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Commack's Fiona McLoughlin gets hot in the cold to win Class A state qualifier

Fiona McLoughlin of Commack took first place in

Fiona McLoughlin of Commack took first place in class A during the Suffolk Cross Country state qualifier meet at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park on Sept. 28th 2019 Credit: Daniel De Mato

Fiona McLoughlin couldn’t feel her hands as she crossed the finish line at Sunken Meadow State Park on Friday afternoon. Luckily, though, she didn’t need to. The Commack senior had built enough of a lead that the sudden loss of feeling was only a minor inconvenience. McLoughlin braved unseasonably frigid conditions to win the 5-kilometer Suffolk Class A state qualifier in 19 minutes, 40.57 seconds.

The victory qualified her for the public school state championships, scheduled for Nov. 16 in Plattsburgh.

Temperatures hovered in the high-30’s Friday afternoon, but the windchill factor made it feel 10-15 degrees colder — certainly not ideal conditions for being outside, much less running through woods in the most important 5K of the season thus far.

“Honestly, I felt really good until the last mile and my hands were going to fall off,” McLoughlin said. “. . . It became difficult to pump my arms, so I knew I had to open my stride down the downhill, take that to my advantage and take the flat part to my advantage as well.”

McLoughlin was running all alone as she entered the view of spectators standing at the finish line, but said she was in second place at the top of Cardiac Hill. She made her move there, strode into first and further built her lead. Deer Park’s Gianna Marquez was second in 19:46.64.

Ward Melville won the Class A team title with 72 points and will go to Plattsburgh as a unit. Briana Grant led the Patriots with a sixth-place finish in 19:51.96.

Mount Sinai’s Sarah Connelly was her usual dominant self in her final race at Sunken Meadow as a high school athlete. She won the Class B race in 18:37.53, the fastest girls time of the afternoon by over a minute. Westhampton’s Jackie Amato was second in 20:04.64.

“I gotta be honest,” Connelly said. “It feels really good to be done with this course. I’ve done it so many times that it’s become a bit annoying. During the race, I knew that I didn’t have a lot of competition, so some spots I thought I could take it easy a little bit. But in the back of my mind I thought, ‘Ugh, this is my last race. I’ll just push it.’ ”

Connelly will be defending her state Class B public school title in Plattsburgh.

“It’s nerve-wracking to know that I will have that competition again, but I take it as any other race, whatever happens, happens,” Connelly said. “It’s not going to be the end of the world if I don’t get that state champ, but I’m going to fight for it.”

East Hampton won Class B with 61 points. Ava Engstrom led the Bonackers with a ninth-place finish in 21:01.75. Pierson’s Penelope Greene won the Class C/D race in 20:30.41. Mattituck, led by Payton Maddaloni’s second-place time of 21:11.39, won Class C with 22 points and Pierson won Class D with 22 points.

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