A rarity occurred last Thursday at Indian Island Park in Riverhead — both the East Hampton boys and girls cross-country teams won.
The boys, vying against Sayville and Westhampton Beach, which had recently trounced them at the Peconic County Invitational, edged the Hurricanes 27-28, and went toe-to-toe with Sayville, which wound up a 26-29 winner. The girls meanwhile defeated Elwood-John Glenn 20-29.
Kevin Barry, the boys’ coach, said afterward that this year’s team, which boasts three freshmen who have hit the ground running, reminds him of his 2000 team, a precursor to his Long Island championship teams of 2001 and ’02.
He has 22 on the squad, only four of them returnees. One of those, Adam Cebulski, a junior, set a school record on the Indian Island course that day, spurred on by Westhampton’s Graham Brown and Sayville’s Kiernan Harrison. The three came out of the woods together and raced three abreast over the final yards to the finish line. Brown, whose mother, Laura, is a top age-group runner on the East End, and Harrison crossed the line together, in 17:16, with Cebulski just one tick behind.
“It was a great finish,” said Barry, who added that Cebulski’s 17:17 had bettered Chris Reich’s 17:23 which he ran at Indian Island in 2003. Reich is now East Hampton’s winter and spring track coach.
East Hampton’s second finisher was Erik Engstrom, one of the aforementioned freshmen, in 18:25. He was fourth over all. Thomas Brierley, a junior, who has been bothered lately by shin splints, nevertheless ran a personal-record 18:52 in finishing sixth. East Hampton’s other two scorers were freshmen: Jackson Rafferty, in 18:56, and — “the biggest surprise,” according to Barry — T.J. Paradiso, in 19:16.
All of his runners had “P.R.’d,” (set personal records), that day, the coach said. “On average, they dropped a minute from the meet with John Glenn of two weeks before. T.J. ran a 20:30 in that meet with Glenn.”
Sayville’s places, then, were first, third, fifth, eighth, and ninth, while East Hampton’s were second, fourth, sixth, seventh, and 10th.
Versus Westhampton’s runners East Hampton finished second, fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth while the Hurricanes garnered first, third, fifth, ninth, and 10th.
“It was nice what Adam did, but our last three scorers made the difference,” said Barry.
Westhampton, as aforesaid, had trounced the Bonac boys at the recent Peconic Invitational, but that was owing to the fact that the three freshmen phenoms — Engstrom, Rafferty, and Paradiso — had swept the freshman race that day with Engstrom covering the 1.5-mile course in 8:35 (a course record), followed by Rafferty, in 8:53, and Paradiso, in 9:00.
Going into Tuesday’s meet with Miller Place at Sunken Meadow State Park, Barry’s team was 2-1. “We haven’t been there this year,” Barry said during a telephone conversation Sunday, “and Miller Place has raced there several times. Still, I think we can win, and if we do and if we go on to beat Rocky Point, which I think we can, we’ll be running against Harborfields at the end of the month for the title.”
“Harborfields,” he added, “is the defending county co-champion with Shoreham-Wading River.”
Whatever this fall’s outcome, Barry said, “These guys are going to put a banner up on the wall pretty soon.”
Not only were his charges talented, “but they have good chemistry too.”
It was evident as those who had finished cheered on East Hampton’s last runner, Anton Albukrek (also a freshman), who had made a wrong turn in the woods, “adding about a half-mile to the course,” according to his coach. He’s got a new nickname now, ‘Wrong Way’ Albukrek.”