Pearl River’s Kelly Hayes crossed the finish line at a recent race for another first-place finish, but the junior didn’t celebrate. She didn’t triumphantly raise her arms. She didn’t even smile.
Instead, she immediately turned and kept running back along the race path so she could encourage some of her teammates as they made their way to the final stretch.
“That’s what she’s all about,” said Pearl River Head Coach Dan Doherty. “We’ve had a lot of success and a lot of great runners, but she’s really turning out to be the best one we’ve ever had.”
Hayes finished first in last week’s three-team meet at Pearl River Middle School between the Pirates, Clarkstown South and Nanuet. Her time 18:26 set a course record, but for Hayes, she was far more concerned with her team’s result overall.
“I was running completely for my team,” she said after the race. “This is all a team thing. I just knew every step was just about my team and trying to win the race.”
It’s thinking like that that led Hayes to cross the finish line and keep running so she could cheer on her team, despite some heavy rainfall.
“I’m one of the older girls on the team, especially in a race where it’s all about your team, you have to go in and cheer every single one of them one because they all need something,” she said.
While one of the more experienced runners on the team, Hayes, a junior, is actually just in her second year running cross country after running track in the winter and spring of her freshman year.
“I just like running,” she said.
The Pirates won that Pearl River Middle School meet as they have won all six dual meets they’ve participated in this year. Actually, the Pearl River girls cross county team hasn’t lost a meet since 1990, something Hayes said is definitely in the back of her mind.
“It’s hard, but it’s motivation too,” she said.
Hayes has been impressive in invitational meets this season as well, including a first-place overall finish in the Class C race at the 40th Annual Manhattan Invitational this past Saturday as the Pirates won the team title. She took first overall at the Fordham Prep Developmental Meet, the 3rd Annual Six Flags Wild Safari Cross Country Invitational, Darlington Invitational, Briarwood Invitational, and Breen Invitational.
Hayes has been a standout for Pearl River in track and field since making states as a freshman. She teamed with Molly Shine, Danielle Muchoe, Maria Kohlbrenner to earn All-American honors by finishing fifth in the girls distance medley relay in a time of 12:01.43 at the National Scholastic Sports Foundation New Balance Outdoor Track & Field National Championsip at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, NC in June
Hayes has done her part to keep up the Pirates winning ways in their regular dual meets, finishing first in all six. And if that’s not enough, she’s made sure to help and motivate her teammates in anyway she can. Even if that means running a few extra hundred meters or so.
“She’s just having a fantastic season and she deserves every bit of it because she’s very dedicate and she works very hard,” Doherty said. “She does whatever you ask her to do, always at 110 percent. As long as she can stay healthy, it’s all paying off for her.”
The Pirates will compete for the league championship 4:45 p.m. today at Bear Mountain.