Sachem East's Alexandra DeCicco heard the instructions in her head. And the voice giving them was a very familiar one.
"Stay calm, stay relaxed," the senior told herself shortly after the starting gun fired at the Suffolk cross-country state qualifier Friday at Sunken Meadow State Park. After sitting out last week's Suffolk divisional championship to rest her legs for the stretch run, DeCicco and teammates were itching to get their sneakers dirty again.
But, with a team title in mind, DeCicco was careful not to expend all her energy in the first mile.
"All I wanted to do was race," DeCicco said. "It was hard to stay controlled, but I just thought about everyone and how we worked so hard for this and we wanted to come back [to states]."
The thinking process worked perfectly. DeCicco won the 5-kilometer Class A race in 19 minutes, 8.42 seconds. Her finish helped Sachem East take the team title with 43 points, qualifying them for the state public school championships, scheduled for next Nov. 14, at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley.
The bid represents a bit of unfinished business for both DeCicco and Sachem East. Last year, DeCicco finished 13th in the Class A championship race and Sachem East finished sixth.
DeCicco hopes that a return trip, complete with a year of experience and a better knowledge of what to expect in a state-wide meet, will lead to better finishes on both accounts.
"It's just another race," DeCicco said of what last year taught her. "It's not that big of a deal. It's just like being [at Sunken Meadow]. I need to be a little bit more competitive with the rest of the people in the state and be confident that I can run with them . . . You have to remember to tell yourself that it's just another day at work."
Shoreham-Wading River's Katherine Lee punched her ticket to states with a 19:18.81 victory in the Class B race. The time helped her team clinch a spot in the state summit, scoring 23 points. Lee will be defending her Class B public school state title, which she won last year in 18:45.
Mattituck's Melanie Pfennig won the Class C championship in 20:22.65. Her team scored 29 points to earn a spot in the state team competition. Shelter Island, led by Lindsey Gallagher, won Class D with 27 points. Gallagher took the individual title in 21:07.12.