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Big finish for East Meadow runners

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It was a banner day for East Meadow’s cross-country programs on April 17 when the girls finished Nassau Class 1 runner-up to Syosset, and Zach Van Houten captured the boys’ county championship.

Van Houten, who will run at the next level at Hofstra University, dominated the field in the Class 1 race at Eisenhower Park. His winning time of 15 minutes, 19.2 seconds was more than nine seconds better than runner-up Vincent Simonetti of Massapequa. Had there been a state meet this season, Van Houten would’ve qualified for a third time.

“Nobody was really close to Zach all season,” East Meadow coach Michael Ringhauser said. “Some kids hung with him for the first few miles, but Zach always finds an extra gear for the last mile and pulls away. He loves running and is a real student of the sport.”

Van Houten finished 7th in the county as a sophomore and placed 4th as a junior. He played soccer in the fall as a freshman, Ringhauser noted. “Zach does everything it takes to be the best he can be,” the coach said. “He trained hard through the pandemic and has an inspiring work ethic that rubs off on other kids.”

Junior Nick Chimienti stepped up as the Jets’ No. 2 runner and was a big reason why they finished the regular season with a 10-3 record and placed fourth in Class 1. Chimienti earned All-County by finishing 21st in the Class 1 race in a pinch over 17 minutes. “Nick put in a great amount of work and is a disciplined runner who executes his game plan,” Ringhauser said. “He has potential to be a top 10 finisher next season.”

In addition to Van Houten and Chimienti, East Meadow had Samir Khan, Matt Rice, Sam Lam, Kyle Samida, and Dan DeGregori earn All-Conference honors.

On the girls’ side, the Jets had six All-County finishers led by junior standout Leslie Villafuerte-Castro, who finished 3rd (19:30.91) in the Class 1 championship race. It was her second straight All-County campaign. She was a state qualifier in the fall of 2019.

“Leslie doesn’t shy away from big moments,” Ringhauser said. “She likes to test herself and measure herself against the top competition.”

The next five Jets (seniors Megan Sohl and Ella Foster, junior Silvia Ronemus and sophomores Dakota Eira and Becca Silverman) always ran in a pack, the coach said, and rarely finished in the same order. “Each week a different one would finish as our No. 2,” Ringhauser said. “They ran in a pack and worked together.”

East Meadow went 12-1 and won its first division title since 2016. Silverman was 15th in the county, Eira, a first-year runner, cut a minute off her previous best time and finished 16th, Sohl was 17th, Ronemus placed 19th, and Foster crossed the line 22nd. They all ran between 20:38 and 20:55.