On November 24, almost one month since their last competition, the Sachem East Girls Cross Country Team was finally able to bring closure to an outstanding season with a 16th place finish at the Nike New York Regional Championships at Bowdoin Park in upstate Wappingers Falls.
Ranked in the top 25 in New York all season, the team had placed in the top 6 in every major Invitational it had entered and placed 2nd in the Division 1 Championships before this year's storms forced the cancelation of the Suffolk County Championship and State Qualifier.
With the faith that their season's body of work would gain them acceptance into the Championship race, the East Harriers maintained their focus and continued training, a process made more challenging without the benefit of the sharpening provided by Championship races.
In the end, it all worked out as the East Squad had a great weekend, enjoying Olympian Andrew Wheatings company at the pre-meet dinner, Nike's superb hospitality, and then, of course, some excellent performances.
Shannon O'Hehir was Sachem's first finisher, taking 54th overall in 20:25, followed closely by Jayda Allen (65th- 20:48) and Kaitlin DeMartino (68th- 20:53). Frosh Carli Murphy was 83rd in 21:28, and Katie Hemphling ran her best race of the season to take 91st in 21:43 to complete Sachem East's scoring.
Also turning in excellent performances were the rest of Sachem's qualifiers, Holly Lindoe (22:33), Devan Classi (22:48), Jill Manfredi (23:07), Brenna McGuire (23:19), and Sam Botros (23:20). The team was the 3rd team from Long Island, and finished in 16th place in the Championship race.
The top 2 teams from the race, Fayetteville Manlius (FM) and Saratoga Springs both are automatic qualifiers for Nationals, with Nike paying all the expenses for their coaches and teams to travel to Oregon for next week's meet. In addition, the 3rd and 4th place teams from New York are likely to receive At-Large selections and also attend Nike Cross Nationals (NXN).
So, just how good are the New York Girls Cross Country teams? Nike has been sponsoring and paying all the expenses for teams to attend this true National Championship event since 2004. A New York team has won every meet since it's inception and FM is again favored to take the title. In fact, after the two New York auto qualifiers placed 1st and 2nd in 2005 and 2006, Nike increased the number of Regional Qualifying Meets to 9, with New York breaking out of the Northeast to become it's own region.
And New York still continues to dominate the Girls Championship race in every stat. With 18 auto-qualifying teams and four at-large bids offered every year, 22 teams compete in total. In 2007 New York received two at-large bids so its four teams went 1, 3, 5,and 11. In 2008, again receiving the two at-large bids, New York squads went 1, 4, 5, 8. Again in 2009, 1, 2, 7, 8. And in the years 2010 and 2011, with controversy over the New York domination of the event, only one at-large bid went to New York, and in both years New York squads went 1, 2, 9.
Thus far, New York girls squads have always finished in the top half of the Nationals field, even when sending four out of the 22 schools selected for the meet. Now that's depth!
With it's 16th place finish Sachem East has put itself into some elite company and now faces the challenge of not only maintaining its status as one of the State's better programs, but perhaps becoming one of its best.
Last year, Senior Rachel Paul opened eyes with a 26th place finish at NXN Nationals. Now, with the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and the Sachem East Field Hockey Team paving the way, it certainly is clear that anything is possible. And despite the losses of seniors Holly Lindoe and Devan Classi, the squad brings back 10 of its top 12 next year.
This article was submitted by Pete McNeil.