Ten years later, almost to the day, the New York State boys and girls cross-country championships will return to Sunken Meadow State Park. On Nov. 10, the eyes of New York’s cross-country community will be focused on the hilly 3.1-mile course in Kings Park.
Christian Demchak, Mattituck’s All-County senior, hopes to be among the Long Islanders running on their home turf, so to speak.
Last year Demchak competed in his second straight state meet. He qualified for that meet on his 16th birthday when he came in seventh in the Class C race in the Section XI Championships at Sunken Meadow. His time of 19 minutes, 17.74 seconds was reflective of the unseasonably warm, humid weather that day that made a demanding race on a demanding course even more demanding. He had run the same course a week earlier in the division championships 65 seconds faster in cooler conditions.
“The hot weather just sucks the life out of him,” said coach Mike Jablonski.
Heat and humidity wasn’t a problem, though, for Demchak in the state meet. In the cold, muddy conditions at Wayne Central School in Ontario Center, he finished 31st in Class C in 17:52.0.
“Last year was horrible,” Jablonski said of the conditions in Ontario Center.“I think the race temp was 28 degrees, snow on the ground, ice.”
It’s not likely to be that way this year at Sunken Meadow. “I think the weather will be a little more conducive to running,” said Jablonski.
As it is, Demchak doesn’t need added motivation. Motivation isn’t a problem for him.
“Christian is just motivated,” said Jablonski, whose team went 2-3 last year. “He runs sub-five-minute miles at times. He’ll run till he [gets sick]. You don’t need to push him too hard. He’s definitely intrinsically motivated.”
Should Demchak make a return to the state meet, he wouldn’t mind having some Mattituck company like teammates Chris Dinizio and Eric Palencia. Dinizio, a senior, and Palencia, a junior, are pushing Demchak in training. “Chris Dinizio and Eric Palencia are right on Christian’s tail,” said Jablonski.
Freshman Luke Woods and senior Antonio Marine may also be among the team’s top five runners.
If things go according to plan, Demchak will close out his high school career with a third straight state meet.
Said Jablonski, “Christian is … looking to make some noise.”
Southold/Greenport (2-4) returns its entire team from last year, has seniors Michael Daddona and Michael Chacon leading the pack, and expects stiff intra-team competition.
That’s good for the First Settlers because their league appears to have gotten stronger. While Stony Brook and Bishop McGann-Mercy (which closed) are no longer part of League VIII, the league has seen the addition of Mattituck, Port Jefferson and Shelter Island.
The keen competition in the league will be mirrored by that among the 15 runners on Southold’s team. Seniors Patrick Connolly and Anakin Mignone have been scorers in the past.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for the younger runners on the team like Isaiah Mraz, Chris Weschler and Jacob Boivin,” said coach Karl Himmelmann.
What has changed since last year?
“I think the biggest change is that it was pretty cut and dry last year in terms of knowing who my top six boys and girls were,” said Himmelmann, who coaches both Southold cross-country teams. “This year it’s anybody’s game. It’s honestly who works the hardest, who stays the most committed and who stays the most healthy.”
Daddona, in his third year in the sport, has reached the state meet twice. Last year he was 93rd in Class D in 20:31.5. In the Section XI Championships at Sunken Meadow, he was ninth in the class in 19:54.00.
Chacon could be looking at a big season as well.
“Michael has always been a perennially strong runner, a dedicated runner, and he looks the same this year,” Himmelmann said. “I also see a tremendous amount of growth in Michael Chacon. They’re going to be my one-two punch.”
All of Southold’s seniors are four-year runners.
“I would like to see them be competitive in every meet that we do,” Himmelmann said. “I think there’s a good opportunity to get two and maybe three boys qualify for the state meet.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s All-County senior, Christian Demchak, has run in the last two state meets. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)