The winning strategy was no mystery to Grant Samara. The Port Jefferson senior knew what he needed to do – it was just a matter of postseason execution. On Wednesday afternoon, Samara was able to put it all together, win the Class C/D race at Sunken Meadow State Park, and take home the Suffolk Class C boys cross country championship.
And it was all about a strong first mile.
"I think I just run better when I go out harder," Samara said. "Last week [at the division championships), I didn’t go out hard enough. I’m much better at holding onto a pace than I am at trying to pick up halfway though a race."
So, with that in mind, Samara exploded off the line. This wasn’t a day to be conservative. That type of approach rarely works in the postseason.
The strong start led to a victorious finish. Samara won on the 2.5-mile course in 13 minutes, 6.07 seconds. His teammate, Brian Veit, was second in 13:18.08.
Once Samara got to the pace he wanted, he had to make it stick. But that’s easier said than done.
"It’s always very difficult to hold on to that pace," Samara said. "It’s a struggle. For a little bit up Caridac [Hill], Brian (Veit) was pulling away from me. It was after Cardiac that I caught back up to him."
Samara said he took the lead the lead for good shortly after Cardiac Hill and closed in on the victory. Port Jefferson won the Class C team championship with 18 points.
Elsewhere, Westhampton’s Gavin Ehlers won the Class B championship in 12:48.97 – the fastest time of the afternoon across all three races. Westhampton won the team title with 24 points.
Ehlers said he and his two teammates, Max Haynia and Trevor Hayes, tried to run as close together as possible after the starting gun. Haynia was second in 13:05.76 and Hayes was third in 13:37.50.
"Last (week), it felt like I was pushing myself a lot more," said Ehlers, who won the Division III championship in 12:47.68 last week. "From the top of Cardiac on, I kind of opened up on Max."
Northport’s Wyeth Semo won the Class A championship in 13:00.89. Northport won the team title with 30 points.
Pierson’s Ben McErlean won the Class D championship in 13:30.66. Pierson won the team championship with 26 points.