Kaylyn Forbes went into the state qualifying cross-country meet at Bethpage State Park on Nov. 4 with a mission.
The Hewlett junior was fresh off an eighth-place performance in the county championships one week earlier, running a 5-kilometer time of 20:25 – good enough to qualify as an All-County athlete. But now she had another goal in mind: to become the second girl in program history to crack the 20-minute milestone.
Forbes finished the race at 19:41, a personal record that was enough to qualify her not only for the state championships last Saturday at Wayne Central High School in upstate Ontario Center, but to run at the national competition.
“She went out there, had the race of her life,” coach Stephen Honerkamp said. “Kaylyn has always been a good runner, but when she realized that she could really put on a big push on the end of her races, she really started running away from kids.”
It was one of several highlights for Hewlett’s cross-country program, whose boys’ and girls’ teams finished undefeated in their respective divisions (6-0) within Conference 3, according to Honerkamp.
The squads each boasted two All-County athletes. Senior Shirley Leshem joined Forbes, finishing 14th overall at the Oct. 28 county meets. Senior Zachary Gladstein (15th) and sophomore David Durdaller (16th) earned the distinction on the boys’ side.
All season long, Honkerkamp noted the improvement his runners showed from race to race. And that was no exception when they returned to the track for the state qualifying meet one week later.
On the boys’ side, an average race time of 18:15 between Durdaller, Gladstein, freshman Alexander Niyazov, junior Ian Acriche and sophomore Gabriel Osiashvilli was good for fifth overall as a team.
The girls finished seventh overall as a team in the same meet, boosted by Forbes’s record time. “Even teams that beat us in counties, we came right back the next week and beat them,” Honerkamp said.
And with the majority of his runners returning next year on both squads, Honerkamp said he’s excited to see his runners continue to improve. “The story has really been confidence,” said Honerkamp. “They’ve been working hard each week. Different kids stepped up and we’ve had good results. They really care about what they do and we’ve just gotten better.”
Another runner whose race-to-race progress has been indicative of Hewlett’s growth is freshman Kira Grossman, who Honkerkamp noted began the season running at around a 28-minute clip.
Now, the coach said, she’s clocking in at the lower 22-minute mark. “She’s going to be a good runner when she really realizes what she’s capable of,” Honerkamp said. “To improve five, six minutes in one season is pretty drastic.”