Pierson’s Penelope Greene, Gavin Ehlers Of Westhampton Beach Win First-Ever Invitational At Mashashimuet Park

Pierson's Penelope Greene and Jackie Amato of Westhampton Beach were among the first group of runners.

Penelope Greene had all the motivation she needed to win what was the first cross country invitational at Mashashimuet Park on Friday: It was the final race of her cross country career in her hometown of Sag Harbor.

The Pierson senior did just that, finishing the 2.85-mile girls race in 17:44.21.

Pierson senior Penelope Greene won the girls race in 17:44.21.

Greene confirmed not too long after completing what was her biggest race of the season that she felt she needed to win to represent her school and town. Her game plan was to stick with Westhampton Beach senior Jackie Amato, daughter of Pierson boys cross country head coach Joe Amato, and East Hampton freshman Dylan Cashin, who held the early lead after the opening gun.

Amato, a two-time state qualifier, placed second overall, in 17:56.58, while Cashin placed third, in 18:25.91. William Floyd’s Alanis Gonzalez and Alaysia Cobb rounded out the top five, finishing in 19:01.88 and 19:23.66, respectively.

“I was sticking with Jackie Amato and Dylan Cashin and said, ‘All right, I’ll stay with this pack as much as I can,” Greene explained. She added she was able to build her lead by about the end of the first lap, and then increased it the second time the runners went over Flag Hill.

Greene’s next big race won’t be until the county championship on April 22 at Sunken Meadow Park in Kings Park, where she and her Whaler teammates will have an opportunity to win a Class D title.

Keira Falvey of Westhampton Beach placed sixth overall, in 19:27.42, and was followed by East Hampton’s Ryleigh O’Donnell (19:34.06) and Emma Hren (19:49.88), Pierson’s Brooke Esposito (19:58.55), and William Floyd’s Aaliyah Jordan (20:06.13).

Westhampton Beach junior Gavin Ehlers won the boy’s race, in 14:37.02. The Hurricanes had three runners finish in the top five, seven in the top 10. Max Haynia finished second, in 14:46.06, and Trevor Hayes finished fifth overall, in 15:19.

Port Jefferson, which is nationally ranked, had its top two runners, Grant Samara and Brian Veit, finish third and fourth, in 14:47.67 and 15:05.64, respectively.

Ehlers deflected all individual accolades, such as winning Friday’s race, and instead focused on the fact that his teammates have been able to keep up with him in all of their races so far this season.

“We’ve been able to go one-two-three in all of our dual meets so far,” he said. “It’s been nice to go out, pack up us three at the top of the race. It’s going to come in really handy come the county meet.

“To be able to stick together like that, I think it’s a really good way to get going, get used to that pack mentality in big races. I also think it helps pull the younger guys to the front, so it’s been really nice.”

Ehlers, who was recently named by Newsday as one of the top 25 boy runners on Long Island, is one of the favorites to win a division and county title, and he’s looking forward to both races, which will be April 13 and 21 at Sunken Meadow. He’s personally looking forward to the division race more, since he’ll be able to compete against Eastport-South Manor’s Michael Silveri there.

“I’m looking forward to going head to head with him,” he said. “It’s always great to race him.”

Pierson’s P.J. Ramundo and Danny Alvarado of Westhampton Beach race toward the finish line.

Pierson senior Ben McErlean finished Friday’s race sixth overall, in 15:39.40. His teammate P.J. Ramundo went down the entire final home stretch with Danny Alvarado of Westhampton Beach, and both crossed at 15:55. Rudy Scala of Westhampton Beach finished ninth, in 16:14.12, and East Hampton’s Brayan Rivera rounded out the top 10, in 16:37.02.

Pierson boys head coach Joe Amato, who help create the invitational along with girls head coach Jim Kinnier, said he was pleased with how everything went. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Amato said he had to limit last week’s meet to 48 athletes and coaches for both boys and girls races, but, if he’s able to, the plan is to expand the meet in the future and make it an annual event.

“I think it went really smoothly. I think after the year that we had, with the pandemic, the kids and really the community deserved something like that,” he said. “There were a lot of smiles all the way around, and it was nice to see everyone out and about.”