By Gavin Menu
There was something ceremonious in the way runners passed through the finish line during Tuesday’s combined boys and girls cross-country meet between Pierson-Bridgehampton and visiting Ross and Mercy-McGann high schools. Cross-country runners normally exit the starting line and disappear into woods for a three-mile run. But things are done differently at Mashashimuet Park, and racing is back in Sag Harbor.
“We did it so parents and friends of the kids can come out and see a cross country race,” said Jim Kinnier, the Pierson-Bridgehampton girls coach who brought an official from Section XI, Suffolk County’s governing body of athletics, to the park last summer to have it re-certified as an official course.
Until this fall, Mashashimuet had not been used for competitive races for more than 20 years, according to the boys coach, Doug Alnwick. Jerome Walker, a Bridgehampton student who runs on the team, said he and his fellow runners helped clear the course of leaves and other debris a few weeks ago in preparation for the 2012 season.
“It feels good, it feels great, actually, to run in Sag Harbor,” he said after finishing Tuesday’s race.
Both the Whalers and Lady Whalers lost to Mercy and Ross on Tuesday, but the coaches said the races this season are less about winning and more about teaching the students a love for running. The home meets being held in Sag Harbor, where runners complete three mile-long loops through the park, helps build the passion since parents and friends can more easily come out for support.
“Section XI decided to have a uniform course so all teams ran at Indian Island,” Alnwick said about past years, referring to the county park in Riverhead. “Then sometimes teams would run at Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays, but the problem with that was we would only run there once or twice and the course was poorly marked, so runners would get lost.”
“It’s great being in Sag Harbor because we have spectators here, and the spectators get to see the runners two times before the finish,” continued Alnwick, whose team is comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores and a lot of first-year runners. “And this is not a high spectator sport.”
After finishing second among runners from Pierson-Bridgehampton, sophomore Rob Rewinski praised the change of venue and the ability to host meets in his hometown of Sag Harbor.
“It’s quick and easy to get here,” Rewinski said, clearly tired from the three-mile run. “And then you get to go home and go right to sleep.”