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Nov 12, 2019 5:35 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Boys Cross Country Repeats As Class B County Champs; Amato Qualifies For States Again

The Hurricanes, for the second year in a row, won the Suffolk County Class B title. DREW BUDD
Nov 12, 2019 5:35 PM

Last season was the start of what’s expected to be a long, successful run for the Westhampton Beach boys cross country team, when it won its first ever Suffolk County Class B title and went on to place sixth at the New York State Championships. A large majority of that team returned this season, so expectations were high for the Hurricanes, but they’ve met, if not exceeded them, thus far.

Westhampton Beach repeated as the Class B county champions on Friday at the Section XI Championships at Sunken Meadow Park in Kings Park, finishing with a total of 44 points, 22 points ahead of second-place Sayville and 42 points ahead of third-place Miller Place. With another county title in hand, the ’Canes will head to Plattsburgh for the New York State Championships this Saturday, with the goal of breaking into the top five in the state.

“Definitely a great experience last year running at states, [but] we weren’t really used to the environment,” senior Kieran Ryan said after Friday’s victory. “It’s definitely going to be better this year, having that experience and going in with the correct mindset.

“Going into [Friday’s race], obviously, we were going for the win, but you can never take anything for granted, anything can happen, especially in cross country, and we knew it was going to be a dogfight,” he continued. “Everyone fought their best effort, and luckily we were able to come out on top.”

Ryan’s older brother, Jack Ryan, in his first year as head coach, said cracking the top three teams in the state is certainly an attainable goal, but it won’t be easy.

“I think the guys are capable of a second or third place finish, but I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily our be-all, end-all goal, because you can run really well at states and wind up placing fifth,” he said. “It really depends on how these other teams progress. There are schools like Mount Academy and Pittsford-Mendon, who were both teams who weren’t on the radar until now, and they’re both expected to win. Burnt Hills has been a powerhouse, and has one of the longest winning streaks in the state, so it’ll be a very talented field. I think it’ll be a tight score within those top five spots. We’ll see what we can put together on race day.”

On Friday, Coach Ryan and the ’Canes put together a game plan where their top runner, sophomore Gavin Ehlers, would do his best to lead the field out quickly. He did, which allowed other ’Canes to run the race at their own pace, and many of them did, finishing with personal bests.

Westhampton Beach had four of its top seven runners finish in the top 10 of the class. Ehlers placed second in a new school record for sophomores, 16:28.09, only 22 seconds behind the overall winner, Miller Place senior Tom Cirrito, while senior Ermel Bautista placed fourth in 17:04.57, Kieran Ryan placed sixth in 17:26.65 and freshman Max Haynia placed 10th in the 17:44.27. Sophomore David Alvarado placed 27th in 18:40.69, while seniors Bryan Cruz-Sanchez and Sean Jordan finished 56th and 57th in 19:29.12 and 19:30.37, respectively.

Coach Ryan wasn’t too thrilled with his team’s performance at Divisions the week prior, but he was happy with the improvement he saw on Friday. His younger brother ran 45 seconds faster than he did at Divisions and Bautista ran 20 seconds faster. Haynia, who missed Divisions with an illness, came back and ran strong despite losing a shoe along the course on Friday. But the head coach was really proud of the way Ehlers continued to lead the team.

“He was one of the biggest factors in the race,” he said. “Everyone knew that the field would go out a little conservatively for the first mile, except for Gavin. He really needed to take the race out super fast and stretch out the field and he executed it to a T. Now, ultimately that strategy doesn’t give him the best chance at winning, but it gave the team the win, and I’m proud of the way he ran for his team and for PR’ing.”

Amato Qualifies For States

Without Ashley Steedman, its second best runner who sprained her ankle at Divisions, the Westhampton Beach girls cross country team came into its Class B race a bit shorthanded and finished seventh out of as many teams with 136 points. East Hampton won its first ever county title with 61 points.

The Lady Hurricanes’ top runner, though, junior Jackie Amato, placed second overall in 20:04.64, qualifying for the state championships for the second year in a row. Mount Sinai senior Sarah Connelly won the race in 18:37.53. Senior Grace Hayes took the next placement for Westhampton Beach, finishing 24th in 22:33.48.

Amato said her first goal on Friday was to break Brittney Carter’s school record of 19:54, which she’ll be gunning for next season, and she would have liked to have run a personal best, which she was only about seven seconds or so off of.

“I was kind of scared coming into the day with the wind and cold weather, but I love running in the cold, so it was good,” Amato said. “I knew not to take it out too fast because I knew they were going to take it out fast. Basically, I just sat on the two and three girls, slowly picked it up at the end and just kicked on them and got second place. So I’m pretty happy.”

Amato was sick at last year’s state meet, which was at Sunken Meadow, but she’ll be looking for a better performance in her second go-around this weekend in frigid Plattsburgh.

“I think the sickness got my head [last year], so I’ll do my best to stay healthy this week and my goal upstate is to place pretty high and hopefully make a name for myself up there,” she said.

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