All through the 2023 fall campaign, the Oceanside boys’ cross-country team quite literally ran through its competition en route to a perfect 13-0 record in the regular season.
However, Oceanside fell a little short at the Nassau County Class I Championships Oct. 28 at Bethpage State Park, placing third overall behind Port Washington and Syosset.
“Of course, there's a little bit of disappointment in it,” Oceanside coach Al Lyson said. “Ultimately, what do we run for? You want to win the big one. But at the same time, I’m very proud of how hard these guys worked.”
Despite the team's shortcoming at the end, senior Jason Kerber placed first in the field of 140 runners. With a final time of 16:00.08, the All-County runner finished the race 30 seconds ahead of the next closest competitor.
That’s not necessarily surprising, though. In each race Oceanside has run this season, Kerber hasn’t placed lower than second.
“He's won, basically, every race we've been in,” Lyson said. “He doesn't need much in the way of motivation. He's all in. There's very little I have to tell him. He’s just a competitive guy who always wants to win and do the best he can. He's just he's an incredible he's an incredible runner, and I expect huge things from him going forward.”
To achieve such astounding results, Kerber has made the words “work” and “effort” synonymous with his name.
“Being as competitive as he is and wanting to win so much makes him work that much harder in practice and go that extra mile,” Lyson said. “He does the extra little parts of the workouts we have so he can go a little bit faster. All those things absolutely worked to his advantage. It’s what all the great ones do.”
A competitive nature like Kerber’s lends itself to an individualistic sport like cross country. At the same time, Oceanside still ran as a team and had a strong showing in the county championships.
Upperclassmen Tristan Cuevas, Cole Rinn, James Healy, Tyler DeCiantis and Alfredo Molina all placed within the top 50, with sophomore Kevin Fernandez joining them as well. Meanwhile, although fellow sophomore Jonathan Davi finished 61st, Lyson says there’s reason to believe he’ll be one of the next stars for Oceanside in the coming years.
The same can be said of DeCiantis, who placed 35th in the county championship. “He is a super-talented runner,” Lyson said. “He's definitely a top 10 runner in the county. He was our number two runner pretty much all year. He split his time between soccer and cross country, and that took time away from either one. I would love to have him full-time.”
There lies the truth about cross country. Unlike other sports, there is no place to hide. You get out of it what you put into it, and your place in the final standings says all it needs.
“Cross country is very unique,” Lyson said. “ The clock doesn't lie.If you ran one time, one week, and you beat that time the next week, regardless of whether you won or lost, you did your personal best. There's a lot of satisfaction in that, and I think that's what a lot of the guys try to accomplish.”