, ‘if I mess this up, I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ ”

Haynia said he felt so good that, even with the huge lead, he felt like he had more energy left.

“It was the adrenaline,” he said. “Knowing that it was states, and finally a big race.”

As a veteran of Sunken Meadow State Park (where Suffolk runs all the big races), Haynia knows how to run a hard and hilly course. Vernon Verona Sherrill — or VVS as its locally known — is not that.

“It was way easier (than Sunken Meadow),” Haynia said. “The hills are all rolling. You don’t have anything steep to kill your body and your mind. It’s all fluid … It didn’t feel that hard at all. Sunken (Meadow)  just rips everyone and makes you strong. It makes you have to hold on, and when you can hold on, you can do whatever in this sport.”

Elsewhere, Oyster Bay’s Chris Tardugno finished fifth in Class C in 17:06.2.

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