Long Island Girls' Preview
North Shore has been the cross country representative to the national scene in recent years, but after finishing ninth at the Nike Cross Nationals each of the last two years, it would seem that the Vikings would be hard-pressed to continue that streak. But while Coach Neal Levy lost two sensational runners — Samantha Nadel and Brianna Nerud — to graduation, his squad will still be among the top teams in New York State.
But the local question is this, who is better right now, Suffolk or Nassau County? The answer to this question probably depends on where you live. Five years ago the answer was a easily Suffolk County, but with the emergence of North Shore and Garden City, the two seem to be a lot closer now. It looks like Suffolk is a tick stronger, but Nassau is coming on strong of late. Here are the picks:
Long Island Girls' Pre-Season Top Five
1. North Shore (Nassau County — Section 8)One of the best teams in the country the last two years, North Shore lost both Samantha Nadel (Georgetown) and Brianna Nerud (Syracuse) to graduation, but still finds itself atop The Armory Long Island rankings. With Elizabeth Caldwell and Jessica Donohue both back to lead the Vikings, they should once again be one of the best teams in New York State. But getting back to Nike Cross Nationals? That shall be a tall order.
2. St. Anthony's (Suffolk County — CHSAA)The Friars bring back six of seven from last year's squad which easily won the CHSAA title and placed 13th at Federations. Seniors Kerrie-Anne Flynn and Alexandra Russo should both have a chance at winning their first CHSAA title while the team should have no problem defending their title. The question is can the Friars finish in the top 10 at Federations? With a little improvement they could be in the mix for a top-five finish.
3. Garden City (Nassau County — Section 8)Garden City has had some of the best 4x4 and 4x8 relay teams in the country over the last four years, but has never been a power in cross country. That has now changed. With sisters Stephanie and Jennifer Gerland leading the way, the Vikings could challenge North Shore for the Section 8 Class B title. They are ranked fourth in NYS Class B, but will have a hard time overtaking Holy Names for the top spot. Yet anything is possible.
4. Northport (Suffolk County — Section 11)Historically one of the best girls' teams on the Island, Northport welcomes back six of seven from last year's squad. They have some nice up-front strength in Brigid Brennan and some great depth as well. The emergence of Connetquot will make winning the Section 11 title that much more difficult, but these Tigers have the talent to do it.
5. Connetquot (Suffolk County — Section 11)Coaches love bringing back their entire top seven and that's exactly what the Thunderbirds are doing this fall. Led by juniors Jessica Smillie and Erin Melly, they'll have their hands full with Northport and will need to watch out for perennial powers Ward Melville, Sachem East and Bay Shore.
Girls' Top 10 Returners To The Island• Jessica Donohue, North Shore
• Elizabeth Caldwell, North Shore
• Tiana Guevara, Miller Place
• Brigid Brennen, Northport
• Stephanie Gerland, Garden City
• Victoria D'Amato, Northport
• Courtney Williams, Ward Melville
• Jennifer Gerland, Garden City
• Mary Welsh, Manhasset
• Katie Saroka, Bayport-Blue Point
Other Potential Stars• Jessica Smillie, Connetquot
• Kelly Lavan, Sachem North
• Henna Rustami, Syosset
• Jessica Ball, West Islip
• Kathleen Naeher, Kings Park
• Deidre Connor, Smithtown
• Victoria Ingram, Smithtown
• Erin Melly, Connetquot
• Jazmine Fray, Kellenberg
• Caroline Brown, Holy Trinity
• Delaney Worth, St. Anthony's