A Festive Halloween

Liana Paradiso ran the challenging 5K course in 21 minutes and 39.88 seconds
Erik Engstrom, second from the right, was to finish third (and thus qualify for Saturday’s state meet) in the county Class B boys 5K championship race at Sunken Meadow Friday. Craig Macnaughton

It was a pretty festive South Fork Halloween at Sunken Meadow Park Friday as the Southampton boys cross-country team won the Class C championship; the Pierson girls defeated Shelter Island, by 5 points, to win the Class D title; Lindsey Gallagher, a Shelter Island ninth grader, finished first in the girls Class D race, and East Hampton’s Erik Engstrom qualified for the state meet as well, placing third in the boys Class B race.

East Hampton had just one entrant, Liana Paradiso, a promising ninth grader, in the girls Class B race, which was a fast one given the fact that Shoreham-Wading River, Bayport-Blue Point, and Miller Place were highly ranked statewide. Paradiso, who finished 25th, ran the challenging 5K course in 21 minutes and 39.88 seconds. Diane O’Donnell’s top runner, Dana Cebulski, was in a walking cast that day, rehabbing a recent foot injury.

Kevin Barry, East Hampton’s boys coach, said, when questioned, that Eng­strom was “a bit disappointed” that he hadn’t won a county championship (which would have been a first for East Hampton),”but it was only within the last two weeks that we were thinking he might have a chance at it — he’s improved so much this fall. He’s the hardest working runner I’ve had, by far.”

Engstrom, who’s a junior, had had wins this season over the two senior runners who finished ahead of him, Shoreham’s Matthew Gladysz and Bayport’s Shawn Bofinger, “but he went out too slow, and they drafted him for the first two miles — he did all the work,” said Barry.

“He was 20 seconds behind his division-winning pace at the halfway point. . . . Erik still has the fastest Class B time in the county, the 16:52 he ran at the division meet.”

Asked what his protégé should have done in the early part of the state qualifier race, Barry said, “He should have gone out faster and taken some of their legs out. . . . He learned from it. But winning a county championship wasn’t our goal this season — the goal was to qualify for states.”

Engstrom will run in the state meet this Saturday at the State University at Canton. “It’s way up there — a nine-hour drive,” said Barry, who’s hoping that Engstrom will finish among the top 15.

Gladysz’s win over Engstrom evened their mark at 2-2 this fall. Bofinger’s win was his first over Engstrom, who had beaten him twice in regular season dual meets.

Gladysz’s winning time was 16:55.60, Bofinger finished in 17:03.33, and Eng­strom in 17:09.66. It was the fifth straight year reportedly that a Shoreham runner had won a county championship.

Bayport-Blue Point, which is ranked seventh in the state, won the B title, with 39 points. Harborfields, which is the state’s 15th-ranked team, was second, with 69, and East Hampton was third, with 75.

As for East Hampton’s other runners, Barry said, “T.J. [Paradiso] ran his best time, 17:59. Josh [Dempsey] and Jackson [Rafferty] finished together, at 18:05. Eric Perez ran his best time too, 19:02, Sean Moucha [19:12] did too, and Geo [Espinoza] ran despite the fact he was having an allergic reaction of some kind. He was 29th, in 18:50. We took him to the Smithtown Hospital’s emergency room after the race. He’s fine now.”

As for next year, “We’ll have our top six runners coming back, and we won three freshmen meets this year with Geo, Robert Weiss, Anthony Franzone, Xavier McCormack, and Robbie Crecuta. So, it looks really good.”

Barry added that two of his former runners, Chris and Bob Reich, had run in the New York City Marathon Sunday, Chris, East Hampton’s former track coach who’s teaching at a school near Boston now, finishing in a very creditable 3:29.

Lindsay Stavola, who lives in Montauk, as does Bob Reich, ran New York too, raising money for Duchenne muscular dystrophy research. Her cousin, Terence Lightcap, has the disease. Lightcap’s mother, Grace, said in an email that raising money for research “is the only thing I can really do to help save his life.” The charity under whose banner Stavola ran is Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. Donations can be made through its website, parentprojectmd.org.

A mother and daughter from Springs, Fran and Gabrielle Kotkov, also ran in the marathon. Fran Kotkov, 64, is a breast cancer survivor. They were interviewed before the race by NBC-TV.

Another of Barry’s former runners, Linh Nguyen (LING WIN), a 1996 graduate of East Hampton High School and a 2000 graduate of Lynchburg (Va.) University, recently led the University of Toledo’s women’s cross-country team to a Mid-American Conference championship, a feat that earned him coach-of-the-year honors.

Nguyen, who’s in his first year with the Rockets, came to Toledo from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he coached teams there to numerous championships during his 12-year tenure.