The Huntington girls’ cross country team turned in a very respectful performance last weekend in the Suffern Invitational at the 5,205 acre Bear Mountain State Park. The Blue Devils raced against hundreds of runners from across the region.
Huntington finished fifth in a field of 11 teams in its division, a mere two points out of fourth place. Talented Tappan Zee captured the team title.
The Blue Devils are coming together nicely under first year head coach Beth Vogelsang, who stepped in when longtime Huntington running mentor Debra Cheskes took a child care related leave of absence from her teaching and coaching positions.
The varsity race in the Blue Devils’ division drew 96 runners and Huntington’s athletes more than held their own on the challenging three mile course at Bear Mountain.
Keily Rivas (19th place; 21:31.30), Alliy McKenzie (29th place; 22:21.80), Sophie Dellecave (39th place; 23:19.40), Hadley Clayton (44th place; 23.46.90), Christina Nigro (47th place; 23:58.70), Erika Varady (60th place; 25:34.40) and Collette Baron (65th place; 26:06.30) all ran well for Huntington. Rivas captured a medal for her sensational showing. McKenzie missed a medal by four places.
“Starting the season with a new coach was very different, but we stayed optimistic,” McKenzie said. “As we are now almost half way through the season, I see hope for some great times and races ahead. Coach Vogelsang is by far one of the best coaches and with Hadley Clayton and I as captains guiding the team, I know for sure it will be a season to remember.”
In the JV race at Bear Mountain, Huntington’s Katie Burton (33rd place; 24:16.40), Yasmin Khilji-Neal (65th place; 25:24.30) and Diya Rai-Gersappe (105th place; 26:50.40) turned in solid efforts over the three mile course. The race drew 184 contestants.
The freshman race also attracted a throng of runners, with 128 teenagers circling the 1.8 mile course. Promising Blue Devil underclassmen Valerie Rogel (26th place; 12:45.80), Ella Siepel (31st place; 12:52.20) and Kaylee Dammers (58th place; 14:04.60) provided a glimpse of their potential in the sport. Rogel took home a medal for her fine performance. Siepel missed a medal by one place.
“I feel the team is coming together really well,” Clayton said. “We all miss Coach Cheskes, but Coach Vogelsang has really stepped into her role as a coach, encouraging us all to become the best versions of ourselves. So far, the team has had many outstanding performances. Alliy McKenzie and Keily Rivas have both had huge PRs in our first two races Sophie Dellecave, Christina Nigro, Diya Rai, Erika Varady and Colette Barron have also been running great races!”
The Blue Devil program continues to gather momentum. “This year we have many new members and all of them have stepped up to the plate,” Clayton said. “Freshman Valerie Rogel, Ella Siepel, and Kaylee Dammers have all been huge assets to the team, running outstanding times in the first two races. Katie Burton and Yasmin Neal are new to the team this year and continue to improve immensely. Nicole Arenth and Bridgette Starr are both injured, but continue to help out the team in any way they can. We are all looking forward to a successful season, the best is yet to come!”
A Huntington High School physical education teacher, Vogelsang earned an undergraduate degree in physical education at SUNY Cortland and master’s degree in health education at West Virginia University.
Huntington has a series of upcoming meets and races at Sunken Meadow State Park. The team is engaged in daily training runs and each of the athletes has their eyes on establishing personal best times whenever they compete.
“I’m really thrilled to be on the team with so many hardworking enthusiastic girls,” Rogel said. “It’s great to see our progress and the amount of encouragement we have for each other. As for myself, I’ve really worked hard this season and I’m starting to see it pay off. I had a successful run at Sunken Meadow and Bear Mountain, so I’m excited to see how the season progresses. Coach V is so wonderful to have and she motivates us so well. It’s a wonderful first year on the team and the family aspect is like no other.”