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Sep 10, 2019 10:07 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Jack Ryan Takes Over As Head Coach Of What Is A Top-Ranked Westhampton Beach Boys Cross Country Team

The Hurricanes will be led by, from left, Gavin Ehlers, Sean Jordan, Keiran Ryan and Ermel Bautista.  DREW BUDD DREW BUDD
Sep 10, 2019 10:07 AM

Jack Ryan looks like one of the runners of the Westhampton Beach boys cross country team, not the head coach. That’s because not too long ago Ryan was the top runner at the school.

Having just graduated in 2017, Ryan is indeed back as the head coach, replacing his former and longtime coach Jim Ford. And he’s inheriting a team that won the Suffolk County Class B title last season and was the first boys team ever at Westhampton Beach to qualify for the state meet, where it placed sixth.

After graduating from Westhampton Beach, Ryan attended Davidson University in North Carolina, where he ran on the cross country and track teams. He enjoyed his time on the team, he said, but he simply wanted to come back home. This spring he was a volunteer assistant with the spring track team, keeping his main focus on the mid- to long-distance runners. When he learned of the head coaching vacancy for the cross country team, he jumped at it.

“I thought maybe I’d come back here at some point, but I never thought it would be this quick, not even close,” Ryan, 21, admitted on the track at Westhampton Beach High School on Friday. “[But] that’s one of the advantages of being so close in age with these guys. I just went through the recruiting process. I just got out of college running. It’s all fresh in my mind. I’m up-to-date on everything. I know exactly how it goes, how it works out. It’s been easy to identify with those guys, especially when the college scene is always changing, college recruitment is always changing with rules. That’s been just some of the advantages.”

It’s no secret that Ryan is inheriting a very talented group that lost just one key runner to graduation in Juan Lasso. Ermel Bautista, Bryan Cruz-Sanchez, Sean Jordan and Keiran Ryan, the coach’s younger brother, are all returning for their senior years, while sophomore Gavin Ehlers, who has been coming on strong the past year or so, having qualified for Nationals in the freshman mile this past spring, also returns. Max Haynia, a freshman who ran at Middle School Nationals in the eighth-grade mile, over the spring, is also returning, while sophomores Cole Cammarata and David Alvarado and eighth-grader Trevor Hayes all join the team this season.

Westhampton Beach is the top-ranked Class B team on Long Island, and is ranked seventh in the state to start the season.

“I think it’s a possibility that we can get back to the state meet this year, but there are lot of competitive teams in Class B this year, a lot of competitive individuals in Class B this year,” Ryan said. “Tom Cirrito of Miller Place is coming back as the fastest runner in the state in Class B and there will be good competition from Miller Place, Sayville. Shoreham always pulls something together. It’ll be competitive, but I think we will be competitive in the county this year.”

Westhampton Beach, Miller Place and Sayville are the top three ranked teams in Class B on all of Long Island and Miller Place and Sayville joined the Canes in the state rankings to start the season, with Miller Place 13th and Sayville 17th.

The Canes will certainly be a tough team to beat when it comes to dual meets simply because their top three runners — Bautista, Ehlers and Keiran Ryan — can all win the top three spots in most races, leaving the back end of the lineup to beat most opposing teams’ younger runners, which it should be able to do.

“We’re definitely not exactly where we’d like to be at, per se, at this point, because you’re coming in and doing things new. But we’re going to come in and use this year to build a little bit of depth and work with what we’ve got right now,” Ryan said. “We should be competitive this year, but it’s a long season and we have to see where we’re at in November.”

Westhampton Beach opened the season up with Amityville on Tuesday, and will face Shoreham/Wading River at Sunken Meadow Park in Kings Park next Tuesday, September 17.

Girls

The Lady Hurricanes are hoping to stay healthy this season so they can at least match their 4-2 league record from a year ago. Jackie Amato returns as the lone team representative at last year’s state meet, and she’ll be gunning for a return trip along with some teammates. Ashley Steedman, Grace Hayes and Sydnie Mason are all returning from last year, along with Kate Ryan, Keira Falvey, Fainne Sheehan, Maureen Duffy, Valerie Finke and Oceane Ode. Isabella Beck, Bella Churgin and Katelyn DeGraff are all on the team this season as well.

The Lady Canes had a tri-meet with Miller Place and Shoreham on Tuesday and will face Mount Sinai next Tuesday, September 17, at Sunken Meadow.

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