Last Tuesday, the Scarsdale cross-country team had its league meet at Van Cortlandt Park, where the boys were trying to defend their title and the girls were looking to beat Ursuline.
The boys race went out conservatively for the first 1,200 meters, and the real race started after the runners crossed over the bridge to get into the hills. Daniel Asher found himself in the front pack with two Mamaroneck and two New Rochelle runners who have been his competition all season.
Close behind was D.J. Matusz in a battle with New Rochelle’s third man, and Jake Coleman and Alex Friedman were right behind him. The Scarsdale trio found each other in the middle of the woods and was able to surge past the New Rochelle runner in the latter stages of the race. Behind them, Simon Bandsma, Ward Bandsma and Mark Gibney ran as a solid pack.
Thanks to these performances, the boys beat Mamaroneck and won the league title for the sixth time in a row.
“We knew the boys race would be a nail-biter with Mamaroneck since they were second to us at the Westchester County meet, which was not their best performance due to a couple of sub-par races from the team,” coach Rich Clark said. “We were lucky.”
The boys averaged two seconds faster than their times in a much bigger meet earlier in the season, not to mention the weather had been much better at the earlier meet.
“The meet gave us good confidence going into sectionals and we feel fired up to face North Rockland,” Matusz said.
North Rockland is the favorite to win the Section 1 Class A and advance to states. However, the Raiders, who won its second straight Westchester County championship two weekends ago, are feeling good about their chances for an upset.
The sectional meet is at Bowdoin Park and, to prepare for this, the boys went up there this week to do a workout on the course so they know how to pace themselves and to know exactly where they are at any given point in the race. This was the team’s last hard workout before the sectional meet and now they are cutting down on their mileage so their legs are fresh for the biggest race of the season.
“We are expecting a great race in the Class A boys race,” Clark said. “There are at least five or six teams that have a legitimate chance at punching their ticket to the New York State meet with a win, and the Scarsdale boys are one of them. We will have to run a near flawless race as well as have some help from individuals in the class to beat the top contender, North Rockland. We have beaten every one of the standout teams except them.
“The Class A boys race is the first of the day and it should be a great one. I think we have the grit to win it.”
The girls also did well at the league meet, coming in second behind Ursuline. This is still a good result as it would have been a tall order to beat Ursuline, one of the top teams in the section, and it says something about the quality of the girls’ team that they were very close, falling 24-42.
“Alexandra Simon, Victoria Capobianco, Alexa Doyle, Natalyn Kapner, Lizzie Hurshman and Lea Reisel all had solid races, but Ursuline just overpowered them,” Clark said.
The girls once again had a nice pack running and the gap between their first and fifth runners was only 43 seconds.
“The league meet was not as hard as previous meets because there were not as many runners, so it was a bit easier to get out, but it was definitely not an easy race,” Alexandra Simon said. “Van Cortlandt is hilly and the rain made the course a little slippery, too, but overall I think everyone had a great race.”
These conditions were good to help the girls prepare for Bowdoin, where they will also be racing at the sectional meet. Bowdoin is a notoriously hard course, so this somewhat simulated possible race conditions for Saturday.
“I thought we ran well considering Ursuline was the favored team,” Capobianco said. “We had a really strong pack which makes me confident we can do well at the sectional meet.”
It will be extremely hard for the girls to advance because many of the top teams in the state will be racing; however, they would like to surprise some people and finish in one of the top spots which, based on a strong season, they are poised to do.
“As for the girls, they will be racing without one of their top runners and will have a battle on their hands to finish in the top five,” Clark said. “I think that they, too, can rise to the occasion.”