The final straightaway on Bethpage State Park’s 5K cross-country course hadn’t been kind to South Side’s Kieran McCarthy during the regular season, but his fortune changed Oct. 26 on the big stage that was the Nassau County championships.
McCarthy and Jericho’s Jose Velasquez went stride-for-stride throughout the last 1000 meters before the Cyclones’ junior used a late kick to win a thrilling Class II race in then-personal best 16-minutes, 45.7-seconds. Velasquez (16:51.0) held off a closing Scott Pourshalchi (16:54.7) of Roslyn for second.
“I lost a few close races earlier in the season,” McCarthy said. “I’m glad it didn’t happen again.
“It’s a dream come true,” he added. “I know some coaches who won a county championship and always wondered what it would feel like. It feels great to be in that group.”
McCarthy, who became South Side’s first county champ since Brian Reilly in 2006, said he took the advice of coach Chris Webster and stayed within the first 10 spots of the pacesetter right from the gun.
“I knew Kieran had a shot, and I felt good about him finishing somewhere in the top three,” Webster said. “He reached down deep in the last 200 meters.
“The final stretch was lined with people yelling and cheering,” he added. “Races aren’t usually that close. It was really great.”
McCarthy said the crowd gave him the extra mental push he needed. “It really motivated me to hear everyone,” he said.
The following week, McCarthy ran another personal best, clocking 16:17 in the state qualifier meet. The time was good enough for fourth all-time in South Side program history — Reilly is first at 15:54 — as well as a trip to the state meet at Queensbury High School.
“Unfortunately there was no county championship last year because of Superstorm Sandy,” Webster noted. “Kieran was one of our top varsity runners going back two years ago when he was a freshman, and I know he had high expectations for himself coming into this his junior year.”
At the state meet, on a 35-degree day Nov. 9, McCarthy finished an impressive 32nd in Class B and was fourth among all runners from Nassau County. “The state meet is such a prestigious event,” he said. “It was an adrenaline rush competing against the best kids all around the state.”
Webster said McCarthy’s accomplishments didn’t come as a big surprise. “His success is very much a product of work ethic and discipline,” Webster said. “His performance in the state meet was a great way for him to finish the season.”