09/19/12 9:00pm
09/19/2012 9:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River freshman Kaitlyn Ohrtman will be the Wildcats’ top runner this season.

At this time last year, in her first season running varsity cross country, Shoreham-Wading River’s Kaitlyn Ohrtman would clock in on the plus side of 21 minutes. As the season progressed, the eighth-grader continued dropping her time, emerging as one of the Wildcats’ top runners.

Now as a freshman, Ohrtman comes into the season as the Wildcats’ No. 1 runner. She’s already gotten off to a strong start, finishing 10th overall Saturday at the Suffern Invitational at Bear Mountain State Park. She ran the three-mile course in 19:51.45 as the Wildcats finished sixth as a team.

Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki said the Wildcats are still young this year but have a lot of strong runners. The Wildcats lost their first dual meet to Miller Place, but the Panthers will likely be in contention for the county title.

“We got a shot at the rest of the people,” Koretzki said. “Our goal is to make the county championship race and see what happens there.”

Sophomore Rose Andrews returns for the Wildcats. She finished 34th overall at the Suffern Invitational in 21:04.45.

Senior Laura Lee is one of the few upperclassmen among the Wildcats’ top runners. Sophomore Maddy Kelly and eighth-grader Ali Hays will both be key runners this year for Shoreham. Hays was Shoreham’s fifth runner across the finish line Saturday.

The team will also rely on seniors Claire and Laura Shanklin and Anya Uzo.

The Wildcats will run this weekend in the Bob Pratt Invitational at Sunken Meadow State Park.

Riverhead girls assistant coach Christy Salerno couldn’t believe the number of girls who came out for the cross country team this season.

“The team doubled in size,” the second-year coach said.

The Blue Waves benefitted from several track runners deciding to run cross country this season. Salerno said the track coaches suggested to many of the girls that they run year round and use cross country as preparation for the winter and spring seasons.

The Blue Waves had a young team last year and just about all the girls are back this season. Salerno, who takes the lead with the girls team while head coach Pat Burke focuses on the boys, said the commitment from the runners over the summer was outstanding.

Junior Rachel Conti and freshman Megan Van Bommel are two of the track runners who will be running cross country. The two ran together on the 4 x 800 relay team last winter that won the League III title.

Sophomore Maurinne Sullivan returns for the Blue Waves after a strong season last year. She was one of three runners to compete in the team qualifier race at the division championship last year.

Freshman Megan Carrick should be another key runner.

The Blue Waves lost their first League IV dual meet to Bellport, 22-37. Salerno said the team’s goal is to win a few dual meets and for each girl to continue hitting her personal best times.

“I’ve never seen such team spirit,” Salerno said. “The girls are always cheering each other on.”

joew@timesreview.com

09/19/12 7:00pm

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River junior Ryan Udvadia has won both races for the Wildcats to start the season.

After losing John Lee and Tyler Keys, who were first and third in the Class B county championship last season, Shoreham-Wading River coach Bob Szymanski expected the beginning of this season to be a bit of a transition.

Instead, the Wildcats came out in mid-season form.

Shoreham opened the season with a dual meet victory over Bayport-Blue Point, which came down to a tie-breaker. The Wildcats and Phantoms are expected to be the top two teams in Class B.

Then last weekend the Wildcats ran at the Suffern Invitational at Bear Mountain State Park and finished first as a team, again a one-point victory.

“I think they trained really well over the summer,” Szymanski said. “They would run together as teammates.”

A big part of the Wildcats’ early success has been the performance of Ryan Udvadia, who’s grabbed the No. 1 spot. He ran the top time in the dual meet win over Bayport and also won the Suffern Invitational in 15:59.64.

Szymanski said Udvadia won by about 12 seconds while breaking 16 minutes against Bayport.

“That’s hard to do for three miles at Sunken Meadow,” he said.

Matt Gladysz was eighth overall at the Suffern Invitational in 16:40.11. Keith Steinbrecher, Jack Kelly, Evan Purdy, Joe Whalen and Dan Purschke all finished in the top 30.

After winning last season’s county title on a tiebreaker, it ended up being the third straight meet the Wildcats won by the slimmest of margins.

Shoreham tallied 65 points while Delbarton took second with 66.

“When I saw the score, [girls coach Paul] Koretzki said you won’t believe this, but that’s the third meet you won by a point,” Szymanski said. “You can’t really get any closer than that.”

joew@timesreview.com

09/17/12 8:00pm
09/17/2012 8:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTOS | Riverhead’s top two runners return this season in Anthony Galvan (left) and Travis Wooten.

The Riverhead boys cross country team will begin each race with a simple motto: stick together.

The Blue Waves’ goal is for their runners to partner up, staying within arm’s reach of one another. The strategy has several benefits.

For starters, sticking next to each other allows the runners to motivate and push each other. And in a race where points are tallied by the place each runner finishes, the closer they can stick together the better.

“The more gap, the more of a chance for another team to get in there,” said Riverhead coach Pat Burke.

The Blue Waves come into the season with just about all their key runners back from last year. Leading the pack are senior Anthony Galvan and junior Travis Wooten, who will run together as Riverhead’s first group.

“We want more people to join Anthony and Travis’ group, but they’re not there yet,” Burke said.

The Blue Waves’ success in dual meets will often come down to the finishes of their next group of runners. Sophomore Nicholas Cunha and junior Joe Gattuso will form the next group. Burke said he’s expecting big things from both runners this season.

“Joe has been training very hard over the summer,” Burke said. “And Nicholas, we’re expecting a lot out of him.”

Junior Matt Tuthill and sophomore Jeremy Bornstein both return for the Blue Waves and will be vying for one of the top-five finishes in meets to count toward the team score.

The Blue Waves have depth with senior Jonathan Gao, junior Matthew Cutrone and a newcomer, sophomore Owen O’Neill.

“We feel excited and confident about this year,” Burke said.

The Blue Waves got a strong commitment from the runners during the summer. Burke said they’ve been training since early July, culminating in two-a-day practices (non-mandatory) to give the runners as many chances to run as possible.

Burke said a big turnout of runners in the middle school program has provided a pipeline to the high school.

“We had a large turnout of ninth graders,” Burke said.

The Blue Waves opened the dual meet season with a win over Half Hollow Hills West led by a first-place finish from Galvan in 17 minutes 26 seconds.

“They’ve always been a major contender,” Burke said. “I was very happy about that. But it doesn’t mean we’re going to walk over anybody else.”

joew@timesreview.com

11/16/11 3:00pm
11/16/2011 3:00 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior John Lee ran the fastest time for the Wildcats last weekend at the state championship.

Running a cross country meet during November at an upstate course presents inherent weather risks.

When runners arrived in Verona, N.Y., last Friday for a practice run before the New York State Championships, they discovered a course that had been frozen from snow. By the time the real races began Saturday, the course had thawed out, leaving behind a muddy, slippery mess.

“It became like a horse stable, all mud,” said Shoreham-Wading River boys coach Bob Szymanski, whose team qualified in Class B after narrowly edging out Harborfields in the Section XI Championship.

The Wildcats had their troubles as both of their top two runners ­— seniors John Lee and Tyler Keys ­­— took spills during the race. But the Wildcats fought through to finish in sixth place in Class B, which had some of the top runners overall when combined with the other three classifications.

When the times were combined with every team, the Wildcats finished 12th out of 40 teams and had the best finish of any school from Long Island. Rush-Henrietta, an A school, had the top times overall.

Szymanski said he felt the team would have done even better had the conditions been more suitable. He said the Wildcats were ranked fifth going into the meet, but probably could have done as well as third because times at Sunken Meadow, where the Wildcats normally run, are slower than where the competition from upstate competed.

Lee posted the top time for Shoreham in 18 minutes 1.1 seconds for 30th overall in Class B. Keys followed in 43rd place in 18:15.1. Both runners finished the season as first-team All-County.

“The times were slow,” Szymanski said. “This is a faster course by 30 seconds [compared to Sunken Meadow].”

Only six boys in all the races broke 17 minutes. By comparison at the Section XI Championship, eight boys in the Class A race broke 17 minutes on the typically slower course at Sunken Meadow.

“Close to 100 kids went down in all the races,” Szymanski said.

Shoreham sophomore Ryan Udvadia posted the Wildcats’ third fastest time in 18:17.6. Junior Keith Steinbrecher followed in 18:32.9 and junior Evan Purdy rounded out the scoring in 18:41.1. Sophomore Jack Kelly ran 18:46 and junior Dan Purschke ran 19:27.1.

Udvadia finished the season second-team All-County. Szymanski said all seven runners finished the season with All-League and All-Division honors.

Szymanski said his top runners could have continued this weekend at the federation championship. But given the uncertainty of the weather, they decided to end the season, take some time off and begin focusing on winter track, which begins this week.

The Southold boys competed in the Class D Championship and finished in 10th place. Freshman Jonathan Rempe led the team with a time of 21:02.6.

He was followed by the team’s core of seniors: Frank Cone (21:39.6), Griffin Quist (22:02.2) and Matthew Reilly (22:46.8). Junior John Tomici ran 23:04.5, sophomore Ian Toy ran 23:27.7 and junior Ryan Hanrahan was the final Southold runner in 23:51.8.

Southold coach Karl Himmelmann said the tough course conditions created an extra challenge for all the runners.

“It created a situation for all the students where they had to really be careful and maybe not run at their very fastest pace because if they were going down hills, it was complete mud,” he said. “It would be very easy to lose a footing and slip down a hill.”

Mattituck had two runners qualify for states as individuals in the Class C race. Corey Zlatniski finished 43rd overall in 18:57.6. Casey Grathwohl ran 19:21.7 to finish 66th.

Zlatniski qualified for states by running 17:42 at the qualifier at Sunken Meadow State Park, making him the fifth-fastest runner in Mattituck history. Grathwohl is currently the eighth-fastest all-time.

joew@timesreview.com

10/25/11 10:00pm
10/25/2011 10:00 PM

Not unlike most girls in Mattituck, Kaylee Bergen usually spent the fall season playing soccer. Last spring as an eighth grader, Bergen joined the varsity track team where she ran the 3,000, 1,500 and the 4 x 800 relay.

She enjoyed it so much, when the fall season rolled around, she opted to skip soccer and continue running with the cross country team.

Kaitlyn Ohrtman

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River eighth-grader Kaitlyn Ohrtman finished fifth overall in the team qualifier race Tuesday.

“At the last minute she decided to stick with cross country,” said Mattituck coach Jean Mahoney. “And she’s really talented. Every time she runs she gets better and better.”

In her first year as a cross country runner, Bergen, now a freshman, has quickly blossomed into one of the top runners in the county. At Tuesday’s Division Championship at Sunken Meadow State Park, Bergen finished fourth overall in the team qualifier race for the top finish among any local runners. She ran the 5,000-meter course in 21 minutes, 14.8 seconds.

“It was hard, but it felt good at the end,” Bergen said.

Coming into the race Bergen’s strategy was to find a girl she knew to keep pace with and then try to pass her. The only girls to finish ahead of her where Dana Cebulski of East Hampton (20:31.1), Briana Siele of Eastport-South Manor (20:45.8) and Stephanie Vickers of Westhampton (21:09.7).

Bergen’s finish highlighted a terrific overall performance from Mattituck. The girls finished ninth out of 22 teams in the team qualifier race leading into next week’s State Qualifier race. The Tuckers will compete in Class C for the right to advance to the state meet. Center Moriches, which competed in the team championship race (the top two teams in each league plus four at-large teams), figures to be the biggest challenge for Mattituck.

“It all depends on how we do against Center Moriches,” Mahoney said.

Mattituck is a team loaded with youth, which should make the Tuckers contenders for the next several years. The team had no seniors in Tuesday’s race and one junior. Overall the team has two seniors and three juniors.

Their next top finisher next to Bergen was eighth-grader Audrey Hoeg. She ran 23:33.1. She was followed by sophomore Hallie Kujawski in 23:34.4. Freshman Leah Santacroce (23:37.8) and junior Sara Paparatto (24:31.5) rounded out the scoring.

While the team didn’t have any seniors among its top finishers, it hasn’t been void of leadership. One of the biggest leaders has been sophomore Kyle Freudenberg, Mahoney said, a player all the girls look up to. Freudenberg is a former soccer player as well.

Mattituck finished its dual meet season with a deceptive 2-3 record. With Shelter Island not fielding a team this year, Mattituck bumped up to League VII where it faced Class B teams like Bayport-Blue Point and Hampton Bays. The Tuckers lost close meets to both of those teams as well as to Center Moriches.

Had Mattituck been in League VIII, the Tuckers likely would have gone undefeated in dual meets.

“This has been a very difficult league for us to be in,” Mahoney said.

Without Mattituck in League VIII, Southold benefited. The First Settlers went 4-0 to win the league title and earn a spot in the championship race Tuesday. Southold finished last in the race against the top teams in the county. But as coach Karl Himmelmann said, the real important race comes Nov. 4 when the First Settlers try to win the Class D county title.

“We haven’t been out here to Sunken Meadow for a race in almost a month,” Himmelmann said. “I really wanted them to take today and just get themselves dialed in to whatever they needed to do to have a successful race next week.”

Himmelmann said overall the girls’ times were a little slower, but they should be able to make a jump at the State Qualifier where the team will compete against The Stony Brook School and Ross.

On Tuesday, the competition was a whole lot stiffer.

“It’s a good experience for them,” Himmelmann said. “I like to put them in races where they’re running with top-notched schools because I think it puts them in a different mind-set of raising that bar and raising those expectations.”

Sophomore Colette Steele posted the top time for Southold. She ran 22:32.7 and has been the team’s top runner all season.

She was followed by sophomore Katie Connolly (24:10.2), Shelby Pickerell (24:54.7), Shannon Guyer (27:49.8) and junior Megan Moran (27:50.7).

Shoreham-Wading River won the team qualifier race with 66 points. The Wildcats had all five runners finish in the top 20. Eighth-grader Kaitlyn Ohrtman finished fifth overall in 21:16.8. Senior Audrey Kelly was 10th in 21:45.9. Freshmen Maddy Kelly and Rose Andrews tied for 17th at 22:16.6 and junior Laura Lee rounded out the scoring in 19th at 22:28.4.

The Wildcats will compete at the State Qualifier in Class B. They’ll face tough competition from Bayport-Blue Point, Miller Place and Sayville.

Riverhead closed out its season by competing in the team qualifier race. Senior Gabriele Escallier ran the team’s fastest time in 24:50.6. Freshman Maurinne Sullivan was next in 24:58.2 followed by senior Rachel Harrison-Smith in 24:59.6. The Blue Waves did not qualify for the State Qualifier.

joew@timesreview.com

10/25/11 6:43pm
John Lee

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior John Lee finished sixth overall in the division championship Tuesday at Sunken Meadow State Park.

For most teams, winning a division title would be cause for celebration.

The Shoreham-Wading River boys cross country team clinched the Division IV title Tuesday afternoon at Sunken Meadow State Park, the team’s fourth in the last five years.

A fine achievement, led by senior John Lee’s sixth place overall finish in the championship race, but as longtime Shoreham coach Bob Szymanski poured over the results, he could spot the caveat in the team’s win.

While the Wildcats finished fifth in the championship race — which is made up of the top two teams in each league plus four at-large teams — Harborfields had just edged the Wildcats for fourth place.

As a Division III team, Harborfields didn’t factor in with Shoreham when the results were divided among the four divisions. But when the teams meet again at the Section XI State Qualifier Nov. 4, both schools will compete as Class B teams.

So for the Wildcats to win the more coveted county title and advance to the state meet as a team, they must find a way to get through the Tornadoes.

“It’s Harborfields and us,” Szymanski said.

It was Harborfields last year that blocked the Wildcats’ path to a county title. To get back the crown this year, the Wildcats will first rely on their top runner in Lee. The defending county champion, Lee ran 16 minutes, 43 seconds Tuesday afternoon, a time that left him a bit disappointed.

Lee was in position for fifth place but got taken just before the finish line by the surging Ryan Scarpelli of Sachem East. He edged Lee by four tenths of a second.

“I wanted to try and come in the top three,” Lee said. “It’s not that far off my [personal record], but I was just hoping to do a little better.”

Lee finished ahead of Harborfields’ top runner, Austin Coneys, who was ninth overall in 16:55.3.

The top time was by Hauppauge senior Ryan Colabella, who finished in 16:17.6. Lee said he was with the top group for most of the race until he started losing steam toward the end.

It was the first time Lee lost a race to Scarpelli, he said.

“I got to hand it to Ryan,” he said. “I was beating him all throughout high school and he finally beat me this year.”

Scarpelli’s time was nearly a minute faster compared to the division race last year. Lee’s had a tremendous overall season, winning invitationals at Brown University and Van Cortlandt Park among others.

“Most of those invites I didn’t even have to go all out to win them,” Lee said.

The Wildcats rounded out their scoring Tuesday with senior Tyler Keys (17:15.7), sophomore Ryan Udvadia (17:42.4), junior Evan Purdy (17:56.5) and junior Dan Purschke (18:04.4).

Shoreham came into the division meet off another unbeaten league season (6-0 in League VII).

The Wildcats haven’t won a county title since 2008, when they were also the overall division champions as the top team in the county combined with every team.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Anthony Galvan ran the fastest time for the Blue Waves Tuesday.

The Mattituck boys team also competed in the championship race Tuesday after finishing the League VIII season in a three-way tie for first place at 5-1. The Tuckers finished tied with Port Jefferson and Center Moriches.

Mattituck finished 21st overall in the championship race. Senior Corey Zlatniski posted the top time for Mattituck in 17:59.9. The next four finishers were: junior Casey Grathwohl (18:39.7), freshman Marcos Perivolaris (19:04.9), junior Anthony Howell (19:56) and sophomore Jake Nolan (20:39.9).

The Tuckers will compete in the State Qualifier in Class C. They finished ahead of Center Moriches in the division meet, an important baromter looking ahead to the county meet. Port Jefferson ran in the team qualifier race and finished 14th with an average time of 19:36.48. Mattituck’s average time in the championship race was 19:16.08.

Southampton and Babylon from League VII also factor in as Class C teams.

The Riverhead boys ran in the team qualifier race and finished sixth out of 28 teams to earn a spot in the State Qualifier. Riverhead coach Patrick Burke was thrilled with his team’s finish.

Junior Anthony Galvan, who’s been the team’s top performer all season, posted Riverhead’s best time. He ran 18:19.4 for 20th overall.

“The real thing about today is everybody did their job,” Burke said. “I told everyone you have to do a 19:30 to continue this and go to the state quals. My last kid [sophomore Joe Gattuso] ran a 19:35. And his best time was a 19:50.”

The Blue Waves’ middle runners were sophomore Travis Wooten (19:10.6), senior Kevin Williams (19:25.7) and freshman Nicholas Cunha (19:32.9).

“We needed those bottom guys to step up and they did,” Burke said.

The Southold boys also ran in the team qualifier race and were 24th overall. Freshman Jonathan Rempe had the team’s top time at 19:59.7. Senior Griffin Quist ran 20:15.9 followed by Frank Cone (20:30.9), junior John Tomici (21:34.2) and senior Matt Reilly (21:44.6).

The team went 3-3 in League VIII dual meets this year, an improvement over the previous season, coach Karl Himmelmann said.

“The boys team has really grown in size tremendously over the last year,” he said. “I see a lot of growth, especially my top five or six boys. Not only in terms of times, but just their technique and running style, I really see a lot of improvement.”

Southold will compete as a Class D school in the State Qualifier.

joew@timesreview.com

10/01/11 8:00am
10/01/2011 8:00 AM

ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | Chris Mahoney picked off two passes in the Wildcats' Week 1 win over Southampton.

The Shoreham-Wading River football team got a taste of playing the elite in Division IV last week when the Wildcats lost at John Glenn, the defending Class IV Long Island champions.

After a 2-0 start, the Wildcats fell 42-13 at Glenn. They’ll look to get back on the winning side today when they host Hampton Bays. The Baymen have started 1-2, losing last week to Mount Sinai, 35-6. Their lone win came Wyandanch in Week 2.

A win for Shoreham Saturday would put the Wildcats in good position to make it back to the playoffs after an 0-8 season last year in Division III.

Kick-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

At the same time the McGann-Mercy Monarchs will look to make it two straight when they host Southampton on homecoming. The Monarchs are coming off a win over Wyandanch last Friday, 20-0.

The Monarchs will face a Southampton team that has struggled to find the end zone so far this season. The Mariners are 0-3 and have scored just six points, which came in a Week 1 loss to Shoreham. They were shut out the last two weeks by Port Jefferson and Babylon.

Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the Saturday’s sports action:

BOYS CROSS COUNTRY

Riverhead at St. Anthony’s Invitational (Sunken Meadow), 11:30 a.m.

SWR at Tom Knipfing Invitational (Fireman’s Field), 3:30 p.m.

GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY

Riverhead at St. Anthony’s Invitational (Sunken Meadow), 11:30 p.m.

SWR at Tom Knipfing Invitational (Fireman’s Field), 3:30 p.m.

08/04/11 7:57am
08/04/2011 7:57 AM

CLIFF CLARK COURTESY PHOTO | Janelle Kraus never lost a League VIII cross country race in her four years at Shelter Island. In 1995, she won a state title.

Asked when he first knew Janelle Kraus could be a great runner, her high school cross country coach didn’t pause for even a second.

“The very first workout of her freshman year,” recalled former Shelter Island cross country coach Cliff Clark.

He remembers it as if it were yesterday.

Months earlier, Kraus had approached Clark to ask him how she should train during the summer leading up to her first season with the team.

His advice was simple, and the same thing he’d tell anyone: Run between two to three miles, five days a week and you’ll be just fine come fall workouts.

While the eager young freshman oozed potential, Clark’s focus at the time was on another runner he projected to lead the Shelter Island-Pierson team in 1992.

When that first workout finally arrived in September, Clark’s eyes were set firmly on the other runner as the team went for its first run at Mashomack Preserve.

The coach never expected to see someone else in the picture.

“The other girl was no doubt expected to be our top runner,” Clark said in a recent interview. “But there was Janelle, running right alongside her.”

She hasn’t slowed down much since.

The 20 Greatest Athletes in area history is a Times/Review countdown series that will continue over the next two weeka. Each day, a different athlete will be unveiled leading up to the No. 1 athlete of all-time Aug. 17.

Kraus is without a doubt the most outstanding female athlete in Shelter Island High School history. In fact, you could strike the word female from that previous sentence and it would ring no less true.

But to understand how she got to that level, you’d have to see that freshman practice through her eyes.

“I don’t remember that at all,” she says after hearing Clark’s story of how she hung with the teams pre-ordained star.

Here’s how Kraus remembers that first run:

She was nervous, filled with anxiety as she showed up to practice. She wanted to do her best, but more than anything else she just wanted to finish the run.

“All I could think about was ‘Get through these three miles without stopping,’ ” she recalled. “The thing I remember about being a freshman was being very nervous and wanting to make sure I was prepared.”

From the fear came a motivation to excel, to always push herself to the next level.

Speaking of her career in a telephone interview from her home in Madison, Conn. this week, Kraus continually spoke of that desire for constant improvement.

As a freshman at Shelter Island, her goal at first might have been to just get through the workouts. As the season moved on though, it was clear Kraus had her eye on bigger and better things.

She would go on to win her very first cross country meet that season and never look back. In her four seasons at Shelter Island, she never lost a League VIII race.

By the time she reached the 1992 county championship race at Sunken Meadow, the freshman had emerged as a favorite in Class C.

To get there, Clark told The Suffolk Times that he had his young phenom “imaging.”

About two weeks before the race, Clark told Kraus to picture herself running at Sunken Meadow.

“Visualize yourself at key points on the course,” he told her. “See yourself actually winning the race.”

Kraus made those images come true.

The freshman was just behind the leaders when she approached the famed “Cardiac Hill,” but passed them on the way up and left them in the distance as she gained momentum heading down.

Kraus would end up finishing in 20:59.6, 13 seconds ahead of second place finisher Melissa Lingle of Stony Brook. She became the first-ever Shelter Island female runner to crack 21 minutes at Sunken Meadow that day.

Kraus would establish a lot of firsts for Shelter Island runners in her years there.

She accomplished all these milestones by never being satisfied.

At first she learned she was the best cross country runner in the league, but what about the county? Then when she won that first county title, she began to question her ability at the state level. It was a never-ending cycle of testing personal limits that helped Kraus achieve so much in high school.

“At Shelter Island, I was a big fish in a small pond,” Kraus said. “I was always pushing myself to do more and to not settle.”

She would go on to win the league and county title all four years. She also earned all-state honors three times from her sophomore to her senior year.

Running during her senior season at Indian Island, she set the course record at 18:43.9, besting the previous standard by 45 seconds. The mark also stands as the girls cross country standard at Shelter Island, which no longer has a running program.

During the spring, Kraus also set school records at 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters and as one leg of the 4 x 800 meter relay team. In her senior season, she claimed the Class A-B-C Suffolk County title in the 3,000 meter. At 10:06, she’d boast the top time on Long Island in the event that year.

The Shelter Island Reporter cover the week Janelle Kraus finally broke through at the state cross country meet.

There was, however, one race she couldn’t conquer in her first few years of high school.

Kraus shaved three seconds off her county-title winning time at the state meet her freshman year, but it was only good enough for 33rd place. She improved so much during her sophomore season that she placed ninth out of 156 Class C runners in 1993.

With a strong finishing kick in the final 200 meters Kraus would move up six spots in the state cross country finals in 1994 to claim third place at 18:56.8. She finished 13 seconds behind the leader.

Come senior year, Kraus had just one chance left to win a state title.

On the Monday before the meet, she was in gym class when she was asked to climb a rope as part of the curriculum. After the drill, she felt a slight pain in her hip. She attempted to shrug it off with runs Monday and Tuesday, but come Wednesday she was in so much pain she needed to seek help from a physical therapist.

Kraus had a slight muscle tear in her left hip.

Physical therapist Mark Mensch told her she could continue to run without too much risk of aggravating the injury.

A bump in the road was nothing new for Kraus. She competed in the cross country finals her junior year with a sore quadriceps.

And that track season she struggled at times with a bronchial problem.

But this was it. There would be no more opportunities to win a state championship in cross country.

She knew she had to put the injury behind her and persevere.

Kraus showed patience in her first mile on the muddy course at Corning Community College, running her pace. She’d reach the mile-marker in 6:05, just where she wanted to be.

By the two-mile marker, the race was down to Kraus and Karen Scozzafava of upstate Nazareth High, who had pulled a few steps ahead of the Shelter Island runner.

Down to just the final half-mile Scozzafava decided she was going to outkick Kraus the rest of the way. The maneuver worked well enough for her to open up a 10-yard lead, but she couldn’t keep the pace.

Kraus caught her opponent at the top of the final hill and blew right past her down the home stretch.

Running into a stiff wind, her sneakers covered in mud, Janelle Kraus crossed the finish line a state champion at 19:42.7.

To this day, she is the only Shelter Island athlete to hold the distinction of being a state champ.

It’s a fact that still brings a smile to coach Clark’s face when he says it.

“To coach an athlete that wins a state championship and accomplishes all that Janelle has, you just can’t beat that,” he says.

When it came time for Kraus to pick a college, she knew she wanted a challenge.

She wanted to know what it felt like to be a small fish in a big pond. Maybe then she could grow.

WAKE FOREST COURTESY PHOTO | Janelle Kraus was a four-time All-American at Wake Forest, where she excelled in both track and cross country.

“At every level, I felt there was still so much more to do,” she recalled. “In high school I won that state championship, but it was in Class C. There were still other runners with better times than me.”

Kraus would end up choosing Wake Forest, a school that gave her an opportunity to compete against elite runners in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“There were so many talented runners,” she said. “It was a whole new world.”

Once again she was a freshman just trying to find her way on her own team. During the spring track season freshman year, she set a goal of being among the eight members of her team selected to attend a national meet in Arizona. Like she did with so many goals before, she conquered it.

Pretty soon she was even beyond baby steps at the college level, too.

Kraus would go on to be named Wake Forest’s Female Athlete of the Year three times.

She won nine ACC titles during her time with Demon Deacons and was a four-time NCAA Division I All-American.

In her senior season, Kraus won the 5,000 meter at the ACC Indoor Championships and the ACC Outdoor Championships, as well as the 3,000 meter at the ACC Outdoors.

She qualified for the NCAA Championships in both cross country and track and field that year. She would miss the chance to compete in the Olympic Trials for the 5,000 meter by less than two seconds in 2000.

By the time her college career was over, the Wake Forest website referred to Kraus as “the most decorated athlete in Wake Forest women’s cross country/track and field history.”

The success is no surprise to her high school coach.

“She is a very focused, strong athlete,” Clark said. “She always has been.”

A love for running still burns for Kraus more than 10 years after her college career ended.

She remembers first feeling a passion for the sport as a young girl, growing up on Shelter Island. She would hang out at her parents’ place of business and watch all the runners come in during the Shelter Island 5K and 10K races.

From as far back as she can remember, she recalls telling her folks she wanted to run the 5K.

Island running enthusiasts don’t deny that the Rock has a sort of special power that makes people want to lace ‘em up and go for a run.

“A lot has to do with the environment there,” Kraus said. “The fact that it’s so beautiful. You can just get out there and do it on your own.”

WAKE FOREST COURTESY PHOTO | Kraus would win a total of nine ACC titles at Wake Forest and three times she was named the school's female athlete of the year. She would later serve as an assistant coach at the school.

She recalls the impression left on her from meeting Olympian Grete Waitz, who ran the 10K in 1992, months before Kraus first made her mark as a freshman runner.

“It’s an amazing opportunity we have on Shelter Island to see all these great runners up close,” she said. “We may not be exposed to NBA players, but you can meet a legend of U.S. running.”

Kraus continued to coach distance runners after her college career was over. She served as a volunteer assistant at Wake Forest for several years, before coaching high school students in Rhode Island and later becoming a full-time coach at Stony Brook University.

But Kraus never stopped competing.

She missed the Olympic Trials in the 10,000 meters in 2004, following a difficult day at the Canadian National Championships.

Kraus then turned her attention to longer distances. Later that year, she would make her marathon debut at the Twin Cities Marathon. Despite never having run that distance before, a story on trackandfieldnews.com labeled her a contender in the race.

Kraus would go on to finish her first marathon in 2 hours, 40 minutes and eight seconds. It was good enough for eight place and it stands today as her personal best.

She would run just one more race at that distance before taking on the famed Boston Marathon in April 2007, which served that year as the national championship.

It was a stormy morning in Boston and the average runner came in about seven minutes off their usual pace that day.

Kraus was never an average runner. She finished just a minute behind her personal best and was 12th place among female finishers. Her time was good enough for sixth place in the National Championship competition. USA Track and Filed named her the New England Athlete of the Month that April.

More importantly to Kraus, she had finally qualified for the Olympic Trials in the marathon.

She would have a little more than a year to train.

Kraus entered the trials ranked No. 34 out of 171 contenders. Only three runners would qualify for the Beijing games. She needed to trim seconds off every single mile on the 26.2 mile course in Boston to have a shot.

While she was considered a longshot to make it, she took the opportunity seriously.

Just as she had in high school, Kraus approached the trials with the attitude that she needed to do her best. She set a goal of at least placing 10th.

About a month before the trials she felt she was in the best shape of her life.

“That’s when things changed pretty dramatically,” she recalled.

Kraus once again had injured her hip before a big race, and this time her back was ailing, too.

She maintained a six-minute pace until the midway point, but the injuries caught up to the 30-year-old runner. Kraus would finish 57th in a time of 2:45:01.

“I’m still grateful for the experience,” she said. “But it’s a bittersweet memory. Knowing the kind of shape I was in a month earlier, it’s kind of frustrating.”

The 2008 Olympic Trials marked the end of serious competition for Kraus.

These days, she has a new set of priorities. Over the past couple years she’s gotten married and bought a house in Connecticut.
And just five weeks ago, she gave birth to her first child.

But family life doesn’t mean Kraus has completely given up on running.

“I want to try to get back into running,” she said. “I’ll take it as far as my body will let me.”

If history is any indication, she’ll take it pretty far.

gparpan@northshoresun.com