Westhampton Beach's Max Haynia wins the boys 3200 meter run, at...

Westhampton Beach's Max Haynia wins the boys 3200 meter run, at the Suffolk High School boys & girls Class B championship's, Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at Kings Park high school. Credit: George A Faella

Only the best cross country runners race in December. Max Haynia is hoping to be one of them.

The Westhampton senior has his eyes on a post-Thanksgiving trip to Portland, Oregon, site of the Nike Cross Nationals on Dec 3. But first, he has some winning to do.

Haynia held back in the first few weeks of the fall season – only running duel meets as workouts (but still winning them) and waiting for the right moment to go "all-out." That time came last weekend when Haynia won his race in 16 minutes, 22.88 seconds at the Suffolk Coaches Invitational on the 5-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park.

“I was happy about how I went out there and I went after it,” Haynia said. “I didn't get out particularly fast. But I still had a quick first mile. I think I went out in 5:04, which I was happy about. Then I was able to hold on, even though I didn't run the second half how I wanted to form-wise. But, I think it was a good indicator of my fitness and what I can be able to run in November, December, (or even) late October.”

It was the fastest time of the meet and put Haynia atop the Long Island speed ratings. Based on those ratings, which take the difficulty of the course into account, Haynia was 10th overall in the state, and tops in Class B, as of Friday, according to tullyrunners.com.

As for those form issues, Haynia sees them as slight posture adjustments, something he has plenty of time to straighten out.

“I didn't lean in enough on the downhills,” he said. “I feel like I leaned back too far, and my coach was telling me that. On video, I was leaning back.  I can close significantly quicker if I just can lean in a little bit more and then start hammering home the moat and a little bit on the back meadow.”

Haynia is the fastest returner from last year’s Class B race at the state public school championships. He spent his junior year lining up for high profile races, something that taught him how to control his nerves.

“This year, I'm confident,” he said. “Last year, I wasn't as sure of how I should race. I know how I should be doing it this year.”

He hopes to be doing it well after Turkey Day.

LaMena Uses Summer Races to Strengthen For Fall

Summer training is different for everyone. Some runners meet with teammates to run at a local park, some take trips to Sunken Meadow to mimic the exact racing conditions they’ll be faced with in September and October, others run alone around their block.

Emily LaMena trained for an Olympic distance triathlon. The Glenn senior, known for her superior endurance, completed the Mighty Hamptons Olympic Distance Triathlon in three hours, 40 seconds on September 11 in Sag Harbor.

The event was a grind – a mile swim, a 24-mile bike ride, and a 10K run. But, it certainly got her ready for high school cross country.

LaMena also ran the Great Cow Harbor 10K in 39:01, good for 116th  out of nearly 4,000 finishers.

“I’m definitely feeling pretty good right now,” she said. “I think part of it has to do with getting older, stronger, and being able to train harder. But, I think those races gave me a lot of confidence going into the season and got me excited for racing.”

LaMena opened up her cross country invitational season with a 20:11.19 victory at the Suffolk Coaches Invitational last weekend at Sunken Meadow. It was the top time of the meet, clipping Sayville’s Mullane Baumiller, who won her race in 20:11.59.

“I felt really good for pretty much the whole race,” said LaMena. “I felt really strong on the hills and definitely did run a fast finish, which was one of the main objectives in the race.”

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