The competition was never really too far behind until late in the race, but the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls 4×800-meter relay team never trailed.
Alexandra Hays took the lead at the start, handed off to Kaitlyn Ohrtman, who did the same to Payton Capes-Davis, and Katherine Lee brought it home for a new meet record in the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier on Saturday at Port Jefferson High School.
Their winning time of 9 minutes 9.55 seconds topped the previous mark of 9:10.86 that Ward Melville set in 2011, according to Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki.
“That was just awesome, like the best feeling in the world to see our team come together like that at the end of a really hard meet,” Hays said. “We really pulled together today. We did what we had to do.”
Sachem East was second in 9:16.64.
Bishop McGann-Mercy’s foursome of Olivia Kneski, Kaitlyn Butterfield, Maddie Joinnides and Meg Tuthill was third in 9:40.83.
Koretzki said the third leg was the key to the race. He said Sachem East had its best runner, Alexandra DeCicco, run the third leg. DeCicco kept the pressure on, but Capes-Davis, who completed her 800 in 2:20, held her off so Lee had the lead when she received the baton.
Lee, running a 2:15 leg, maintained about a 10-yard lead before pulling away for the victory.
With that, the team earned a trip to Cicero-North Syracuse High School for the state meet on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s the first time in so long that Shoreham has done something like this, and it’s our time to do something big,” said Capes-Davis.
Yet, Lee did something big herself. The sophomore became the first Shoreham girl since Nicole Alekweswitz in 1989 to win two individual events and be part of a winning relay team, according to Koretzki.
Lee, who had taken first place in the 3,000 on Friday, completed a double with her triumph in the 1,500 on Saturday. What was the key?
“Just hang back and kick,” she said.
It worked again as Lee successfully defended her 1,500 title. She was among a congested pack along with Tuthill, Bay Shore’s Bridget Kanaley and Sachem East’s DeCicco for a good deal of the race. On the gun lap, Lee moved into the lead before kicking it into high gear with about 275 meters to go.
Around the final turn, it was Lee and Tuthill charging down the stretch. Lee won in 4:39.34. Tuthill’s time was 4:40.69.
“I didn’t have much energy until that last 100 to 125 meters when I realized Meg was with me and I really had to go,” said Lee.
In the high jump, Riverhead’s Madelyn Batista, a 6-foot sophomore, finished third at 5-0.
Another second place for Coulter. Luke Coulter had qualified for the state meet in two events, and yet he didn’t seem happy.
The Riverhead senior turned in a fast time for the second day in a row, yet had to settle for second place for the second time.
This time it was the 1,600 meters. The top-seeded Coulter, who had dropped as far back as fifth in a congested group on the second lap, worked his way to the runner-up finish in 4:16.88. Sachem North senior Christopher Tibbetts won in 4:16.09. Riverhead junior Eric Cunha was fifth in 4:23.07.
After walking off the track, an exhausted Coulter collapsed onto the infield grass. “I can’t get up,” he told his coaches. “I can’t feel my legs.”
Coulter soon rose, though.
“I got caught up in a pack and I wasn’t able to stick with the first guy,” said the Stony Brook University-bound athlete, who was second in the 800 on Friday.
Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski said Coulter had an “awesome two days.”
He said Coulter has the work ethic to go with his talent.
“We’ve never had somebody who would compete like this and not want to lose. Never,” he said. “He is unbelievable.”
Asked if it mattered that he didn’t win, Coulter answered: “Of course. I didn’t get any firsts.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Dale Kelly raced in fourth in the 400 in 49.52.
Photo caption: Katherine Lee receives the handoff from Payton Capes-Davis before finishing the 4×800-meter relay, which Shoreham-Wading River won in a meet record time of 9 minutes 9.55 seconds. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)