Shoreham Wading-River High School girls cross-country coach Paul Koretzki needed only two words to describe his team.
“We’re loaded,” he said.
That’s not boasting.
With two-time defending Suffolk County Class B champion Katherine Lee leading the way, the Wildcats bring back six All-County runners.
What more can you say about Lee? Whether its indoor or outdoor track or cross country, the junior is one of the most accomplished runners around. After winning the New York State Public High School Athletic Association cross country championship as a freshman, Lee took third last year.
On Sept. 10 she ran the fastest time among 119 juniors over five kilometers (19 minutes, 11.05 seconds) at the Jim Smith Invitational at Sunken Meadow State Park.
The League VI champions (6-0), are far from a one-girl show. They have many talented runners.
Start with Maria Smith (21:14.63) and Amanda Dwyer (22:38.88), who finished third and seventh, respectively, among 75 competitors in the seniors division last Saturday. Continue with Lexie Smith, who took fifth (22:29.88) among 129 runners in the sophomore race, and junior Francesca Lilly. And certainly don’t forget senior captain Alexandra Hays, an All-State selection, and you have one imposing team.
“Hays is the training guru,” Koretzki said. “She drives everybody.”
Koretzki said senior Payton Capes-Davis, who just missed out on All-County honors, should cover the graduated Kaitlyn Ohrtman’s spot.
Koretzki likes his team’s chances in the county — the Wildcats are two-time defending champions. In the season’s first state sportswriters poll, Shoreham was ranked No. 1 in Class B.
“I think we can win it,” he said. “We have a shot.”
Even with losing the outstanding Meg Tuthill to graduation, Bishop McGann-Mercy (5-0) could be among the top League VII teams thanks to several hard-working and talented upperclassmen. Seniors Kaitlyn Butterfield and Tori Barlow finished in the top five in the county Class C championships last year. Senior Devyn O’Brien has proven to be a consistent runner.
“They had a real good summer training,” coach Collin Zeffer said. “They came into the season really strong. It looks really promising for us.”
Senior Rita Ellis and junior Madison Willmott are expected to join that trio, giving the Monarchs a solid core.
“Rita has shown me the ability to be scoring in the top five girls and Madison the top seven,” Zeffer said.
Mercy might not have a runner in Tuthill’s class, but the Monarchs can do the job.
“Our top five this year, compared to last year is a lot closer spread,” Zeffer said. “Not having Meg is one thing, but the girls have worked really hard together.”
If the Monarchs want to wear the league crown, they probably will have to get past Mattituck. “They’re always strong,” he said. “They’re definitely going to be a contender.”
The seeds that coach Justin Cobis planted three years ago have started to bud for Riverhead (2-3).
That was never more evident than at the Jim Smith Invitational as the Blue Waves won the freshman division.
“It was exciting,” Cobis said. “They may be freshmen, but they’ve been with us for two years. We have a nice balance between experienced girls and youth.”
Christina Yakaboski (8:46.31) took first in the 1.5-mile run and Megan Kielbasa (9:01.64) fourth. Yakaboski, a long-time soccer player, had never run cross country prior.
“I don’t know how she decided to run cross country, but I am glad she is still here,” Cobis said.
Kielbasa finished 11th in last year’s county Class A race in 20:38.31, just missing out on qualifying for the states.
“They are a perfect complement,” Cobis said. “Megan is extremely competitive, everything you want in a runner. Christina is new to the scene, but is a natural runner.”
Riverhead has depth, including senior Gabby Marcucci, who comes from a family of runners, and juniors Aimee Drexel and Olivia Pizzuto.
This could be the year the Blue Waves break through in League III against Northport and Bay Shore.
Cobis said, “We have a very solid chance of being a big competitor at the top of the league.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee competes last November. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)