Bonac Boys Cross-Country Won Going Away

Ryan Fowkes finished first, in 15 minutes and 26 seconds
Ryan Fowkes, the eventual winner, was in the van as the boys cross-country race at Cedar Point Park on Sept. 12 began. Jack Graves

East Hampton High’s cross-country teams made their debuts here at Cedar Point Park on Tuesday, Sept. 12, in a meet with a number of other schools from up the Island, Amityville being the farthest-flung.

“Everybody agrees once they get out here that this is one of the prettiest courses on Long Island,” Kevin Barry, the boys’ coach, said, though, apparently because the woodsy 2.8-mile loop with bay views is so distant, the Sept. 12 meet was the first and last to be held at Cedar Point this fall. Bonac’s teams are to run at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, the site of the county championships, from here on in.

East Hampton’s boys ran away with the boys meet as Ryan Fowkes finished first, in 15 minutes and 26 seconds, Geo Espinoza second, in 15:32, Omar Leon (about whom more later) fourth, in 16:06, Ethan McCormac fifth, and Frank Bellucci seventh. East Hampton, then, had five of the top seven in a field of 70.

The teams that vied with East Hampton’s boys were Amityville, Sayville, and Mount Sinai. “At 3-0, we’re halfway to a league championship,” said Barry, who added that Shoreham-Wading River was “the team to beat.” On Tuesday, East Hampton’s boys are to run against their Miller Place and Bayport-Blue Point peers at Sunken Meadow. Shoreham, said Barry, has wins over them.

Leon, who had recently been cut from the boys soccer team, was, Barry agreed, “a very pleasant surprise. “He’s a competitor — he runs with a lot of heart.” Leon is a junior, as is Fowkes. Espinoza’s a senior, as is Robert Weiss, a sprinter in track who nonetheless does well in distance races. He placed 10th in the Sept. 12 race. “We’ve only got two seniors among our 16,” Barry said.

McCormac, a standout swimmer, is a junior, and Bellucci is a sophomore.

East Hampton’s girls, vying with Kings Park, which boasts a squad of 38, but had only 25 on hand that day, did not fare as well as the boys, though Ava Engstrom, a ninth grader whose older brother, Erik (now at the University of Massachusetts), was a county champion, placed a strong second, with another ninth grader, Bella Tarbet, not far behind, in fifth place. Liana Paradiso, a senior and the team’s captain, was East Hampton’s third runner — and eighth over all.

Last Thursday, both teams were at it again, in the 5K Peconic Invitational at Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays. The boys placed second in a 10-team field, behind Fordham Prep, though ahead of everyone else, which is to say Westhampton Beach, Southampton, Pierson, Hampton Bays, Comsewogue, Central Islip, Mattituck, and Southold.

Bonac’s top two flip-flopped that day, with Espinoza the overall winner, in 18:01, and with Fowkes, who, according to Barry “went out too fast,” second, 10 seconds behind. Leon was ninth, in 19:44, Bellucci 10th, in 19:49, McCormac 16th, in 20:24, and Weiss 17th, in 20:50.

“I’ve actually got [in Fowkes and Espinoza] two number-ones,” said Barry. “They’ll be very close all year — that will be good for both of them.”

Paradiso placed third in the varsity girls race. Engstrom won the freshman race, “handily — there was no one else in sight,” said the girls’ coach, Diane O’Donnell. “She looked a lot like her brother,” said Barry. Tarbet was third in the freshman race.

Among the spectators at Cedar Point on the 12th was John Conner, a former recordholding age-group half-miler and miler who is recovering from a stroke he suffered last winter. Conner has coached some of Barry’s older charges in summer track workouts at the high school in the recent past, and undoubtedly he was pleased with what he saw. 

Conner’s wife, Henrika, reminded this writer that the Great Bonac Foot Race, presumably the oldest continuous race on Long Island, had been founded by her husband, along with Howard Lebwith and the late Ed Hults.