Gates Chili senior Pellegrino's run for redemption at cross country Federations

In a stretch of 19 minutes and change, Gates Chili senior Kyra Pellegrino turned her last high school cross country season around from a crushing disappointment two weeks ago to an "ecstatic" high Saturday.

"I am really excited," she said by phone, riding back home after finishing in the top 20 and medaling in the state federation girls race in Poughkeepsie. The hilly 3.1-mile Bowdoin Park course high above the Hudson River proved very much to her liking.

"This was redemption," she said.

Pelligrino was 17th among 275 others. Her finishing time was 19 minutes, 23.5 seconds. While that might seem less than exceptional, after missing a trip to the state meet by 13 seconds and feeling the lowest ever after a seventh place at sectionals, she said she had something to prove.

"After sectionals," she said, "I didn’t think I'd even get nominated for Feds since I didn't go to states. When I found out last Saturday, I was determined to prove something. Hills are my thing, and I've run there before, so I knew what to expect.

"This is real cross country. Go out hard and hold on. That’s just what I did.”

Pelligrino's was the highest finish among 23 of the Rochester area's best high school boys and girls, up against public, private and parochial schools' athletes from the around the state and New York City.  She also placed in the top 35 all-time of Section V girls place-finishers at the meet, held for the last 52 years except 2018 (snowstorm) and 2020 (COVID).

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Gates Chili senior Kyra Pellegrino (center, bib number 104) and others during the Section V Class A Girls Cross County Championships inside Letchworth State Park.
Gates Chili senior Kyra Pellegrino (center, bib number 104) and others during the Section V Class A Girls Cross County Championships inside Letchworth State Park.

Rush-Henrietta junior Christian Wescott finished 23rd in a personal-best 16:43.1 to lead 12 area boys entered.

Pellegrino’s sectional performance at Letchworth State Park, in 19:50.7, was more than a minute slower than Class A race winner Ari Reback, a Fairport junior, and almost a minute slower than Pellegrino's time on the same course at sectionals the year before.

"It got into my head the night before," Pellegrino said. "I was violently sick from nerves. It took a lot out of me.

"People were telling me all week 'you have to win, you just have to.' I didn’t handle it. I knew during the race I didn't have it. I was just telling myself, 'you have to finish. Just finish.’ ”

Saturday Reback was 27th, nine seconds back of Pellegrino, leading Fairport's team to 11th among 30 full teams entered. Pellegrino also outran Reback by 22 seconds at the Monroe County coaches invitational two weeks before sectionals.

With his wife, Tammie, driving, because his surgically repaired knee was throbbing, Gates Chili boys coach Dean Myslivecek made the almost five-hour trip from Rochester to support Pellegrino. He was representing GC's girls coach, Lisa Cerretto, who couldn't attend. It was just two days after Myslivecek had total knee replacement surgery.

"I refused to miss her race," he said. "She so badly wanted to make a point. We basically let her do her own thing this week. She knows what she's doing. She trains for hills at Black Creek and Northampton parks.

"It was a redemptive race for sure. Bittersweet for me, too. I'm retiring from teaching and coaching in June, so this is my 16th and last year doing cross country after doing soccer for 12."


NYS Federation of Secondary Schools Athletic Association championships

3.1-mile open loop course at Bowdoin Park, Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County


Full teams (31): 1. Monroe Woodbury Sec. II 109. Sec. V  11. Rush-Henrietta 364.

Individuals (274): 1. Collin Gilstrap (Monroe-Woodbury) 15:51.3. Sec. V finishers: 23. Christian Wescott (R-H) 16:43.1, 35. Connor Domoy (Oakfield-Alabama) 16:50.5, 39. Drew Reigelsperger (Naples/Bloomfield) 16:56.4, 59. Jude Rischpater (Naples/Bloomfield) 17:09.2, 81. Mikey Flannery (R-H) 17:23.3, 89. Pierce Young (Arkport-Canaseraga/Alfred-Almond) 17:26.8, 92. Mike Taranto (Fairport) 17:28.3, 130. Bayley Herman (R-H) 17:52.7, 140. Sam Adamson (R-H) 17:58.8, 174. Evan Robey (R-H) 18:19.7, 185. Sam Lewis (R-H) 18:27.8, 252. Sam Yacob (R-H) 19:34.5.


Full teams (30): 1. Saratoga Springs-II 20. Sec. V  11. Fairport 312.

Individuals (276): 1. Karrie Baloga (Cornwall-IX) 17:48.7. Sec. V finishers: 17. Kyra Pellegrino (Gates Chili) 19:23.5, 27. Ari Reback (F) 19:32.1, 34. Haylie Smith (Rush-Henrietta) 19:36.8, 52. Zoe Marcus (F) 19:56.2, 55. Faith Skowvron (Addison) 19:58.0, 103. Katelyn Wilkes (Midlakes) 20:53.3, 129. Mattea Keller (F) 21:20.0, 148. Madeline Hansen (F), 156. Jenna Franklin (Arkport-Canaseraga/Alfred-Almond) 21:42.1, 162. Hannah Casler (F) 21:48.7, 260. Mary Kate Fish (F) 24:28.0.

Complete results online at

Jim Castor, retired assistant sports editor of the Democrat and Chronicle, has covered running in the Rochester area for more than five decades. He can be reached at

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: How Section V runners performed at NYS Federation Championships