Well before Flynn Klipstein could even see the fans lined up along the fencing by the finish line at Sunken Meadow State Park, he heard the screams. They were screams of encouragement, calling out his name as he made his final push.
And then, when the Southold High School sophomore was the first to reach the finish line after running five kilometers, a thought occurred to him: “Just don’t faint and don’t fall over.”
It was all good, though. Klipstein had finished first in the Class C-D race at the Section XI Championships Friday, qualified for his second state meet and clocked his fastest time ever on Sunken Meadow’s five-kilometer course. Despite an ailing right ankle, Klipstein passed Mattituck junior Trevor Zappulla and Pierson senior Peter Ramundo on famed Cardiac Hill for the lead with about a mile left in the race.
“We were all tired, but it just seemed like the right time” to make a move, Klipstein said.
“Physically,” he said, “you’re only two-thirds of the way there, but you feel like you’re already almost done.” He said taking the lead “gave me a little bit of a mental boost.”
Klipstein finished in 18 minutes, 3.50 seconds. Zappulla came in second in the race and first in Class C in 18:10.20.
With his time, Klipstein shattered his previous best time on the course, the 18:19.4 that brought him fifth place among Division 4 runners six days earlier in the division championships.
“I think he executed a perfect race,” Southold coach Karl Himmelmann said. “Flynn’s a very intuitive athlete. He knows his strengths and one of the things he’s very good at is knowing not to go out too hard in the beginning and saving his energy. I think one of the things we focused on during practices is when you get passed in the last mile of a race, it really takes the life out of you sometimes. It really just takes the energy out of you, I guess, is a better way to put it. And it works the other way around, too, because if you overtake somebody in that last mile of the race, the positive mental energy that you get from that sometimes carries you through the rest of the race, and that’s what happened.”
Klipstein may have needed that added mental boost, given the ankle issue he was dealing with.
“It was kind of just surreal, taking it all in, because before the race I was coming off a little ankle injury,” he said. “I wasn’t a hundred percent, so I did not have the expectation of wining that race.”
Klipstein said he sprained the ankle during the last regular-season meet and it swelled up. He said he felt the ankle problem a bit during the divisional meet and then reinjured it two days before the county championships.
“It hurt training, but once I got it taped by our trainer and once the raced started, the adrenaline kicked in,” he said. “It wasn’t noticeable.”
Perhaps it was a case of mind over matter. Or perhaps it’s just that the Klipsteins are tough runners. Klipstein’s older brother, Owen, who graduated in 2017, holds the school record for the fastest Sunken Meadow time, 17:56, said Himmelmann. Another brother, senior Tate Klipstein, is the Southold captain.
Himmelmann said the Klipsteins are “incredibly resilient.” When it came to Friday’s race, Himmelmann said, the ankle “was obviously on [Flynn Klipstein’s] mind, but it didn’t hold him back in the least.”
Southold juniors Jack Goscinski and Matthew Molnar also qualified for the state meet, to be run Saturday at Chenango Valley State Park in Chenango Forks. Goscinski was 11th in Class D in 19:20.45 and Molnar was 12th in 19:27.73.
Also competing for Southold were Robert Doering (15th in 20:13.71), Ryan Luhrs (16th in 20:38.39), Tate Klipstein (22nd in 22:48.37) and Luke Gibbs (24th in 23:34.39).
In Class B, Mattituck’s Marc Zappulla, Trevor Zappulla’s twin, was sixth in 19:53.57, one place ahead of teammate Colin Fitzgerald (19:55.66). The Tuckers were also represented by Matt Rosato (11th in 20:42.11), Oliver Simoncic (14th in 23:08.33) and Vincent Rakoczy (16th in 24:24.01).
It was learned Saturday that Flynn Klipstein became the first Southold boy to ever achieve All-County status in cross-country, according to Himmelmann. All-County goes to the top 45 runners in Suffolk, all classes combined. Flynn Klipstein was one of only two runners from a Class C or D team to be selected.
Said Himmelmann, “He definitely has natural running talent.”
VACCARELLA THIRD IN C-D
Mattituck junior Ava Vaccarella took third in the Class C-D girls race in 21:24.82 and Southold junior Francesca Lynch was seventh in 22:30.88. Also representing Mattituck were Emily Nicholson (ninth in 23:01.79), Rubi Villani (12th in 23:32.94), Kate Schuch (18th in 24:20.19), McKenna Clark (19th in 24:34.82), Summer Hirch (23rd in 25:48.79) and Reese Pearsal (30th in 27:40.25).