Taylor McClay of Eastport-South Manor on                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dec. 8, 2015.

Taylor McClay of Eastport-South Manor on Dec. 8, 2015. Credit: James Escher

Taylor McClay still has hills to climb. That, she knows.

“In the past, I’ve always struggled with hills a lot,” the Eastport-South Manor cross country runner said. “I have a very long stride, so I tend to take big steps up hill.”

To combat this, the senior spent this summer adjusting her uphill stride, hoping that shorter steps will lead to faster times.

“It really doesn’t make sense to take too many large steps because I’m just wasting more energy,” McClay said. “So, now my coach tells me to take short steps with high knees and get up fast. Then, we don’t have to spend too much time on (the hill)”

McClay doesn’t have long to climb to get to the top of the girls cross country scene. She is one of five returning members of Newsday’s All-Long Island team and, as a senior, knows that the time to shine is upon her.

“It’s my turn to be more in the mix than I was last year,” said McClay, who finished second at the Suffolk Class A state qualifier last year. “I really want to be up there with those girls.”

McClay is off to a good start. She placed fourth in the Varsity C race at the Suffern Invitational last month at Bear Mountain State Park, running the three-mile course in 19:14.30. She was third in the Varsity A 5-K race at the Suffolk Coaches Invitational in 20:04.74.

McClay entered the season with a 17:57 personal best in the 5K. She said that she wants to decrease that by at least eight seconds and enter the 17:40s by season’s end.

“During races, I have to do an aggressive first mile and be able to settle, but not at too slow of a pace,” she said. “I need to pace myself right this year.”

Before the season, McClay said that she would glean a lot of information about her progress from her performance at the Brown Invitational, scheduled for Oct. 15.

“My Brown 5K time the first time I raced there was 18:28, then 18:14, then 17:57,” she said. “I’m hoping to keep that trend, make states, and see where it goes from there.”

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