The Sayville cross country state championship team poses for a...

The Sayville cross country state championship team poses for a photo on Tuesday, November 29, 2022 in Sayville. Back row left to right is: Mullane Baumiller, Carly Brady, Marianna Duffy, Megan Lankowicz, Head Coach Tom Duffy. Bottom row left to right: Carly Strining, Taylor Totevski and Isabella Gerena. Credit: Dawn McCormick

Sayville had been there before and, as a consequence, winded up where few Suffolk girls teams have ever been. There are moments in a cross country season that make others possible and an early-September trip to Vernon-Verona Sherrill High School would prove to be one of them for this group.

On that day, Sayville ran to a third place finish at the VVS Invitational, held at the upstate school that would be the site of the state public school championships. Two months and two days later, Sayville was in the same spot — this time winning the state girls public school Class B team championship with 49 points. It was the first state team title for Sayville and only the fourth in Suffolk history, according to Sayville coach Tom Duffy.

“It was pretty helpful,” Mullane Baumiller said of the September visit.  “We knew the course and knew what to expect. Like the little hills, we knew that was here. So we were ready for that.”

Baumiller led the way for Sayville, running the 5k course in 19:46.8 and placing eighth. Isabella Gerena was 14th in 20:10.5, Megan Lankowicz was 19th in 20:19.6, and Marianna Duffy was 25th in 20:29.7. Taylor Totevski wrapped up Sayville’s top five with a 21:18.9 finish. Carly Strining ran 21:32.8 and Carly Brady clocked a 21:45 flat.

Totevski’s finish came after a year where she battled an Achilles issue and a tear in her hip.

“I think all the adrenaline took (the pain) away,” Totevski said. “I didn’t really notice it until after I finished.”

Totevski said that the injuries got so bad that, after a summer where her training was sparse, she stopped talking to college coaches. But, the pull of the run brought her back for the fall.

“I thought ‘I have to get back into it,' ” she said. “I pushed as hard as I could all season and got back to where I was . . . I thought I wouldn’t get this opportunity from any other sport and I wanted this opportunity for myself.”

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