Ice cream and hard work lead Port Washington cross country to county title

Ice cream and hard work lead Port Washington cross country to county title
Port Washington cross country runner Lukas Derasmo finished fifth in the Conference I county meet, helping lead the Vikings to the team title. Photo credit: Nancy Yee

Sometimes, it’s not the hard miles or rough terrain that makes a high school cross country runner go from good to great, from having a so-so season to being one of the best in the county.

Sometimes, it’s something completely unrelated that turns everything around.

There’s a Baskin-Robbins shop just a few long football throws from Schreiber High School, a tantalizingly-close reward/cheat opportunity if you’re a runner.

About halfway through this fall season, Port Washington junior runner Lukas Derasmo was in a slump. Like his team, Derasmo wasn’t living up the expectations he had for this year, a season coach Jeremy Klaff thought could be one of the most dominant in school history.

Derasmo wasn’t running badly, just not quite what he thought he could do.

As he expressed some frustration to Klaff one day at practice, and was unenthusiastic about working that day, Klaff gave him an unexpected command:

Get yourself to Baskin-Robbins and skip training.

So Derasmo dutifully skipped over to 31 Flavors and had himself a cup of Oreo N’ Cold Brew with rainbow sprinkles. (For the uninitiated, that’s Cold Brew-flavored ice cream packed with Oreo cookie pieces and chocolate cookie swirls.

“It’s my favorite flavor and it was delicious,” Derasmo recalled last week. “And honestly it was the turning point of my season. I just sort of mentally reset myself and started running a lot better.”

That trip for a sweet treat paid off huge dividends for Derasmo and the whole Vikings team; on Oct. 28 at Bethpage State Park, Derasmo finished fifth overall and led a quintet of fine performances as Port Washington captured the Conference I county crown.

Derasmo’s time of 17:06 led three Vikings runners in the top 15, as senior Max Marro was 10th in 17:22.49, while junior William Ahmuty was 15th in 17:37.77.

“This was a veteran group that put it together at the right time, just in time,” said Klaff. “We just had some inconsistency and injuries and little things during the season that slowed us down. But Saturday all seven of our runners stepped up.”

In winning Conference 1 for the second time in three years, Port Washington also got strong performances from senior Jake Restivo (22nd place in 17:56.98) and senior Harrison Maute (23rd place in 17:59.33)

Restivo in particular has defied the odds in running so well; last year while competing in a junior varsity race he broke the femur in his right leg, and was unable to compete the rest of the season.

He continued to support the team in spirit the rest of the season, and Klaff said Restivo constantly told him “I’m coming back from this, I’m running next year.”

Restivo made it back for last spring’s track and field meet, competing in the mile, and then almost one year to the day of his injury, Restivo ran a regular-season meet and said it felt “weird, and strange” to run there again.

This fall Restivo worked his way back into competition shape and had his personal best time at the county meet.

“It was an awesome feeling,” Restivo said. “After a year of hard work, recovery and rehab, getting my leg strong, to have the team win like this is crazy and so great.”

“That kid is amazing; one of my closest friends and he worked so hard to get back here,” Derasmo said. “I was shocked at how well he did not because I didn’t believe in him, but because of what he went through.”

The Vikings will now compete individually in the state qualifying meet, hoping to make states on Nov. 11 at Vernon Verona Sherrill High School in Verona, about 35 miles from Syracuse.

Also in the Conference I meet, Alex Kanes of Herricks finished 9th in the boys race, in 17:20.79.

The Manhasset boys cross country team again won the Conference II race, placing four runners in the Top 10 finishers, led by senior Thomas Sheerin in sixth place, in 17:06.75. Stije Huinink, Blake Sealy and Luke Giangrande were the next four finishers for Manhasset, rounding out the Top 10.

On the girls side, Port Washington finished third in Conference 1 behind Syosset and East Meadow, with junior Ashley Carillo taking second overall in 19:51.76, with teammate Eve Siff-Scheer in fourth place.

The Manhasset girls placed second in Conference II behind champion South Side, with Gabriella Devito finishing fifth in 20:40.75. Great Neck South star Isabella Spagnoli was the runner-up, in 19:28.68, while New Hyde Park’s Vallerya Rojas was 7th, and Manhasset’s Gianna Sforza was ninth.

And in Conference III, it was yet another dominating victory for the North Shore girls, winning the team event by an eye-popping 77 points. It was the 17th county title for North Shore in the past 19 years.

Shannon Flachner of the Wheatley School won the race, in 19:40.17, with North Shore’s Joanna Kenny placing second in 20:06.05. Sophia Marchioli, Bella Martocci and Chloe Connolly took places third through fifth for the Vikings as well.

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