By Benito Vila
Every outdoor sport has weather as a variable when it comes to game-day. Come what may, every athlete must adjust to conditions as they are.
It was drizzling, warm and humid last Saturday when Pierson’s cross-country qualifiers arrived at Sunken Meadow for the state meet, “the big one” as boys’ coach Joe Amato calls it. Turning out for the meet were champions from each of the state’s 11 athletic districts, 100 teams in all. Also there were the top individuals from each class size within each district, bringing the attendee total to 1178 runners.
Pierson was well represented, the girls showing up seven strong as Class D champions and the boys sending their top two. Both Pierson coaches came in expecting a good showing, aware the weather would slow times but hopeful their runners would use their experience on the 5K course to their advantage.
A New Benchmark
Girls’ cross-country coach Jim Kinnier praised the effort he saw, saying, “While we did not run our best times, we did have the best result for a finisher that we’ve ever had. Keriann FitzPatrick ran 22 minutes, 21 seconds, finishing 35th in Class D [out of 112 runners].”
Â “Amelia Skerys ran 23:43 and Rafaela Gurtler, who was running with an injury to her leg, ran 24:04. As a team, we finished ninth out of ten though if the girls had all run to the capacity we might have finished seventh, but woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
Looking to bring his team “to the next level”, Coach Kinnier is planning on attending coaching conferences during the off-season and has become the head coach of the Pierson/Ross shared-sports winter and spring track program. Enthusiastic about the challenges ahead, he acknowledged, “We’ve come along, but there is a ways to go. The hope is to offer a more comprehensive approach to cross-country and track to help our student athletes reach their potential.”
A Personal Record
Coach Amato describes the competition in boys’ Class D as “very tough. Cross-country is very big upstate, especially in the small schools. Many do not even have soccer programs so everybody runs cross-country.”
Unfazed, or perhaps fired up, by the talent he faced, Pierson senior and team captain Kai Leo turned in a time of 19:13, a personal record for the year. That time placed him 61 out of the state’s 117 Class D runners and number two in Suffolk County, 12 seconds behind Sal Manno of Southold.
The boys’ other runner, junior Kyle Fletcher, completed the course at 20:20, fourth among Suffolk runners and 94 overall. Already thinking about the 2009 finals, Coach Amato said, “Kyle had a good race given the conditions. He has good speed and should return to states next year.”