Brown Invitational: Big Day for Big Apple

The Brown University HS Northeast Invitational takes place in Rhode Island, but it sure felt like New York on Saturday.

In the 12 races held at Goddard Memorial State Park, the Empire State captured eight team titles and eight individual victories, five of which came in the varsity races.

One of the most exciting races of the afternoon occurred in the Championship Girls where Benjamin Cardozo senior Denise Branch out-sprinted Tiana Guevera of Miller Place (N.Y.) the final long straightaway to win with a time of 17 minutes, 52.2 seconds for the fast, five-kilometer course. Guevera was second at 17:53.8. New York’s Brigid Brannan of Northport was third to lift her team to a 69-75 victory over Miller Place.

Branch, who was tenth in the Eastern States Championship at last week’s Manhattan Invitational, took the patient approach.

“Tiana led the race for the first two miles and I decided to let her do that because I knew if I was going to hold the pace from the very beginning it would have been very, very hard to finish because I know she’s a good runner and anything could happen,” she said. “I just stuck with her the first two miles and the last mile I said I just got to take it from here.”

“She actually went according to race plan,” said distance coach Ray James. “Her plan was to be with them after the first 800 and stay with the lead girls, whoever they are. We knew there was some good competition. At the two-mile mark, I told her to put pressure on whoever is at the front and take the lead, pressure them.  I said don’t commit until you are able to hold that pace right to the finish line. That’s exactly the way the race plan went.”

Marco Pompilj of the Collegiate School (N.Y.) was able to sustain a quick, early pace to break the tape in the Championship Boys’ race.  He was clocked in 15:13.4, just 30-meters ahead of St. Benedict (N.J.) sophomore Edwin Rutto, who was timed in 15:17.4.

“The race started really fast,” Pompilj said. “We hit our first mile in 4:45. There was two or three people right on us. Everyone was really putting their work in.”

Pompilj battled the Kenyan-born Rutto for most of the final mile and didn’t take the lead until the last 200 meters.

“(Rutto) took over the lead of the race and he started going off,” he said. “I just tried to not let go and not get caught behind.  I wasn’t sure I could do it, but that was the decision I had to make. I was scared I was going to let go, but that split decision, that’s what makes the difference. When it comes down to it, when you make that decision, you better be racing.”

Cambridge Rindge Latin won the team crown, defeating last year’s champion St. Anthony’s (N.Y.), 65-85.

Shoreham-Wading River (N.Y.) senior Ryan Udvadia copped the Varsity Boys’ Division I race for the second straight year. Udvadia assumed control of the front-runner position with about a half-mile remaining and coasted across the line with a personal-best of 15:34.6. Tucker McNinch of Lenox Memorial (Mass.) placed second at 15:45.8.

“I just wanted to win,” Udvadia said. “I got some big championship meets coming up back home. I just wanted to try and be conservative.”

The SWR standout had plenty of confidence coming into the race. His victory at Brown continues an unbeaten streak this fall.

“I haven’t lost a meet yet this year,” he said. “I won about 10 meets. I wasn’t really expecting to lose this and I am not saying that in a cocky way either. I won this last year. It’s always nice to get a repeat.”

Keith Steinbrecher (16:21.8), Matthew Gladysz (16:22.6) and Connor McAlary (16:22.9) took the ninth through 11th positions as Shoreham took the top prize with a 44-64 decision over Robbinsville (N.J.).

Eighth-grader Katherine Lee of Shoreham-Wading River was a nine-second winner in the Varsity Girls’ Div. I race with a PB of 18:37.2. Claire Gomba, a junior from Hackley School (N.Y.), was second at 18:46.2. In team competition, Robbinsville beat Friends Academy (Mass.), 136-177.

“I ran so hard,” Lee said. “I was really happy. I started off with my teammate Kaitlin (Ohrtman, ninth at 19:17.4), expecting her to win because she is number one on the team.  With me being in the eighth grade nobody expected anything. It’s just wonderful.”

Lee took the lead just past the mile mark and continued to extend on it to the finish.

“I felt dead but mentally I was strong,” she said. “I just told myself I could keep going. I can do this. There is nothing stopping me.”

Shannon Ahern, a senior from King Parks (N.Y.), took the hardware in the Varsity Girls’ Div. 2 race. Ahern held off Eastport South Manor (N.Y.) freshman Taylor McClay with a time of 18:24.7. McClay finished at 18:26.8.

“I went out strong,” said Ahern, who ran a PB by nearly 30 seconds. “My legs felt good. It’s the first time in a while so it was nice finally having a kick at the end. I passed (McClay) within the last 200 meters.”

Ahern, McClay and Eastport sophomore Alexandra DeCiccio (third, 18:35.8) broke from the field early. With the race winding down, Ahern and McClay distanced themselves from DeCiccio for their battle to the finish.

For Ahern, it’s been a hectic fall season and it has nothing to do with the cross-country trails.

“The whole college process, it’s stressful,” she said. “To get relief, I just decided to race today and it felt great.”

Colonie Central (N.Y.) easily won the team crown, defeating fellow New York school Wad Melville, 59-104.

New Jersey’s Steve Maine of Highland Regional broke the streak of New Yorkers in the varsity competition by winning the Div. 2 race with an impressive 15:18.7 clocking, the third fastest time of the afternoon.  Highland also won the team title with a 59-98 victory over Monsignor Farrell (N.Y.), 53-98.

For complete coverage of the Brown Invite, click here.