Reflecting back on his running career, Shoreham-Wading River coach Bob Syzmanski described the steeplechase as the “toughest event I’ve ever done.”
Considering the length of the race (3,000 meters), and obstacles (a water pit included!), it’s no surprise Shoreham senior Keith Steinbrecher agrees with his coach on that assessment.
“I’d say it’s one of the hardest track races from what I’ve run,” Steinbrecher said. “I’m not sure about these sprinters. But for me it’s the hardest.”
“He’s not afraid,” Szymanski added. “He’ll push himself to the limit.”
Since the steeplechase isn’t part of the regular order of events in dual meets, Steinbrecher only ran the event a few times this season before Friday’s Division III Championship at Longwood High School.
He crossed the finish line in a personal best time of 9 minutes 41.97 seconds to finish just behind Miller Place senior Jeremy Miekley (9:37.8).
“I don’t really prepare for it too much,” Steinbrecher said. “I think I might have done one hurdle workout the entire season.”
Miekley went out fast in the race and built a sizable lead. Steinbrecher made up ground over the final two laps, but couldn’t close it all the way.
When Steinbrecher last ran the steeplechase at the Loucks Games two weeks ago, he said he went out too fast at the start.
“I wound up dying and running a 10:04,” he said. “I PR’d by almost 20 seconds [today].”
Before the race Steinbrecher and Miekley were talking about their last race and Loucks. Steinbrecher told him how he didn’t want to go out as fast this time. Miekley told him his plan was still go out fast. So it was no surprise to Steinbrecher that Miekley led at the beginning.
Miekley stumbled a bit going over the water pit his last two times, which helped Steinbrecher gain some ground.
“I could see I was getting close,” he said. “But he kicked a little bit at the end and I just didn’t have it in the last 100.”
Later in the meet, Steinbrecher ran the third leg of the Wildcats’ winning 4 x 800 relay. Matt Gladysz, Connor McAlary and Ryan Udvadia combined with Steinbrecher to run 8:06.54, well below their seed time of 8:24.24.
The win kept the Wildcats in the running for first place at the championship. But they ultimately ended up just shy of first. Shoreham settled for second with 103 points, just behind Port Jefferson (109).
It was another banner day for Udvadia, who finished the championship with first-place finishes in all four events. On Friday, he ran the 1,600 and easily took first in 4:22.16, more than 10 seconds ahead of James Burke of Port Jefferson.
On the first day of competition Tuesday, Udvadia won the 800 and 3,200.
The Wildcats also picked up a third-place finish in the 4 x 100 relay. The team of Jordan Wright, Max Maritato, Jack Kelly and Bryce Casey ran 44.85. Kelly was a new addition to the team after the Wildcats lost Isreal Squires for the season for disciplinary reasons.
Squires was arrested May 10 by Suffolk County Police on a felony burglary charge, according to online court documents. He posted $10,000 bond May 13 and is due back in court June 4.
The Wildcats still nearly won the title even without Squires, who would have scored points in multiple events.
The sprints were one key area. Wright ran 11.33 for second place in the 100-dash and Casey ran 11.65 for fourth place. The top four runners in the event all ran slower times in the finals than the preliminaries Tuesday.
Casey also ran the finals of the 200 and placed third in 23.45.
In the 400-hurdles, senior Matt Leunig ran 59.31 for fifth place. Sophomore Clarence Bias threw 45 feet 5 1/2 inches in the shot put for third place. Maritato cleared 6-0 in the high jump for third place.
In the 400-dash, McGann-Mercy sophomore Dale Kelly was all smiles after running a personal best time of 51.43 to finish in second place. It was his first time competing at a division meet and his first time cracking 52 seconds.
“I finally broke my 52,” he said.
Kelly said his plan at the start of the race was to try and stay with Sayville’s James Reilly. But the gun went off twice at the start of the race, signaling a false start and it was Reilly who got disqualified.
“Unfortunately he didn’t get to run his race, so I just tried to stay with [Justin Bove] and hope for the best,” Kelly said.
Bove won the race in 50.79.
Kelly’s time was nearly a second faster than what he ran in the preliminaries.
Mercy senior Luis Cintron picked up a sixth-place finish in the 400-hurdles with a time of 1:00.38.