Nothing breaks up a nice afternoon run in the park quite like a cramp. Sierra Gray knows this all too well. The Miller Place senior was cruising down the final 800 meters of Friday’s Class B race at the Suffolk State Qualifiers when a pesky runners cramp decided to join the fun.
"I was trying to sprint, and it was hitting me on the side," Gray said.
But it all ended well enough. Gray got to the finish line, annoying pain and all, in 19 minutes, 25.2 seconds — more than 10 seconds faster than the next finisher on the 5-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park.
"It was hard to sprint at the end, but I got through it," Gray said. "…It hit me in a good spot, even though I didn’t want it to. I was a good amount ahead ... When I crossed the line, it definitely hurt really bad."
Gray qualified to run in the Class B race at the state public school cross country championships, scheduled for next Saturday at Chenango Valley State Park in upstate Chenango Forks.
Gray said she took the race out a lot faster than last week’s Suffolk Division championships, where she finished second in a race that featured all the top runners in Suffolk, regardless of class.
"I took it out about 20 seconds faster in the first mile," Gray said. "I felt pretty good for most of the race, going up to Cardiac [Hill]. Then, my stomach started hurting me. But, overall, it was good in the beginning."
Gray said she’s looking forward to running at Chenango Valley because it’s a flatter course than Sunken Meadow. And, if there is anything that cross country runners typically love, it’s a flat course.
"I can’t wait," she said. "…I’m expecting a fast start. It’s definitely going to be a faster race."
Gray is ranked second in the state in Class B, based on speed ratings found on tullyrunners.com.
Sayville won the Class B team title with 63 points, needing a sixth-runner tiebreaker to top Shoreham-Wading River.
Floyd freshman Zariel Macchia — the top runner in Suffolk — won Class A in 19:13.2. Like Gray, she took her race out faster than normal, knowing that speed will be needed early at Chenango Valley.
"I held the starting pace longer than I usually do," Macchia said. "…I felt pretty good. It will definitely be difficult [next week] because they are going to start faster than I did and hold that fast pace."
Northport won Class A with 39 points. Seventh grader Mia Wickard was second to Macchia in 19:34.3.
Babylon’s Kayla Hayes won the Class C-D race in 20:41. 5. Port Jefferson’s Caelan Schretzmayer was the top Class D runner in 21:03.8. Center Moriches won Class C with 36 points and Pierson won Class D with 28.