It must have been an unusual sight for Katherine Lee. After all, the Shoreham-Wading River High School cross-country runner doesn’t often see the backs of other runners when she is competing.
Then again, that was by design.
Lee’s plan was to stay with the top five runners in the Nike Cross New York Regional Championship on Saturday at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls.
At one point Lee’s mother, Maxine, expressed her concern to Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki as she watched the race unfold. Koretzki’s reply: “Did you ever see someone pass Katherine in the last mile?”
It didn’t happen again.
With about a half-mile to go, Lee was running in a pack of three. “Then all of a sudden she just took off,” said Koretzki.
Lee ended up winning the race by some 40 meters, becoming the first Shoreham girl to qualify for a national cross-country meet, according to Koretzki. The junior will compete in the Nike Cross National Championship Saturday at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Oregon.
“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Lee said in a postrace interview posted on milesplit.com. “One of my goals is to just do well at nationals and finish the season strong.”
The victory was Lee’s 12th this season in as many races for the New York State Class B champion. Her time was 17 minutes, 44.8 seconds.
Kinetic sophomore Kelsey Chmiel was second in 17:56.8. Third went to Manlius freshman Claire Walters (17:58.8).
“They never ran against [Lee] and they didn’t know what to expect,” Koretzki said. “She was good.”
Lee, who has won two state titles in three years, ran the first half of the 5,000-meter race in 8:56. She stepped it up for the second half, which she ran in 8:49.
“Running a negative split is an amazing number,” Koretzki said. “I guess she didn’t get tired.”
The state champion Shoreham team had been unbeaten in all 13 team competitions it had run in prior to Saturday. But that streak, and a long string of 146 consecutive wins, came to an end as Shoreham (127 points) finished third behind Fayetteville-Manlius (40) and Shenendehowa (110).
The Wildcats, running under the name Wildcat Track Club, were hoping to receive an at-large bid for the national meet, but were disappointed to receive the news Saturday night that they did not get it.
“And that was a bummer,” Koretzki said. “It was a great race. The kids did great. They did everything they could to get to Oregon, and they were denied.”
Payton Capes-Davis was 26th in 19:19.8, four notches ahead of fellow Shoreham senior Maria Smith (19:30.2). The other Wildcats running were Alexandra Hays (53rd in 20:06.9), Amanda Dwyer (55th in 20:10.5), Francesca Lily (110th in 21:28.7) and Isadora Petretti (123rd in 21:50.0).
Meanwhile, Lee’s outstanding season continues, with one more race.
She said in the video interview, “I’m excited to become friends at nationals with all the cool girls.”
Photo caption: Undefeated Shoreham-Wading River junior Katherine Lee took first place in the Nike Cross New York Regional Championship on Saturday at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls. (Courtesy photo)