Pierson Runners Finish Their Seasons At The New York State Championships

Pierson senior Abby Sherwood heads down the final stretch of Saturday's race. DREW BUDD

The Pierson girls cross country team, and a pair of boys in senior P.J. Ramundo and sophomore Justin Gardiner, may not have returned home to Sag Harbor with state titles, but they were able to finish their seasons at the New York State Championships — which not many runners in the state can say they did.

Eighth-grader Sara O’Brien was the first Pierson runner to cross the finish line of the New York Class D Championship race on Saturday. DREW BUDD

The Pierson girls, who earned their trip to the state meet by winning the Suffolk County Class D title, took to the 5K course at Chenango Valley Golf Course first on Saturday. The girls finished seventh out of eight teams, led by their eighth-grade phenom runner Sara O’Brien, who crossed the finish line in 22:11.6, which placed her 47th overall.

Abby Sherwood, the lone senior for the girls, finished 83rd in 25:11.9, followed by sophomore Hannah Ramundo (86th/25:28.4), eighth-grader Luna Desir (93rd/25:58.3), junior Maddie Cohen (95th/27:16.8), eighth-grader Sabrina McManus (96th/27:27.9) and junior Lizzie Hallock (99th/28:04.2).

Head coach Jim Kinnier said he was surprised by how many personal bests the girls had given the conditions, with rain and temperatures in the 40s making for a soft course.

“They had a great race today. Very proud of all of them,” he said. “They’ve been running since the end of June and today they capped it off with a fantastic race. Conditions like this it’s really about determination and they showed it.”

Pierson sophomore Hannah Ramundo. DREW BUDD

Both Ramundo and Sherwood had been to the state meet two years ago, but other than them, the rest of the team was at the state meet for the first time.

“It was just different actually staying in a hotel instead of taking a bus to get here,” O’Brien said. “It was a different course and everything since we’ve never been here.

“It was nice, I feel like, because we have a good group of girls this year and I love everyone that I’m running with and to come up and spend the day it was really fun,” Ramundo said.

Sherwood had to battle through some injuries the past few seasons, so to finish her career at the state meet was exciting for her.

“I kept looking at the clock and seeing if I could beat my time this year, and I was able to, which felt amazing to have my personal record for this year and just happy to finish string and be with my team,” she said.

Kinnier said Sherwood played a vital role on the team this season.

“She’s had a great career, especially when you factor in the determination factor to run in pain, which is what she’s done,” he explained. “And it’s not the type of pain that’s an injury, it’s just a chronic thing unfortunately. For her, it’s been hard. This is her third season and the team is super cohesive and she is the single reason. I play a role, of course, then you need leadership on the team and she’s been just that. And the fact that she ran her best time today, I’m very, very happy for her, that she ends her career this way. It’s unfortunate that pain has made her slower than she would have been otherwise, but when you factor everything in, couldn’t be any more prouder.”

Pierson senior P.J. Ramundo finished 31st overall in the New York State Class D Championship race on Saturday. DREW BUDD

P.J. Ramundo and Gardiner ran in the second-to-last race of the day, the boys Class D race, on Saturday, when the rain started to become more steady and the course was in rough shape after six of the eight races had been completed. Ramundo placed 32nd in 18:10.2 and Gardiner finished 52nd in 18:39.

Both runners had bit of different outlooks on their finishes, at least initially. Ramundo wanted to finish in the top 24 to earn All-State honors and he missed his goal by just over 10 seconds. But after having some time after the race to think about it he wasn’t too disappointed.

According to boys head coach Joe Amato, Ramundo had the best finish at states by a Pierson boys in nearly two decades, since Ben Miller placed 24th in the state in 2003.

“Overall, it was a fun race, it was a good experience,” he said. “We don’t get a lot of these races down on Long Island, so it’s nice to experience something like this, especially a state race. It was a little cold, like around 43 degrees, and it was drizzling and the rain got harder in the race. A lot of the hills were normal, but going downhill where the turns are so sharp, people go over them and shred them up real bad, so that was a little muddier and muckier than I was expecting.”

Pierson sophomore Justin Gardiner finishes his final race of the season strong at the New York State Championships. DREW BUDD

Gardiner was all smiles after his race. He was seeded to finish 102nd and finished 50 spots better so he was pumped.

“I did really well, had my fastest time, and you want to strive to get a PR,” he explained. “It was definitely one of the most energizing atmospheres I’ve ever been in. The last stretch down the shoot where everybody is just screaming it really helped me out.”

Gardiner will now take over the top spot on the boys team with Ramundo graduating in June. He said he’s excited to do that and is looking forward to next season with the rest of the team returning.

Amato said the team is certainly going to miss Ramundo, who said he does plan on running in college and will be the third runner in the past year to do so after Ben McErlean (Manhattan College) and Thomas Schiavoni (SUNY Purchase).

“P.J. Ramundo was arguably the best captain, leader I ever had,” he said. “I can’t say enough about P.J. He was a tremendous role model for our boys, a year-round runner, did everything I asked him to do. He was a swimmer three years ago and he made that transition to running and I think he reaped the benefits of that.

“Overall, I’m so proud of these kids,” he added. “It was the first year in a long time that the kids ran over the summer. They exceeded their predictions. If you had asked where we would fall, I don’t think a lot of people would have picked us to be so close to Southold. But we beat them at counties after losing the league to them so they exceeded predictions from the beginning of the year.”