All the walls were torn down. No classes, leagues, or other semi-arbitrary groupings separating the field. It was just cross country as its purest — a sport that tries to answer one simple question, are you the fastest?
It was a question that East Meadow’s Zach Van Houten had been answering in the affirmative for most of the season, a trend that continued Saturday morning. Van Houten won the Sectional Nassau Championship in 15 minutes, 25.92 seconds on the 5-kilmeter course at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.
The race was a true county championship — not one determined by school size. East Meadow, Jericho, or Oyster Bay, it didn’t matter. They were all on the same trails, chasing the same prize.
"It’s super nice," Van Houten said. "I get to hear about these kids' times, but I never have a face to match these times ... I want to be the best in the county. There’s a lot of great kids, but I still proved to myself that these county classes don’t matter, I can still win."
Van Houten trailed Great Neck South’s Eric Shu by a few steps at the halfway point, but passed him as they approached the two-mile mark.
"At the mile mark, [Shu] just made this move where he picked up the pace so much," Van Houten said. "At the mile, we were at 5:06, which is slower than what we normally go. So, he made this huge [move] and got me [by] a couple seconds within no time. I knew he was obviously going really hard, but I felt him struggling and I knew I’d be able to catch him. Gaining that distance on him and holding him off was the important part of that race."
Shu finished second in 15:38.20. Port Washington won the boys team championship with 44 points. Colin Funk was their highest finisher, placing sixth in 16:08.59. His teammate, Noah Loewy was seventh in 16:11.62.
On the girls side, Jericho’s Ana Markovina continued her all-out dominance of Nassau with a decisive victory. Markovina ran 17:59.23, 35.99 seconds ahead of the field. Oyster Bay’s Greta Flanagan was second in 18:35.22.
North Shore, which had dominated its own class for years, won the girls team championship with 52 points. Of the top 15 runners, they took places 12-14. Kate Gilliam was 12th in 19:58.28, Elle Archer was 13th in 20:02.22, and Sophie Rosencrans was 14th in 20:13.71.
Last weekend, North Shore won their 15th consecutive class county championship.