East Meadow’s boys’ cross-country team finally reached the pinnacle.
Coming into this season, the Jets had never won a division, county or conference championship in cross-country despite being close in recent seasons. But thanks to a 13-0 regular season and five runners finishing in the top 20 at the a 5K race at the Section VIII Class County Championships at Bethpage State Park on Oct. 28, the program was able to call itself champions for the first time.
“The biggest key was definitely getting the team to believe in the training and the plan that we established for the season,” coach Michael Ringhauser said. “It was just a selfless team, everyone putting the team ahead of themselves. We’ve always been a team that’s right there knocking on the door and this is the team that got it done.”
Ringhauser has coached the program for 10 years and guided the team to three 12-1 records in the past five seasons while falling short to either Syosset or Port Washington for the title. East Meadow’s total time of 1:26:33.47 at Bethpage was just under a minute better than second-place Syosset and just under three minutes better than fourth-place Port Washington.
“Syosset just got out a little slow,” said Ringhauser, whose plan going into the county championships was to have a stronger start than Syosset and “take off” with three-quarters of a mile left in the race. “When we got to our point, we had the four guys in the top 10 and I just started yelling at them, ‘If you run hard from here, they can’t get you.’ You see their eyes light up and they just went for it.”
Junior captain and state qualifier John Meah, who specializes more in half-mile competitions, rallied to finish second at Bethpage with a time of 16:59.05. He was in fifth place when the field approached the polo grounds with a half-mile remaining, but found another gear and passed three other runners before falling short at the finish.
“He’s a strong competitor to win it next year,” Ringhauser said of Meah.
Junior Bryan Villafuerte was the second-best Jet runner by finishing sixth with a time of 17:13.89. Junior Glenn Newberger (17:21.07) and senior Jeremy Erman (17:21.97) finished eighth and ninth, respectively, while sophomore Matthew Owens (17:37.49) rounded out the top 20.
Ringhauser praised Owens for holding on despite being surrounded by four Syosset runners. “He knew as the fifth man, he couldn’t let them go,” he said. “He ran really tough and hung on. That’s what solidified it for us.”
All five runners earned All-County status. Senior Keith Hernandez, sophomore Paul Choi and freshman Jaydn Abraham were named to the All-Conference team.
The boys now head into the indoor winter season as the four-time defending conference champions.