SOMERS — It looked and felt like normal.
And that was celebrated, even when things didn’t play out quite like normal.
Saturday’s Somers Big Red Invitational cross-country meet featured a lot of the expected, including Ursuline, Pearl River and Bronxville winning girls team titles in their respective divisions.
But it also included the unexpected — a wrong turn possibly costing the area’s top female runner a win before a couple of wrong turns added distance and minutes to an entire division’s race.
But no one was complaining much about any of that after last year’s COVID-altered and abbreviated season.
Dobbs Ferry coach John Paul Kaminsky, in fact, greeted his first two girls finishers in the Division 3 race, joking, “You ran a college course. Good job.”
“This meant so much to the school, every athlete, the program, the coaches,” Somers coach Mike Lacko said of the event. “We’ve been out here since 6 a.m. Things have been normal the last seven hours. We’re very grateful to put (the meet) back on again.”
“It’s so amazing the fact we have our entire team (here). These are all my best friends. It’s fun to be with everyone,” said boys Division 3 (small-school) winner Liam Lyons of Irvington, who noted the limited invitationals his squad attended last year capped teams at seven runners each.
Five-hundred and thirty-eight runners competed, divided into three varsity boys and three varsity girls races determined by school size and one freshmen boys and one freshmen girls race.
The freshmen ran 2.5 miles and everyone else 3.1 — excluding extra distance for wrong turns, of course.
Lyons, who didn’t encounter any course problems, finished in 17 minutes, 21.5 seconds.
He overtook friend Marc Lucasey of Dobbs Ferry with about 50 meters to go.
“I was dying. I was just trying to run as hard as I could,” Lyons said.
Lucasey crossed in 17:24.3.
Rounding out the boys D3 top five were Hastings’ Emmett McGrath (17:44.3), Pleasantville’s Alex Searle (17:45.7) and Dobbs Ferry’s Devin Barbera (17:47.4).
The top girls D3 times were not nearly as good, in part because those runners took the scenic route — twice.
“We went the completely wrong way,” winner Fenna Laban of Dobbs Ferry explained.
She noted the pack did an extra loop in one area early on, then incorrectly ran into a wooded area later in the race, although that mistake was quickly realized and corrected.
“It was not ideal but it was okay for the first race of the season,” said Laban, who clocked 22:25.7.
Hastings’ Caitlin Thomas was second (23:02.7) and Irvington’s Luciana Forte third (23:06.4). Bronxville gained the next two spots with Maddy Williams running 23:09.4 for fourth and Lux Burgin getting fifth (23:09.4).
The day’s first varsity race was an upset but an upset with an asterisk.
Ursuline’s Daphne Banino, who swept the three girls Journal News/lohud cross-country and track and field awards for Westchester/Putnam last year and who’s one of the top distance runners in the state, finished second to fellow senior Sydney Leitner of Yorktown.
Leitner, who’s increasingly looking every inch a future collegiate runner, hung close but trailed Banino through about two-thirds of the race.
After she crossed the finish first, in 19:06.5, well ahead of Banino (19:28.2), she quickly explained Banino had been in front of her but took a wrong turn.
When Leitner reached the same “Y” intersection, course officials directed her the right way. She speculated Banino ran about 100 additional meters.
“They (course officials) caught it for me,” said Leitner, who called the confusion over the direction to run “make or break.”
Banino, who won all the Section 1 cross-country races she ran last fall, said she had run by the course officials.
She shouldered the blame for her finish, saying, “It’s totally my fault.”
In part, she said she let what occurred get into her head for the rest of the race.
But of Leitner, Banino said, “She won fair and square. … She ran great.”
Banino’s teammates had better luck.
While Fox Lane’s Morgan Eigel notched the No. 3 spot at 20:17.8, Ursuline took the next two spots with senior Stella Gassman running 20:43.3 and Kyleigh O’Keefe clocking 20:49.5.
O’Keefe, who’s only a seventh-grader, edged New Rochelle’s Kaitlyn Casas, one of the area’s top runners, by just .1 for that fifth spot.
Ursuline easily won the girls D1 team title with 29 points. New Rochelle (75) and Arlington (84) were second and third, respectively.
Griff, Bender dominate boys D1
The fastest time of the day belonged to Fox Lane’s Harry Griff at 17:05.9.
Fox Lane went 1-2, in fact, in the boys D1 race with Griff’s teammate, Noah Bender, finishing in 17:21.2.
The third spot went to White Plains’s Ronan Staab (17:33.9), the fourth to Fox Lane’s Bruce Lenes (17:41.4) and the fifth to Iona Prep’s Tommy Flynn (younger brother of past Ursuline stars/collegiate runners Anna, Sarah and Lily Flynn), who ran 17:59.3.
Griff said he expected he and Bender would be able to pull away. Both have high hopes for their team this season after what Griff said was a summer of “real intense” work.
Bender also alluded to team chemistry being in play, remarking, “We have a great team. … You can see us cheering. Everyone had a really great time.”
Fox Lane won the boys D1 team title with 27 points. Arlington, whose top runner was Michael D’Orazio (sixth place, 18:00.9) was second and White Plains edged Iona Prep for third 86-88.
Arlington coach Steve Arnett joked the “student beat the teacher,” referring to Fox Lane coach Chris Dossena running for him in the 1980s when Arnett coached at Kennedy High in Somers.
Host Somers won the boys D2 team title, followed by league rivals Brewster and John Jay-Cross River in second and third.
But Brewster took the top spot. Bear junior Pat Ford, who served notice he would be among the section’s best runners when he qualified for the state championships as an eighth-grader, clocked 17:30.3.
He led start to finish, which, he noted, was his plan.
“I felt good. I took the lead and just wanted to keep it. … Basically I knew the kids were trying to hang with me,” said Ford, who trained throughout the summer, including six days a week with teammates from mid-August on.
John Jay-Cross River’s Max Goodman, who, emerging from the woods, bolted up a small rise to move from fourth to second place, kept that position throughout the remainder of the race, finishing in 17:40.4.
He noted he planned to try to stay closer to Ford in future races.
Somers’ Aiden Meza (17:45) got the third spot with teammate Colin Brooks fourth (17:55.4) and Rye’s Christian Ellis fifth (18:42.2).
The girls D2 race was all Una Boylan.
Boylan, last year’s Journal News/lohud Rockland Girls Cross-Country Runner of the Year, won in 19:36.
And with four of her Pearl River teammates also finishing in the top eight (Claire O’Sullivan third at 20:58.9, Mady Moroney fifth at 21:50.7, Maura Durcan sixth at 22:07.8 and Aoife Fitzgerald eighth at 22:31.7), the Pirates coasted to the D2 girls team title with 20 points. Somers was second with 50 and Harrison third with 84.
Somers’ Gabriella Parisi clocked 20:49.5 for second and Sleepy Hollow’s Bianca Vercesi (20:59.9) was fourth.
Harrison’s top runner was Katrina Torelli in seventh (22:12.4).
D3 team winners
Irvington, which placed five boys in the top 14 of the D3 race, won the D3 boys team title.
The Bulldogs, whose second fastest runner was Lucas Turano with a sixth-place 17:57.4 run, finished with 46 points.
Rye Neck, led by Joseph Lavelle’s seventh-place 17:57.6 run, was second with 72 points. Dobbs Ferry was third with 76.
On the girls side, perennially strong Bronxville took the top team spot with 35 points. Dobbs Ferry and Hastings both had 59.
Alessia Bubula (24:07) was Dobbs Ferry’s second runner in the top 10, finishing sixth.
Nancy Haggerty covers cross-country, track & field, field hockey, skiing, ice hockey, girls lacrosse and other sporting events for The Journal News/lohud. Follow her on Twitter at both @HaggertyNancy and at @LoHudHockey.