SECTION XI INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS/STATE QUALIFIER
The steeplechase is one of the most demanding events in track and field. Not only is it a grind physically, but it also presents an element of danger. That, along with the event’s novelty, may also be part of its allure. Bad things can happen when exhausted athletes try to clear barriers and navigate water jumps.
That was seen Saturday during the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier. Around the midpoint of the race, Miller Place senior Jeremy Miekley ran into a barrier, slowing him up. Then, Huntington senior Nick Sherman took a fall at the last barrier before the final sprint to the finish line.
“There are a lot of things you got to look out for in this race,” said Shoreham-Wading River senior Keith Steinbrecher.
Steinbrecher did a good job himself of avoiding trouble, and he enjoyed a big day. Not only did he take first place, but he set a meet record and qualified for the state meet, to boot.
With about 10 meters to go, Steinbrecher looked back and saw the next runner, Miekley, about 10 meters behind him. That, Steinbrecher said, was when he knew he had the race won. “I smiled and then I threw my arms up,” he said.
Opponents and teammates hugged him after he crossed the finish line. Minutes later, it was announced over the public-address system at Port Jefferson High School that Steinbrecher had set a meet record: 9 minutes 30.28 seconds.
“I’ll take that,” he said.
Along with a trip to Cicero-North Syracuse High School for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on June 6 and 7.
Steinbrecher, who sliced 10 seconds off his personal record, became the first Shoreham boy to win the event in a state qualifier, according to Wildcats coach Bob Szymanski.
Steinbrecher ran the steeplechase in a state qualifying meet as a sophomore and remembers not doing nearly as well. As he recalled, he finished around 18th place. Last year he missed the second half of the season with a respiratory infection.
This year, though, was a different story. He had a chance to win. A good chance.
In the three steeplechase races Steinbrecher ran earlier this season, he took second twice and fifth in the other one. He was the No. 2 seed on Saturday.
Steinbrecher was fifth after the first splash in the water. By the fifth lap he had moved into the lead position before losing it to Sherman two laps later. But Steinbrecher, running a good pace, regained the lead with about 600 meters to go and held it to the end.
“I felt good today,” he said.
Miekley, the No. 1 seed, was second in 9:32.93. Sherman picked himself up after his fall and took third in 9:37.91.
“The whole race was up in the air,” Steinbrecher said. “All three of us were so close the whole time.”
Szymanski had told Steinbrecher he could win the race, and Steinbrecher proved him right. “He ran smart,” said Szymanski.
Steinbrecher said the winning difference for him was handling the pits and jumps cleanly. He has an unorthodox style, jumping with his right foot, doing a mid-air stutter and then landing on his right foot.
Szymanski was full of praise for Steinbrecher, who co-captains the Wildcats along with senior Ryan Udvadia.
“He organized meetings for me,” Szymanski said. “He got kids to come down weekends to run, and he never complained about a workout. Whatever I gave him, he did.”
Steinbrecher may be rooming with Udvadia upstate. Udvadia qualified for the state meet in both the 3,200 and the 1,600 meters. On Friday, Udvadia blazed to victory in the 3,200 in 9:16.35. He followed that up on Saturday by coming in second in the 1,600 in 4:14.67. Northport junior Mike Branigan was first in 4:12.86.
Udvadia and Steinbrecher ran the two middle legs for Shoreham’s 4×800-meter relay team, which took fourth in 8:04.11. Matt Gladysz handled the first leg and Connor McAlary ran the anchor leg.
Another Shoreham athlete, Jordan Wright, did well. Although Wright didn’t earn a place in the state meet, the senior edged out Smithtown East’s Shane Harris for third place in the 100-meter dash in 11.25 seconds. It was a tight finish, with Half Hollow Hills West’s Jarried Redwood (11.07) finishing first and Patchogue-Medford’s Dominick Cassella (11.25) second.
Two Riverhead seniors, Marcus Moore and Davion Porter, went far in the triple jump. Moore was third, covering 44 feet 11 inches. Porter landed fifth at 44-0.
Porter was also sixth in the high jump, clearing 6-0.