Cross country is a sport that incorporates a team concept along with the individual aspect. In order to emphasize the team angle, the Southold boys team has adopted a motto for this season: “We run as one.”
It’s something coach Karl Himmelmann wants his runners to keep in mind when they are training or competing in a meet.
“Running can seem like a pretty solitary, isolated sport because you’re off by yourself, but it’s a team effort,” he said. “We run as a team.”
And the First Settlers hope to win as a team this season. They certainly have the ingredients.
Southold (4-2 last season) is coming off back-to-back Suffolk County Class D championships and is seen as a contender for the League VIII title this year. Its top runner, junior Jon Rempe, returns to a deep team along with freshman Owen Klipstein, junior Chris Buono and junior Michael Cosmadelis. Rempe and Klipstein were all-league runners last year. Rempe finished ninth in the Division IV team qualifier in the Section XI division championships at Sunken Meadow State Park last year. His time on the 3.1-mile course was 18 minutes 38.10 seconds.
“Jon Rempe has consistently been my top runner, but the other boys … have also been in that top mix as well,” said Himmelmann.
Like all cross-country coaches, it seems, injuries are a concern for Himmelmann, who knows that an injury to a key runner can knock a team off course. That is why he encourages his athletes to train smart, and has set up a training schedule to bring them along gradually. The idea is to strengthen muscles and joints for the season in the hope that it will help avoid pulled muscles and foot injuries.
But the First Settlers have already been hit by an injury. Gus Rymer, a junior who was the second Southold runner to reach the finish line in the divisional meet in 19:47.40, will miss the start of the season with a foot injury.
In the meantime, some newcomers to the team should help absorb his absence as well as the loss to graduation of four-year runner Jon Tomici and James Shine. Two juniors, Jeremy Rempe (Jon’s twin brother) and Gregory Quist, are new additions. So are five other first-year runners: sophomore Gage Bennett, sophomore Michael Gensler, freshman Joe Saporita, freshman Joe Tsoumpelis and senior Dan Stahl.
“A lot of these boys have been running all summer long,” said Himmelmann. He added: “They are all looking very strong. They’re looking fast.”
Another positive development for the cross-country program in Southold is the addition of junior high school boys and girls teams, both coached by John Palmeri. “That’s going to definitely help our program down the road,” said Himmelmann, who hasn’t had the benefit of junior high teams to draw from during his four years as the coach of Southold’s boys and girls varsity squads.
Meanwhile, the varsity team is eyeing a possible threepeat with county championships.
“I think we have a good shot,” Himmelmann said. “I think if the boys continue to progress, I think we have a legitimate shot.”
The sight of a small army of high school runners hopping off a team bus may not exactly be common, but it might be something someone would expect to see from a big school like St. Anthony’s or Sachem East. But tiny, little Mattituck?
“Last year we got a lot of looks,” said coach Julie Milliman, whose team started last season with 46 runners and finished with 40.
This year the number has dropped a little to 30, which is still a large size for a cross-country team, no less a cross-country team from a small school.
“We have a good mix,” Milliman said. “They push each other to be competitive, and with 30 kids you’re always going to have a friend.”
Of that 30, about 26 are returning runners and 13 are seniors.
Coming off a two-win, rebuilding season, the Tuckers expect to be more competitive this year. They are counting on veteran runners like senior Adam Hicks, sophomore Jack Dufton, sophomore Eddie Dowling, freshman Matt Heffernan, senior Bobby Becker, senior Kevin Schwartz, senior Chris Mehalakes and sophomore Lucas Webb. Hicks recorded a time of 19:21.80 that brought him 19th place in the division championships at Sunken Meadow.
“I do know that if some of these kids run to their potential, we’re going to fare much better than we did last year,” said Milliman, who is in her fourth year as the team’s coach. “They just have a more focused attitude, and I think they’re hungry for the prs.”
In Milliman’s first year, Mattituck had 12 runners, and that number grew to around 20 in her second year.
“It’s taken off,” she said. “As long as they have [good] attitudes … and they’re good kids, I’ll take as many as want to come out.”