Recently, Southold cross country coach Karl Himmelmann pored over the history of New York State cross country championships and discovered that Southold had sent a team to the state championships only two other times over a 60-year period.
The most recent was in the mid-1980s, when the school combined with Greenport to send a boys team.
“Never a purely Southold-only team on the boys or girls end that had competed at states,” he said.
So it was an historic accomplishment this year when Southold’s boys and girls both won Suffolk County Class D titles to advance to the state championships last weekend in Verona, N.Y.
The girls team finished seventh overall in Class D to beat out three other teams.
“Our main goal for the season was to qualify for states and get to that venue,” Himmelmann said. “I thought my top three runners had very strong races. That was probably one of their best races of the season.”
Sophomore Colette Steele, who has led the team all season, posted the top time for Southold in 22 minutes 51.6 seconds. Sophomore Katie Connolly followed in 25:22.9 and junior Shelby Pickerell ran 25:37.0.
Southold hasn’t been afraid to face some of the toughest competition out there this season. In the division championships at Sunken Meadow State Park in October, the team ran in the most competitive race against the top teams among all classifications.
Competing in the state meet gave the girls another experience of competing against elite competition, which should some come in handy for a team that will return all of its runners next season.
“When they go to a meet like this and they see the level of competition, it’s a very high level,” Himmelmann said. “I like to put my team into that kind of situation because I think it really helps them to raise the level of expectations from year to year in terms of what they think they can accomplish.”
Before the girls began the race, Himmelmann told them to look at it as their first race of next year rather than their last race of this season.
“Everything you do here today is going to set the benchmark for what our goals are for next season,” he said. “I think they really succeeded in approaching it that way.”
Junior Megan Moran ran the fourth fastest time for Southold in 27:29.9. She was followed by sophomores Shannon Guyer (28:44.8), Savannah Calderale (35.42.0) and Caitlyn Cassidy (37.39.6.).
The Southold boys competed in the Class D Championship and finished in 10th place. Freshman Jonathan Rempe led the team with a time of 21:02.6.
He was followed by the team’s core of seniors: Frank Cone (21:39.6), Griffin Quist (22:02.2) and Matthew Reilly (22:46.8). Junior John Tomici ran 23:04.5, sophomore Ian Toy ran 23:27.7 and junior Ryan Hanrahan was the final Southold runner in 23:51.8.
The challenge for Southold will be to continue the momentum through the winter and spring without the benefit of a track program. Many runners in the county transition right to winter track once the cross country season ends. Southold doesn’t have that luxury.
“I’m going to try to put together some kind of intramural running program for the students in the winter and spring just to kind of keep them going and keep them in shape over the offseason months,” Himmelmann said. “Once we get into July after school lets out then we’ll really start pushing ahead with daily runs for the team over the summer.”
Mattituck freshman Kaylee Bergen competed in the Class C race as an individual and ran 22:35.5 to finish 44th overall, capping a tremendous first season in cross country. She became the fastest Mattituck runner in the school’s history in the Section XI Championships after running 20:37.
Eighth-grader Audrey Hoeg also competed in the state meet for Mattituck and ran 24:03.2. Her time from the Section XI Championships put her in the top 10 all-time in Mattituck history.
Mattituck had two boys qualify for states as individuals in the Class C race. Corey Zlatniski finished 43rd overall in 18:57.6. Casey Grathwohl ran 19:21.7 to finish 66th.
Zlatniski qualified for states by running 17:42 at the qualifier at Sunken Meadow State Park, making him the fifth-fastest runner in Mattituck history. Grathwohl is currently the eighth-fastest all-time.