Running in the wind

By TED WADDELL
Posted 9/25/19

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — In a twist on the biblical story of David versus Goliath, this time the mighty giant of ancient lore defeated his rival, aided in large part by an overwhelming force of …

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Running in the wind

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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — In a twist on the biblical story of David versus Goliath, this time the mighty giant of ancient lore defeated his rival, aided in large part by an overwhelming force of numbers.

On Tuesday, September 17, Sullivan West hosted a cross-country meet against James I. O’Neill, and the visiting Raiders swept the field in both the boys’ and girls’ classes, defeating the Bulldogs boys 25-51 and the girls 15-50.

Due to the limited numbers of home-team runners as opposed to the visitors, the boys and girls took to the three-mile course together, versus running separately, as would have been the case if the numbers were more equal.

O’Niell listed a team of 30 boys and 16 girls on the roster, while Sullivan West had a total combined team of 10 (seven boys and three freshmen girls).

O’Neill’s cross-country teams are coached by Rob Conklin, now in his 13th year at the helm.

While the numbers didn’t really match, Sullivan West’s Bryce Maopolski made it to the states last year, and one of his goals this season is a return ticket to the states.

On Tuesday, the 17-year-old senior crossed the finish line ahead of the pack with a time of 19:14, just ahead of his brother Reece’s posting of 20:06.

Rounding out the top five places were O’Neill’s Zach McCarthy (20:41), Henry Hackert (20:46) and Owen Fetherston (21:09).

Bryce started competing in XC events as an eighth grader, took a breather in his freshman year to play soccer and took up the event seriously in 10th grade. To prove that point, he made it to the states in 2018.

“You have to push yourself to keep going the whole time,” he said, adding, “I have to keep reminding myself, pick it up, pick it up.” Goals for 2019? “Make it to states again this year and place in the top 20,” Bryce said.

Sullivan West’s Cheyenne Decker, “I’m going to be fourteen in October,” came in in last place with a time of 37:19, but it didn’t really seem to phase her in the least.

As one of only a trio of girls on the team, she said she started running XC last year.

“I like the competition, and that everybody is so friendly,” said Decker.

In girls, the five top-place finishers were O’Neill’s Ella Johnes (25:45), O’Neill’s Kathryn Laird (26:27), SW’s Mikayla Dirie (27:07), O’Neill’s Grace Nowicki (29:00) and O’Neill’s Isabella Corrieira (29:20). Sullivan West’s Rose Murphy clocked 32:29 to take seventh place.

The Bulldogs girls’ cross country team is coached by Dee Maopolski, while April Rutledge, a Sullivan West grad, is at the helm of the boys’ squad.

Both coaches are in their second year of guiding the school’s XC teams.

“My goal for the girls’ team is to build their endurance,” said Maopolski, noting that her runners are coming up from modified, where they are used to competing over one-and-half mile courses, versus the typical course of 3 to 3.1 miles in varsity.

Her take on the challenges of coaching XC? “To work on them being consistent, build up their endurance… Pacing is a big one, especially for the younger kids, learning how to run against seniors.”

Rutledge’s goals for the boys’ team? “Keep improving,” she said. “Bryce went to the states last year, and we’re hoping to put him back there again.”

Sullivan West High School Principal Mark Plescia is a familiar figure at the finish line as he cheers on the runners from both schools, from the first-place finisher until the last runner competes the course.

As a distance runner who took up the sport later in life, Plescia said he can relate to what it takes to be a cross country scholar athlete.

“Cross country is an interesting sport, whether you’re the first runner out there or the last, you’re running the same miles,” he said. “It’s not an easy sport, and as a long-distance runner myself I know the loneliness of it. It takes a lot to put yourself out there, I know what these kids are going through.” 

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