Story by Jon Dinan
SULLIVAN COUNTY The Section IX cross country championship meet at Bear Mountain State Park was an emotional event for many Sullivan County runners. The Tri-Valley girls’ team gave their soon-to-be retired coach Missy Iatauro a bittersweet send-off as they finished first as a team in their Class C meet.
Sullivan West senior Dani Myers and Eldred seventh grader Kayla Maas, who both finished fifth in their respective races, advancing to Saturday’s state meet near Buffalo, were tearful because the three-mile trek was many of their teammates’ last high school cross country competiton.
“I just kept thinking I don’t want to make it my last race ever. I want to go longer with my girls,” said Myers as she fought back tears. I don’t want to leave them. All these girls worked so hard, and I wanted them to see what it can bring them.”
“I pushed myself really hard today because I wanted this race, “said an emotional Maas. “It means a lot to my teammates and they all wanted it too. Two of them are really good but they’re seniors so they can’t race again. I want to congratulate them for working so hard. They did great throughout the entire season.”
Eldred senior Alex Campanella had the fourth fastest time out of all runners on the day and was Sullivan County’s only individual first place finisher, claiming the top spot in his Class D race despite a number of setbacks to his training over the past year. Campanella fractured his left ankle during his outdoor track season last spring. This fall he contracted mono and suffered the loss of his grandmother.
“This season actually hasn’t been exactly what I wanted but I had a good day today,” said Campanella, who will likely run for DePaul University next year. “I had to run this course three times before I won on it and I can use any excuse in the world like I have mono, or I had a stress fracture, or my grandma died whatever, but it doesn’t really change the fact that I didn’t run the way I should have all season.
“It’s nice to know that I can still really race, not just run fast, but really race. I had a nasty cramp the whole time which was kind of worrying me, but it’s not an excuse to let up and there’s never an excuse to run like I did two weeks ago at the county [when he finished eighth]. I just ran miserable. My head wasn’t in it, and I wasn’t where I needed to be, but I’m excited to go to states and regionals and maybe do something big,” he added.
Campanella was not the only athlete running with discomfort. After a Sullivan West runner forgot his uniform the enitre boys’ team was forced to squeeze into the uniforms of their female counterparts for their Class C race.
“It was kind of hard running because the girls’ uniform was constantly putting pressure on my chest.” said Sullivan West senior Reed Scott.
Scott still fared well despite his restrictive athletic wear. He was the fastest Sullivan County finisher, and fourth overall in his class C competition, advancing to the state meet Saturday at Elma Meadows Golf Course near Buffalo.
All members of the first place team in each class as well as the top five other finishers qualified for the state meet. For Sullivan County, the qualifiers were: (girls’) the Tri-Valley team of Autumn Bender, Brittany Pennell, Danielle Graham, Sabrena Smith, Brooke Gillette, Ali Reynolds, Keira McHugh; Sullivan West’s Dani Myers and Kelsey Dutton; Eldred’s Kayla Maas. Campanella, teammate David Powers and Scott were the only boys moving on.
Not as lucky was Monticello’s top runner, junior, Joe Klein who admitted to feeling nauseous before the race and completed the course 36 seconds slower than he did just ten days earlier.