Luke Coulter’s storybook season took one more incredible turn Saturday.
The Riverhead senior placed second in the 600-meter dash at the New York State Championships at Cornell University in Ithaca and did so by breaking his own school record. Coulter, who was seeded seventh in the event, narrowly missed a state title by a fraction of a second.
He crossed the finish line in 1 minute 21.81 seconds, just off the right shoulder of Union Springs senior Evan DeGraw, who clocked in at 1:21.53 on the inside lane.
It was the top finish for any local at the state meet.
“It was just an amazing effort for him,” said Riverhead coach Justin Cobis in a telephone interview.
For Coulter, it’s been one record after another this season. He finishes the winter season with six individual school records and two more as a part of relay teams, Cobis said.
“He’s a great kid, and it’s all dedication and hard work,” he said. “Never have I had a runner who was more focused and more prepared and more consistent.”
While Coulter was seeded seventh, the coaches knew he had two things to his advantage. First, he was running the 600 fresh, something he had never done before. In every other competition, he ran another race first, sometimes the 3,200. Secondly, most of the runners seeded ahead of Coulter posted those times at the Armory in New York, which is a faster track than most, including where they were racing Saturday in Ithaca. Coulter’s seed time did not reflect a race at the Armory.
Factor those together, and it was no surprise Coulter was in contention for the state title.
Cobis said Coulter ran nearly the entire race on the shoulder of DeGraw, who was seeded second. It was critical for Coulter to get out aggressively to avoid getting blocked in and swallowed up in the pack, Cobis said.
“He went out aggressive in the first 200 and set himself right in second place,” Cobis said. “He wasn’t doing the work and leading the pack. He was literally on right on the shoulder of this guy the entire remainder of the race. He just put it all out there and the other guy just had a little bit left.”
Earlier in the day at the girls competition, McGann-Mercy junior Meg Tuthill earned all-state honors in the 1,000. She finished fifth overall in 2:58.36.
Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Katherine Lee competed in two events. She set a personal record in the 3,000, her first event, in 10:01.51. Still, it was only good enough for eighth place in what was described by the track website MileSplit NY as “the fastest 3,000 race ever assembled at the Indoor State Meet.” All seven runners ahead of Lee cracked 10 minutes. By comparison, only two runners crack 10 minutes last year.
Lee also ran the 600 and finished 24th overall in 1:42.76.
Two of her Shoreham teammates competed Saturday as well. Junior Alexandra Hays ran the 3,000 and finished 24th overall in 10:52.99. Senior Kaitlyn Ohrtman competed in the 1,500 and placed 16th overall in 4:55.41.
On the boys side, Mercy senior Dale Kelly finished 9th in the preliminaries of the 300-dash to just miss qualifying for the finals. The top eight advanced. Kelly ran 35.63 and was third in his heat. The winner of each of the five heats advanced to the finals plus the next three fastest times. Kelly actually ran a faster time than three runners who won their heats in the preliminaries.
Photo Caption #1: Riverhead senior Luke Coulter races down the final stretch of the 600 Saturday at Cornell University. (Credit: Courtesy of Justin Cobis)
Photo Caption #2: Coulter receives his second-place medal. (Credit: Courtesy of Justin Cobis)