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Nov 6, 2017 3:24 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Bonac Boys Cross Country Wins County Title; Engstrom Will Represent Girls Team At States

The Bonackers are all smiles after winning the Suffolk County Class B plaque on Friday. RICCI PARADISO
Nov 6, 2017 3:24 PM

As the late Tom Petty said, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

But that’s exactly what the East Hampton boys cross country team had to do following the Section XI, or Suffolk County, Class B Championship race on Friday at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park. The 5K was too close to call, so the five or so teams that could have won waited for a good 10 minutes while officials got the final times and tallied up the final scores. When the scores finally did come out, the Bonackers let out a big cheer signaling they had won the county Class B title, and a trip to the New York State Cross Country Championships, which are this Saturday, November 11, at Wayne Central High School, just outside of Rochester.

East Hampton had already won League VI and Division III titles this season, but head coach Kevin Barry said winning a county title was totally unexpected. The last time the Bonackers won league, division and county titles in a season was 2015.

“Our goal was just to make the counties and make that county championship race, but they came together,” Barry said.

East Hampton junior Ryan Fowkes placed fourth in the class in 17:55. He was followed by senior Emilio “Geo” Espinoza (19:39) and junior Omar Leon (19:49), who placed 13th and 15th, respectively. Ethan McCormac, a junior, placed 18th in 18:52. Senior Robert Weiss (19:15), sophomore Nicolas Villante (19:19) and sophomore Frank Bellucci (19:43) were the next Bonackers to finish the race.

East Hampton finished with 82 points, 14 points ahead of Southampton and Miller Place. Mount Sinai (108), Westhampton Beach (110) and Bayport/Blue Point (110) were all close as well, but it was the placements that won the Bonackers the county title; Southampton was actually the fastest team, having a faster average time (18:40) than East Hampton (18:42).

“It’s been like this all year, there have been four or five teams battling it out, but usually about this time of year, one or two teams come out as the cream of the crop. It turned out to be a five-team race,” Barry said. “The top four placements went as expected, after that, there were so many kids in that mid-18 [minute] range.”

Espinoza, who was on that 2015 team that last won a county title, with Erik Engstrom and Thomas Paradiso, didn’t think he was going to hear good news after the long wait to see which team came out on top.

“I thought we lost,” he admitted. “Because Southampton had their first two in front of our first two. We figured it was all up to three, four and five ... I guess they came through.”

Fowkes said it was a tough race due to the high temperatures on Friday—it was 75 degrees in Kings Park on Friday—and the humidity led to slower-than-usual times.

“If you look at the times, no PRs really from the top guys, but it’s just great to come away with a win,” he said. “Good to have Bonac back on top.”

East Hampton will now turn its attention to the state meet, where Burnt Hills is the team to beat. East Hampton will be looking for one more upset.

Engstrom Qualifies

To say East Hampton freshman Ava Engstrom is following in her brother Erik’s footsteps wouldn’t exactly be accurate—it took the older Ensgtrom, one of the top runners in program history who is now running at UMass, until his junior year to qualify for states. But Ava Engstrom, as a freshman, qualified after finishing ninth in 21:11, nabbing the fifth and final individual spot in Class B to head to states. She became just the second East Hampton runner, and first since Dana Cebulski in 2012, to qualify for states.

It was a bit of a surprise that Engstrom was the only Lady Bonacker to qualify. Senior Liana Paradiso had been running well the past few weeks and had faster times than both Engstrom and freshman Isabella Tarbet. But it was the younger runners who outpaced their senior; Tarbet finished just behind Engstrom in 21:19, while Paradiso finished in 22:17.

“I thought all three had a chance, it just depended on how the race went,” East Hampton girls head coach Diane O’Donnell said. “Liana is a senior and she’s had several great races, she just didn’t feel it and couldn’t hang on.”

Since Engstrom has already accomplished so much in her first season on varsity, O’Donnell is keeping tame expectations for her this weekend.

“My goal for her is to have fun,” she said. “She’s already put in all the hard work to get that spot, just to be there as a freshman with some of the best people in New York State ... sure we’ll set some small goals, and we’ll see if they’re accomplished. If they’re not, she’s already accomplished so much.”

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