Amokrane Aouchiche, Mepham cross country runner, poses for a portrait...

Amokrane Aouchiche, Mepham cross country runner, poses for a portrait outside Mepham High School on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. Credit: James Escher

Amokrane Aouchiche was stewing on the sidelines.

Pesky knee and hamstring soreness had kept the Mepham cross country runner there for three weeks of the already-short spring season. Cross country, of course, was moved to the spring after 2020 fall sports were cancelled because of the pandemic. As he watched the races at Eisenhower Park in March and April, he envisioned himself having similar success when the season came around again.

To do that, Aouchiche knew he had to get stronger — which he did by weight training. But, more importantly, he got an early jump on summer miles. Usually runners take off a week or two after the outdoor track season before they start summer running. Feeling like he was already far behind because of the ailments, Aouchiche didn’t take two weeks off — he took two days.

"I had an advantage going into summer training by not taking two weeks," the senior said. "Right now, I have an advantage over everyone because I have two weeks more of training."

So far, he’s just been faster. Entering the weekend, Aouchiche was the top-ranked runner in Nassau, according to speed ratings on He was ranked 29th in the state and fourth on Long Island.

Last weekend, he won the Varsity B race at the 54th annual Nassau Coaches Invitational in 16 minutes, 22.55 seconds on the 5-kilometer course at Bethpage State Park and is primed for a successful postseason. The Nassau Class County championships are scheduled for Oct. 30 at Bethpage State Park.

"I started off with a fast mile because I was going against [Port Washington’s Colin] Funk and I know he's a good sprinter," Aouchiche said of the coaches invitational win. "So, I just bolted the first mile in 5:06, so I could get away from him as far as possible. Then, the second mile, I decided to ease it a little bit, but still go fast."

Phelan qualifies for States…in everything

Denise Phelan is going to the state swimming championships next month at Ithaca College. That much, she knows. What events she’ll be competing in? That’s less certain.

Phelan, who competes for the Northport-Commack team and attends Commack, qualified for the championships in all eight individual events and all three relays. She now has to pick two individual events and two relays to swim in when she gets to Ithaca.

Phelan said she will definitely swim in the 100-breaststroke, which she won at the 2019 state championships, but is still deciding what other events she’ll try to win. The state championships are scheduled for Nov. 19-20.

"I honestly was surprised that I was able to get all of them, especially because it is [toward] the beginning of the season," said Phelan, who is verbally committed to Kentucky and competed at the Olympic Trials last summer. "It's a cool feeling. My coaches in the past have always told me that I'm very versatile, can be put in any event, and almost, if not all the time, pull out a win. It’s just a cool feeling personally, that if you have an empty event and you need someone to swim it, I can swim it."

Entering the weekend, Phelan had the top time in the state in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.71), according to

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