Girls Cross Country: Steele leads Southold to sectional title

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold sophomore Colette Steele came in second place in the Class D race, leading the First Settlers to the sectional championship.

Colette Steele was undoubtedly happy enough to have qualified for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association girls cross country championships for the second year in a row. But then the Southold sophomore sounded thrilled upon hearing the news that she will have plenty of company upstate.

Backed by Steele’s individual runner-up performance, Southold won the Class D team title in the Section XI Championships on Friday at Sunken Meadow State Park. Southold finished with 33 points, four less than second-place Stony Brook.

As a sectional champion, Southold will send its entire team to the state meet, which will be held at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School on Nov. 12.

“Oh, awesome,” Steele said. “It’s going to be so much more fun.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kaylee Bergen, a Mattituck freshman in her first cross country season, is headed to the state meet.

Steele completed the 3.1-mile course in 21 minutes 46.00 seconds. It was her best time at Sunken Meadow, but it left her second to Stony Brook sophomore Margot Rashba, who won in 21:14.00. Still, Steele said running against Rashba helped her.

“Whenever I’m running with Margot, she always pushes me real hard,” Steele said. “I felt good during the race. I was going faster than usual because of Margot, and I ran well.”

The First Settlers also had Shelby Pickerell take fifth in 23:57.50, Katie Connolly finish sixth in 24:24.80, Shannon Guyer come in ninth in 25:22.00 and Megan Moran nab the 11th spot in 27:06.60.

It all helped.

“It came down to every single runner out there,” Southold coach Karl Himmelman said. “It wasn’t a tiebreaker, but it was close. I was telling Megan Moran, my [No. 5] runner, I said, ‘You’re going to make the difference today,’ and she did. That was really the key. I tell the kids all the time, it’s not about who comes in first. Yes, that’s important, but it’s about everybody on the team. The fourth- and fifth-place runners are just as important as one and two.”

Himmelman, the second-year coach whose Southold boys team also won a sectional crown, called it “a very exciting day.”

Mattituck, which was second to Center Moriches in the Class C team scoring, will send two runners to the state meet, freshman Kaylee Bergen and eighth-grader Audrey Hoeg. Both runners are in their first cross country season. Bergen was beaten out by Center Moriches freshman Ryleigh Donegan in a sprint to the finish line and lost by 1.5 seconds. Donegan’s winning time was 20:35.50. Bergen was clocked at 20:37.00. Hoeg took fifth in 22:03.80.

“I knew it was going to be close,” Bergen said. “I really wanted to get first. Sometimes you try really hard, but someone is just a little bit better than you. You just have to accept it.”

Despite feeling a cramp in her midsection near the end of the race, Bergen managed to slice 37 seconds off her previous best time at Sunken Meadow.

“Kaylee really pushed [Donegan] to run well, and she pushed Kaylee,” said Mattituck coach Jean Mahoney.

An eighth-grader, Kaitlyn Ohrtman, was the first Shoreham-Wading River finisher in the Class B race. She came in 11th place in 20:51.90. Her teammate Audrey Kelly was 19th in 21:20.90.

“I felt good,” said Ohrtman, who is in her first high school season after having won all of her races at the middle school level last year.

Ohrtman made the all-county team with her run, putting her among the top 35 runners in the county.

Shoreham-Wading River coach Paul Koretzki said, “She’s going to be a star.”

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