The East Hampton High School boys and girls cross-country teams have, according to their coaches, Kevin Barry and Diane O’Donnell, enjoyed “breakthrough” seasons.
Consequently, both the boys and girls teams are to run in Class B races in the county meet tomorrow at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, and two of the girls, Ashley West, a senior, and Dana Cebulski, a ninth grader, could advance to the state meet, which would, said O’Donnell, be a “first” for the girls team, which she has coached for the past 19 years.
“We’ve never had anyone go to the states in girls cross-country,” O’Donnell said.
West, who has been hampered recently by a tibia stress fracture, did not run in last week’s divisional meet at Sunken Meadow in order to save herself for the counties, but Cebulski shone, winning the open team qualifier race — a race largely for teams with modest records — in 20 minutes and 31 seconds, besting 161 contenders. As a result, Cebulski has been named to the all-division team and is ranked 19th among the county’s cross-country runners.
“It was huge,” O’Donnell said, in answer to a question, of Cebulski’s win, “very huge.”
East Hampton, she said, could have petitioned to run in the championship race (for the top two teams in each of the leagues), “but we didn’t. Ashley had already qualified for the counties by running a sub-22:30 5K, and it was the first time Dana had ever run the 5K course at Sunken Meadow.”
The girls team qualified for the county meet with an average time of 22:59, “in the middle of the pack. Twenty-four minutes was the cutoff. Our team finished sixth among the 22 schools that were in the race.”
Jennie DiSunno was East Hampton’s second runner, in 22:30, Jackie Messemer was third, in 23:24, Emma Newburger was fourth, in 23:35, and Kerry Kaestner was the fifth runner scored, in 23:58. Cebulski, DiSunno (by 20 seconds), and Messemer “p.r.’d” that day, and Newburger and Kaestner ran close to their personal bests, the coach said.
How West and Cebulski fare tomorrow depends not only on how they do, but also on how the favored teams do.
“The best outcome for us,” said O’Donnell, “would be if Miller Place wins the race. They’ve got three girls, a set of twins and another girl, who are up there. The twins were the only Class B runners to beat Ashley this season. The winning team and the next five individuals go.”
“Bayport-Blue Point has a good team too. They might not get one and two, but they’ve got a pack that could finish three, four, five, six, and seven. If Bayport wins, those three Miller Place girls will take three of the five individual spots, making it harder for us. . . . Ashley, even though she’s got this injury, and Dana ought to be in the mix. I think Dana can beat that third Miller Place girl. I’m going to tell her before the race that she’s got to!”
Concerning West, O’Donnell said, “She has her doctor’s permission to run — he’s said it won’t get worse. She’s been getting therapy three times a week and she’s been riding a bike. It’s a little crack in the bone. The problem is pain, but she says the pain’s gone away. She ran two miles the other day and said it felt stiff, though not painful. . . . I’m hoping she gets this one good race in. Then, at the states I’ve told her she can relax and take it easy.”
Kevin Barry’s boys team, which went 3-4 over all this season, 1-4 in the league (the girls were 1-4 in their league with some narrow losses), also qualified for tomorrow’s county meet.
Barry agreed that it had been a breakthrough season for both the boys and girls teams. “Diane’s team is young and mine is too . . . Dana’s the real deal.”
Her older brother, Adam, a sophomore, is too. He led the boys team in the divisional team qualifier race with an 18:44, “one of the fastest times of any kid I’ve ever coached,” said Barry. “Not even the Ahearns, Joe Sullivan, or Chris Reich ran that fast at Sunken Meadow. Matt Rubenstein was in the 19:00 range.”
Barry said further that because the Class B boys teams were so deep this year — the county’s top two, Shoreham-Wading River and Harborfields, are B schools — the chances of his top two, Cebulski and Mike Hamilton, making the state meet were very slim.
“I’m so proud of our kids for having qualified for the county championships,” he continued. “The facts that we did and that we had a 1-4 record shows you how strong Class B is this year.”
Hamilton was East Hampton’s second finisher in the divisional race, in 19:10, “a ‘p.r.’ even though he had a sore ankle.”
Mike Peralta was third, in 19:37, Thomas Brierley was fourth, in 19:38, and Deilyn Guzman was fifth, in 20:01.
“Deilyn’s furious kick in the last 300 yards got us our qualifying time of 19:30,” said Barry, who added that “we haven’t been in the counties in four years.”
The county Class B boys race is to be at 2 p.m. tomorrow; the Class B girls race is to go off at 3:20.
Meanwhile, thanks to Bill Herzog’s perennially successful junior high program, Barry and O’Donnell can look forward to having their ranks strengthened next year.
“Hopefully,” said O’Donnell, “I’ll have three girls coming up — two eighth graders and a seventh grader. Which will be good because we’re losing Ashley and Kerry from our top seven.”
Barry anticipates welcoming three top-notch eighth graders, Erik Engstrom, Randy Rodriguez, and Jackson Rafferty.