Before John Lee could even break a sweat Tuesday night, his nearest competitor in the 3,200-meter race who nowhere to be seen. Lee, a Shoreham-Wading River senior, surged ahead of the pack from the opening gun and was never tested in the opening event of the League V Championship.
So much so, he was surprised at how far ahead he got so quickly.
“I was 20 meters ahead and that didn’t seem right,” Lee said in describing the early portion of the race.
With Port Jefferson’s runners completing the race at a more casual pace, focused instead on securing points rather than a fast time, Lee had the track at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood all to himself. He finished in 9 minutes 53.58 seconds, well ahead of Port Jefferson freshman James Burke, who clocked in at 10:01.17.
“They were trying to get extra points in distance events,” Lee said.
It was the second league title for Lee for his career in the winter season and first in the 3,200. He was a league champion in the 1,600 last year.
This season a newcomer from Port Jefferson denied Lee a repeat title. After Lee edged Burke in the 3,200, the two switched places in the next event. Burke, who’s had a superb season this year as a ninth-grader, ran 4:37.43. He led by a wide margin for most of the race and Lee closed the gap a bit late to finish in 4:39.51.
Lee spent most of the race by himself, with Burke ahead of him and Port Jefferson senior Andrew Keresztes behind him in third place by a wide margin.
“My coach just wanted me to come in at least third just to get extra points,” Lee said. “I knew Burke was going to beat me. He’s a crazy freshman. I figured I could out-muscle Keresztes.”
Thanks in large part to Lee, the Wildcats finished third as a team with 65 points. In addition to his two individual performances, Lee ran the anchor leg of the 4 x 800 relay team that placed third in 8:55.73.
“Too bad he can’t run eight [events],” quipped Shoreham coach Bob Szymanski.
Port Jefferson won the meet with 117 1/2 points and Amityville was second with 97.
Looking ahead to the county meet, Lee will turn his focus to the 3,200.
“I have a good chance to make it to states in that if I have a good day at state quals,” he said.
Lee has made it to states in cross country, but hasn’t yet in winter track. Last year dealt him plenty of adversity throughout the season with an ankle injury. By the time he reached the state qualifier, Lee finished 10th in the 1,600 with a time close to 18 seconds off his seed time.
“I’m having a much better winter season than last year,” he said. “Last year was just terrible.”
Shoreham had another second-place finisher Tuesday with senior Tyler Keys in the 1,000. He went up against Keresztes, who took the lead for good with about two laps to go. Keresztes ran 2:39.15 and Keys finished second in 2:40.76.
The Wildcats also got four points in the event from sophomore Jack Kelly with his fourth-place finish in 2:48.38.
In the 600 sophomore Matt Leunig was fourth in 1:36.77.
While the Wildcats did well in the distance events, they couldn’t compete in the sprints and field events. They failed to score at all in the sprints and compiled eight points in the field events.
Sophomore Maxwell Maritato was third in the high jump by clearing 5 feet 4 inches. Junior Charlie DeMaio was fifth in the shot put with a top throw of 38-01.
The Wildcats took third in both the 4 x 200 and 4 x 400 relays.
McGann-Mercy scored two points in the 4 x 800 relay with a fifth-place finish in 9:43.25. Senior Jay Marano was sixth in the long jump with a top mark of 17-10 1/4.