Gimme 5! Cross Country Teams Keep Their Crowns

Dabbraccio in action earlier this season (PC: Bruce Jeffrey)

When the Bears entered the Private Schools Athletic Association in the fall of 2018, they quickly established themselves as the league’s premier running program. Yesterday afternoon, on Portledge’s home course, the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams further cemented that status by securing their fifth straight PSAA Championships in dominant fashion.

The boys came into the race with focus and motivation after falling to Portledge by a single point on the S.T. Hsaio home course in September. In the rematch, the Bears benefitted from the services of Duncan Kipkoech who, despite enrolling over the summer and taking classes since the beginning of the school year, did not arrive on campus until a few weeks ago due to visa challenges. He made an immediate impact as he blazed to a winning time of 14:27 on the 2.5-mile trail to lead The Brook to a 24-point total and a victory over Portledge (39), Solomon Schechter (85), and Kew-Forest (100).

Zack Xu surged to a second-place finish, dropping his time by 37 seconds on Portledge’s course in less than a week. On October 27, he took third behind Portledge’s Tyler Wasserman in a time of 15:17, trailing the Panthers’ top runner by 16 seconds. Yesterday, despite Wasserman dropping seven seconds from his October 27 mark, Xu outpaced him by 15 seconds in a time of 14:40 to set a strong early tone for the Blue & White. Roger Zhou (7th/16:18), Will Zeron (10th/16:58), and Marc Nichitiu (11th/17:10) rounded out the Bears’ scoring while Jason Qian (14th/17:29) and Nathan Stortz (15th/17:32) joined their teammates on the All-PSAA list.

The victory was the boys’ 44th league title in the storied history of the program and their first string of five consecutive crowns since winning seven straight from 1971-1977, spanning the Ivy League and NYSPHSAA. It is the most consecutive PSAA titles since Packer Collegiate won six in a row from 2000-2005.

Not to be outdone, the girls also secured a fifth consecutive crown, the longest string in program history, by a perfect score. Eighth-grader Sophia Dabbraccio held off Long Island Lutheran’s own eighth-grader by five seconds in a winning time of 16:59, continuing the unbroken run of girls’ individual champions for the Bears with Sarah Wong (2018-20) and Evelyn Apazidis (2021). Apazidis came in right on the heels of Lutheran’s Maya Harrison in third place with a 17:05 mark.

Mia Trama (4th/18:32), Yasmin Tinaz (5th/19:26), and Nikki Quartuccio (6th/19:37) rounded out the scoring for The Brook, who earned a clean sweep since LuHi did not have enough runners to factor into the team scoring. Eowyn Jeffrey (8th/20:05), Ali Puopolo (9th/20:27), Autumn Nichols (10th/20:36), and Naomi Zhao (15th/21:14) joined their teammates on the All-PSAA list. The Bears’ fifth straight title also tied the league record for most consecutive wins with Packer Collegiate, who equaled the feat from 2003-2007.

Girls’ head coach Amanda Tascarella had this to say about her team’s performance:

We had huge PRs across the board. Most girls got their times down by at least 10 seconds and some shaved off up to a minute from their previous time at Portledge. Sophia and Evelyn really are the dynamic duo, and they both do such a good job at helping each other PR. The two of them had the lead until the final stretch of the last lap when Sophia shot ahead to first place and Maya Harrison from LuHi and Evelyn were neck-and-neck with Maya edging out Evelyn by less than a second, securing the bears 1st and 3rd place. In fact, nine of our 10 runners medaled by scoring in the top 15. Overall, all 10 of our girls scored in the top 20.

In one of our best performances of the season, we came out with an undefeated season and a perfect score of 15 in the PSAA Championship. Words cannot describe how proud I am of these girls. We quite literally could not have performed better.

Both teams now look ahead to the NYSAIS State Championship which will be held at Van Cortlandt Park on Monday afternoon.


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