The Ward Melville girls cross country squad was nowhere to be found in many of the preseason ratings.
"We weren't even ranked in the state at the beginning of the season," senior Caroline O'Hea said. "But [coach Tom Youngs] kept telling us to not give up and we worked our way up."
Those teachings paid off Friday at Sunken Meadow State Park as the Patriots won their first county championship since 2007, beating out Northport and Sachem East.
O'Hea took third in Class A in 19 minutes, 19.4 seconds. Courtney Williams took fifth and Juliana Marcucci was ninth, while Brittany Williams and Sara Cottone finished 14th and 23rd for the Patriots.
"I definitely think we had the ability to win," said O'Hea, who qualified for the state championships for the fifth straight year. "We put it together at the right time."
Sachem East's Rachel Paul took first in Class A in 18:36.2.
Other Class A qualifiers include Northport's Brigid Brennan and Victoria D'Amato, Sachem East's Shannon O'Hehir and Shannon Ahern of Kings Park.
It was a sister act in Class B as sophomore twins Talia (19:20:3) and Tiana Guevara (19:26.6) took first and second.
Bayport-Blue Point emerged as team champ, however, as Katie Saroka took third in 19:44.1 and led four other Phantoms -- Courtney Dooley, Taylor Darby, Shannon O'Hara, Brianna Delzell -- who finished in the top 16.
Miller Place's Laura Nolan, Glenn's Sara Hardie and Dana Cebulski of East Hampton also qualified for the state meet in Class B.
Ryleigh Donegan took first in 20:35.5 as Center Moriches won the Class C title. The Red Devils placed four runners, including Georgia Nicholes, Molly Schaefer and Jordan Sanders, in the top seven.
Other Class C qualifiers were Kaylee Bergen and Audrey Hoeg of Mattituck, Babylon's Meaghan Pashen, Erika Gulija (Southampton) and Port Jefferson's Katharina Ross.
Southold, led by Colette Steele (21:46) with a second-place finish, won Class D. Stony Brook's Margot Rashba won the Class D individual title in 21:14.
Elena Skerys and Maya Bucker of Pierson, and Stony Brook's Alexandra Damianos and Na Yeon Kathy Kim also qualified in Class D.