Christian Demchak spent his 16th birthday Friday in possibly the best way possible for a cross-country runner. He ran in a big race.
The Mattituck High School junior had to wait a little bit, though, afterward to see if he was going to receive the birthday gift he was hoping for — a return trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships.
In time, though, the news came down that Demchak had indeed qualified for the state meet by virtue of his seventh-place finish in the Class C race in the Section XI Championships. His time on the five-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park was 19 minutes, 17.74 seconds. Port Jefferson senior Sam Walker won in 17:48.17.
“It’s one opportunity,” Demchak said. “Either you make it or you don’t. The rest of the season doesn’t matter, other than this race, really.”
The state meet will be run Nov. 11 at Wayne Central School in Ontario Center.
Demchak and all the other runners had to contend with warm, humid weather that made a demanding race on a demanding course even more demanding.
“I like it when it’s definitely colder,” Demchak said. “I definitely wasn’t happy about the weather, but made the most of what we got.”
“It definitely affected running up and down the hills,” he continued. “I could have definitely done better. I tried as much as a I could. I pushed myself through the hills.”
Mattituck coach Mike Jablonski said: “It’s really too hot for Christian. Christian likes to run in the cold weather.”
A week earlier at the Division Championships, Demchak ran the same course 65 seconds faster in cooler conditions.
“It’s a hot day, but Christian made it,” Jablonski said. “He’s going up to states.”
So is Southold junior Michael Daddona.
It’s only Daddona’s second year in the sport and he is already heading to his second state meet.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I knew I had a good chance.”
Daddona was ninth in Class D in 19:54.00. Shelter Island sophomore Kal Lewis was first in 17:05.79.
What was Southold coach Karl Himmelmann’s reaction to Daddona’s qualification?
“It was not a surprise at all,” Himmelmann said. “Michael has been a portrait of consistency all year. He has not missed a single practice. He was running over the summer, and his times gradually increased a little bit every week and he was ready to have his best race of the season today.”
Photo caption: Mattituck junior Christian Demchak, charging toward the finish line, qualified for his second state meet on his 16th birthday Friday. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)