Paul Koretzki typically doesn’t do much talking when he sends his runners on the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls cross-country team off to the starting line for races. He will tell them to have a good time and say, “See you at the finish.”
Not much more needs to be said, especially with this year’s team.
“It’s the best team I ever had,” said Koretzki, who has been coaching the team since 1981.
Another typical scene played out at Sunken Meadow State Park on Friday. Shoreham’s top runner, Katherine Lee, crossed the finish line first, well ahead of the next runner in the Class B race of the Section XI Championships, the biggest race in Suffolk County this season. Then, instead of immediately walking down the chute for processing as she was encouraged to do, the sophomore halted in pain and sank down to her knees. An official helped her to her unsteady feet and walked with her a few steps before Lee laid down on the grass off to the side, suffering from the chronic pain she feels in the right side of her abdomen while exerting herself in races.
“I think this was a lot worse than last time, but for right now, I guess, it’s just a reality that it’s going to hurt so I might as well run through it, do what I can,” Lee said while clutching an ice bag to her right side.
“We can’t solve the pain,” Koretzki said. “She’s been going to physical therapy, but it doesn’t seem to help.”
Lee, the defending New York State Class B champion, doesn’t let pain keep her from pushing herself. It certainly didn’t on Friday. She won the Class B race for the second year in a row as Shoreham swept the top three places and had five finishers among the top 10.
The Wildcats took the team title for the second straight year and the 13th time overall, with 23 points, well ahead of second-place Bayport-Blue Point’s 70.
Mattituck also claimed individual (through Melanie Pfennig) and team titles in Class C.
Both Shoreham and Mattituck will compete as teams in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on Nov. 14 at Monroe-Woodbury High School.
Lee completed the five-kilometer course in 19 minutes 18.81 seconds. She was soon followed by teammates Alexandra Hays (19:46.65) and Kaitlyn Ohrtman (19:53.92). Maria Smith of Shoreham was seventh in 20:26.16 and teammate Francesca Lilly was 10th in 20:41.91. Two other Wildcats, Amanda Dwyer (21:12.59) and Lexie Smith (21:45.42), were 14th and 15th.
Lee, who called it a “nice afternoon at the Meadow,” said she and her teammates take pride in their achievement. “It’s always cool to go to school next week and be like, wow, like we’re one of the coolest teams in the school,” she said. “We’re county champs.”
So is Mattituck.
Pfennig’s victory in the Class C race led Mattituck to the team title in that class for the fourth consecutive year. The junior called the fourpeat “a big accomplishment.”
Mattituck totaled 29 points. Bishop McGann-Mercy was second with 43.
Pfennig was timed in 20:22.65 and one of seven Tuckers to place among the top 12. “My game plan was just to run my hardest for my team and do the best I can,” she said.
Mattituck eighth grader Payton Maddaloni was fourth in 21:54.79.
McGann-Mercy put three runners in the top five — Kait Butterfield (20:50.88), Meg Tuthill (21:06.40) and Tori Barlow (21:59.89). But five of the next seven runners across the finish line were from Mattituck: Audrey Hoeg (sixth in 22:02.11), Meg Dinizio (eighth in 22:48.39), Sascha Rosin (10th in 23:03.62), Maddie Schmidt (11th in 23:05.87) and Mia Vasile-Cozzo (12th in 23:11.13).
“We’re like a family,” Mattituck’s coach, Julie Milliman, said. “They’re all like sisters. We were all hanging out last night, having a good time, laughing. They wanted it for each other. … They wanted to go [to the state meet] as a team and make more memories together.”
A lot was riding on this meet, a state qualifier. Butterfield, who qualified for the state meet for a second straight year, said, “It definitely is crazy how all the training you do for four months comes down to one day.”
Riverhead eighth grader Megan Kielbasa had placed her chances of qualifying for the state meet at 50-50. She didn’t do badly, coming in 11th in the Class A race in 20:38.31, but it wasn’t enough.
“It didn’t matter,” she said. “I have four more years of cross country.”
Photo Caption: Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Katherine Lee battled pain to finish in first place and lead the Wildcats to a second straight county championship. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)