BOB LIEPA PHOTO
Mattituck and Southold runners bolted from the starting line during Tuesday’s season-opening dual meet at Indian Island County Park in Riverhead.
Sal Manno’s magic number is 17:00.
The Southold High School senior wants to crack 17 minutes this cross-country season. He received some encouragement with the time he posted Tuesday in his team’s season-opening Suffolk County League VII dual meet against Mattituck. Mattituck triumphed, 24-34, but so did Manno. He flew across the finish line in a winning time of 17 minutes 42 seconds at Indian Island County Park’s 3.1-mile course in Riverhead. Manno led from the early going and finished nearly three minutes before his nearest competitor did.
“He’s capable of so much,” Southold’s new coach, Karl Himmelmann, said. “He’s a great runner right now, but he’s capable of even doing better, and that’s the exciting thing.”
Despite battling shin splints early last season, Manno qualified for the state championships for the second year in a row and finished 48th in the Class D race in 17:40.5. The fact that he was only a couple of seconds off that time on Tuesday was encouraging.
“I didn’t start off with this time last season, so I’m kind of happy that I’m starting it off this season now,” he said. “I kept myself at a normal pace that I could be comfortable with.”
Manno and the other runners were blessed with pleasant weather that made for near-ideal running conditions and some good times. When the humidity is down, times usually follow suit.
Nine of the top 12 places went to Mattituck. The Tuckers took the second, third and fourth places through Corey Zlatniski (20:33), John Hamilton (20:34) and Casey Grathwohl (20:54). Ryan Hanrahan of Southold was fifth in 21:41.
Following Hanrahan were Griffin Quist of Southold (21:43), Bill Goggins of Mattituck (22:01), Jesse Grathwohl of Mattituck (22:10), Chris Baglivi of Mattituck (22:19) and Clay Davis of Mattituck (22:28).
It was enough to bring Mattituck’s new coach, Julianne Milliman, her first win.
“I knew that they were improving, but they had improved by so much since last week, at least a minute each,” she said of her runners. “They all just ran well.”
Zlatniski ran the best time he has ever recorded on the course. “I’m pretty amazed with what I got,” he said.
Zlatniski’s tale is an interesting one. Last year he fell one place shy of qualifying for his first state meet. He said he missed that place by half a step.
“Ugh,” the junior said, recounting the memory. “It ate me up inside.”
By using Manno as a rabbit on Tuesday, Zlatniski came close to his personal-best time of 20:20. “I’m already back to where I was,” he said.
Meanwhile, Manno is contemplating where he wants to be — under 17:00. Manno, who is in his third cross-country season, has run 3.1 miles in as fast as 17:17, which he posted last year in the Westhampton Invitational.
Manno trained with many of his teammates over the summer. He hopes to peak in the state meet with a sub-17:00 time.
“I know how much I can improve in a season,” he said. “Last year I improved about 45 [seconds] to a minute off my time.”
Himmelmann knows better than to sell Manno short.
“Every runner always has their own personal goal in mind when they’re starting a race,” the coach said. “There’s always another threshold to cross, and for Sal it’s getting under that magic number 17. Honestly, I think he’s capable of it.”