Long Island teen wins U.S. cross country title


Shirley teenager Zariel Macchia earned her second under-20 cross country title in three seasons at the USATF U20 Cross Country Championships in Virginia.

The win secured the William Floyd High School junior a spot in the World U20 Cross Country Championship in Belgrade, Serbia, in March. She will be looking to improve upon her 19th place finish at last year’s world championship in Australia.

Macchia led the majority of the race on Jan. 20 and had even splits over each individual kilometer, en route to finishing her 6K win in 20:31. She came through the 5K split at 17:25 before running her fastest 1K of 3:05 to secure the title. She finished third in the same race last year and first in 2022, when she was in ninth grade.

Two days after her big win in Virginia, Macchia was named the Gatorade New York Player of the Year for Cross Country. The award celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community, and distinguishes Macchia as New York’s best high school girls cross country competitor.

Related: LI teen earns bronze medal at Pan Am games in Puerto Rico

While maintaining an eye-popping 4.3 grade point average in school, the 5-foot-9 runner has tallied an array of big wins this season. Here are some:

• Won the New York Federation Championships, breaking the tape in 17:59.4 to win by nearly 25 seconds.
• Took first at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional championship.
• Clocked a personal-best 17:01 to win the Girls Race of Champions at the Nike XC Town Twilight Invitational.
• In August, Macchia earned a bronze medal for Team USA at the Pan American Games in Puerto Rico.

At the Zeitler Relay Invitational held this month at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, Macchia helped two separate William Floyd girls’ varsity track relay teams to record-breaking wins.

Macchia, together with her teammates Karen Jackson, Destiny Samuels and Brianna Smith, set a new school record in the distance medley relay, running a 13:25.04 (eclipsing the previous school record by more than 17 seconds).

The Colonials also set a new school record in the sprint medley relay when the unit of Macchia, Allana Morgan, Samuels and Samantha Seaman finished in 4:22.69.

Top photo: Courtesy of William Floyd School District

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