Penelope Greene and Ben McErlean keep getting faster.
While Monday’s cross-country race at Mashashimuet Park against the Ross School was a runaway for Pierson’s top two runners, Greene and McErlean have been making names for themselves at much bigger races. They easily distanced themselves from the pack on Monday, with McErlean finishing first in the boys race in 15 minutes and 45 seconds over a makeshift 2.65-mile course at the park.
Greene, a junior who set a new school record recently on two separate occasions at Sunken Meadow State Park, won Monday’s girls race in 16:57, as both Pierson teams cruised to victory over Ross.
Back on September 30, Greene broke Hannah Jungck’s 2014 record at Sunken Meadow by three seconds with a time of 21:06. A few days later on October 4, at the St. Anthony’s Invitational, she shattered that record with a new mark of 20:23, shaving a remarkable 43 seconds off her previous best time.
“I felt strong for the whole race,” Greene said after running through her home park on Monday. “I wanted to break 21 minutes, that was my mindset. It was amazing.”
McErlean, who has led a large pack of Pierson boys runners to a 3-1 league record this season, also broke his own school record at Sunken Meadow last week with a time of 17:31 in the St. Anthony’s race.
“The whole point of the offseason, February all the way to September, was to get a really good base,” McErlean said on Monday. “Now it’s time to build strength and speed to get ready for the championship season.”
The boys team, including McErlean, will compete on Saturday at Van Cortland State Park in the Bronx in the Manhattan College Invitational, which is the largest cross-country invitational in the country with more than 10,00 runners expected to compete.
The girls team has struggled to field a complete team this season, with Greene and Abby Sherwood the only reliable runners. This week head coach Jim Kinnier decided to bring up three eighth graders in Hannah Ramundo, Helena Kolhoff and Ravenel Ellis, which means the Lady Whalers will have a shot with enough runners at winning a Suffolk County Class D Championship this season.
“Because the eighth graders came up late they have to catch up in terms of the number of races they do,” said Kinnier, whose top two runners will train this week, as opposed to race. November 8, baby, that’s the day.”
November 8, of course, is the Section XI Championships, which also serve as the state qualifier, where boys and girls cross-country athletes from across Suffolk County will compete against each other. Last year it was Greene, McErlean and Peter Schaefer who made the trip upstate, and this year that number could grow.
“I’m very proud of my boys,” Pierson coach Joe Amato said following Monday’s race. “Everybody is showing up every day. It’s a nice balance between having a competitive program and allowing student-athletes to participate. It’s not all about winning. It’s about a program that addresses all the students’ needs.
“The goal,” he added, “is to have your best races at the end of the year.”
November 8, baby.