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Westhampton's Jackie Amato captures Suffolk Division III girls cross country championship

First place winner, Jackie Amato of Westhampton, crosses

First place winner, Jackie Amato of Westhampton, crosses the finish line at the girls Division III cross country championships on Thursday, April 15, 2021 at Sunken Meadow State Park. Credit: Dawn McCormick

It was a stage where Jackie Amato had yet to encounter victory over her first four years as a runner.

If winning a division championship didn’t already come with its usual set of challenges, Thursday afternoon also provided a shorter 2.5-mile course at Sunken Meadow State Park, mixed in with a steady downpour of rain.

But on this soggy day, the combination of those factors turned out to be just the winning formula Amato was searching for, as the Westhampton senior broke away from the pack and won the Suffolk Division III girls cross country championship in 15 minutes, 38.68 seconds.

"I’ve never run the 2.5-mile course here," Amato said. "It was nice to get back out here and I’m happy I won, especially with the conditions. It’s great given that it’s my senior year. The fact that we even got a season, it was definitely nice to get this win."

Westhampton coach John Broich was confident that Amato, who’s run for Westhampton since 8th grade, could earn the long-awaited victory. He said the start was crucial while running the 2.5-mile course as opposed to the traditional 3.1-mile stretch.

"I knew she had the ability," Broich said. "I just needed her to focus on getting out and not running behind everybody at the beginning. She executed very well from Snake Hill all the way through Cardiac Hill."

Placing second was Eastport-South Manor freshman Anna Gansrow (16:01.74), who also led the Sharks to the team title with a score of 31 points.

In Division IV, Bayport-Blue Point freshman Eva Morris (16:01.62) came away victorious and even surprised herself along the way.

"I was not doing well at the beginning of the race," Morris said. "I was not feeling the best, but when I got to Cardiac Hill I felt a lot better. It was just crazy. I did not expect to win at all."

Bayport finished second (44) for the team title, while East Hampton won (43) and was led by freshman Dylan Cashin (16:09.88), who placed second.

"Running is a big part of my life," Morris said. "So I’m definitely very happy and I see that a lot of the work I’m putting in really means something."

Bayport coach Vin Ungaro believes Morris demonstrated that she has the tools to make winning a part of her routine.

Said Ungaro: "If she just keeps doing what she’s doing and stays focused she can go as far as she wants with this."

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