For those at the top, the cross country state qualifier meet always presents a bit of a conundrum. How fast should I be going? This meet, more than most, is less about running blindingly fast times and more about making sure you’re comfortably in the top 3-5 spots – thereby virtually guaranteeing the continuation of your season.
Southold sophomore Flynn Klipstein knew this. But then he remembered something else.
"I just really wanted this," Klipstein said. "I knew I was making it to states. I had a decent lead on the last person that would have made it, but I just really wanted this….I just like seeing an accomplishment at the end. After all the hard work, I got something out of it."
The sweat on Klipstein’s brow showed no evidence of a runner holding back. Conservative strategy wasn’t on the menu as Klipstein feasted on the Sunken Meadow State Park 5-kilometer course, winning the Class C/D race in 18 minutes, 3.5 seconds at the Suffolk State Qualifier Friday afternoon.
Klipstein will run in the Class D race at the state championships, scheduled for next Saturday at Chenango Valley State Park in upstate Chenango Forks.
"Going into the race, I was trying to stick with Peter Ramundo from Pierson," Klipstein said. "He was in that top group (that) I was trailing behind most of the race. Once we got up Cardiac (Hill), I was right behind him. I saw he was breathing a little bit heavy, which was reasonable because of Cardiac. But, I felt like I needed to pass him. So I got in front of him and stuck with (Matttuck’s) Trevor Zappulla, who was in the lead at that point."
With 900 meters to go – in a portion of the course called ‘the Mouse Trap’ – Klipstein said he climbed in front for good.
Zappulla was second in the race and tops in Class C in 18:10.2 and Ramundo finished third in Class D in 18:25.6. Center Moriches won the Class C team title with 22 points and Port Jefferson won Class D with 26.
Westhampton won Class B with 31 points. As one of the top ‘B’ teams in the state, they knew that they could run a bit more conservatively and not waste unneeded energy in advance of the ‘big show’ next Saturday. They still swept the top three places. Gavin Ehlers won in 16:35.0, the fastest time across all four classes Friday. Max Haynia was second in 16:44.8 and Trevor Hayes was third in 16:46.4.
On top of being a highly regarded team, Ehlers and Haynia both have a very good shot at an individual state title. They are ranked second and third, respectively, in Class B, according to speed ratings on tullyrunners.com.
"I feel good physically and, as a team, we feel good mentally knowing that we ran well today," Haynia said. "We all know that we can run way faster, especially next week at Chenango Valley."
Commack’s Andrew Rosenblatt won Class A in 16:39.1, just edging Deer Park’s Aidan Neilson (16:40.7). Northport won the team title with 57 points.