By Bill Landon
The Middle Country girls’ cross country squad were handed the victory by forfeit, as they took on Commack Tuesday afternoon at Sunken Meadow State Park. Both teams were released together as the pack disappeared over the wooden footbridge for the 2.7-mile event, but Commack ran the wrong course, leaving the Mad Dogs the victors by a score of 50-15.
It was a multischool meet with schools from all over Suffolk County pairing off in front of a large crowd of onlookers.
Middle Country head coach Bill King said both teams were evenly matched and knew the meet would be determined by a couple of points. Nearly 20 minutes after the start of the race, the best runners of the day turned the corner and headed down the home stretch. The only problem was, it was only Commack crossing the finish line, without a Middle Country runner in sight.
King said he couldn’t understand the disparity, and Middle Country senior Olivia Rogers said the Commack runners didn’t complete the same course that her team ran.
“The times are a little messed up because Commack ran a different course than we did,” the co-captain said. “We ran a different distance than they did — they took a shortcut, so I don’t know if there’s even going to be a score.”
It turns out that King’s suspicion was right, and after a lengthy postrace investigation, the Commack runners were found to have turned off the official race route and ran a shorter distance. The Commack head coach admitted his team’s mistake and handed the victory to Middle Country.
“It should’ve been a very close meet, but I knew something was wrong when I saw them coming in one, two, three and four,” King said. “It should’ve been much closer, and the difference should have only been a couple of points [between us].”
But before the dust settled, the first across the finish line for Middle Country was senior Samantha Plunkett, who said she wasn’t happy with her performance because she had done better at her previous meet.
“I’ve run faster than I did today, so it wasn’t my best,” she said. “I ran faster two weeks ago when we versed Lindenhurst, but today, the conditions were OK.”
Crossing the line in second was sophomore Camila McCusker, who has similar feelings as Plunkett regarding her own performance.
“Today wasn’t my best — I was a couple of seconds off,” McCusker said. “It was a little hotter today than normal.”
Crossing the line for third was Rogers, followed by sophomore Kayla Juran, and finishing in the final points paying position was eighth-grader Nevaeh Kallon.
“We have a close group of girls — [myself], Camila McCusker, Kayla Juran and Samantha Plunkett,” Rogers said. “The team we versed last time was Sachem East, I think they’re the best in the county, so they pushed us really hard. We wanted to stay as close as we could with them; gain some respect.”
Middle Country competed with just nine girls, where most other teams field many more runners. King said that his team puts the emphasis on quality, not quantity.
With the win, Middle Country improves to 3-1 in League II and hits the road next for a tri-meet with Sachem North and Central Islip on Tuesday at Sunken Meadow State Park at 4 p.m.