As an eighth-grader running in the state federation race last year, Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee learned a valuable lesson. When it comes to competing in a race loaded with talented runners, get out quick.
It’s a style of running Lee, now a freshman, has taken into all her races this season. And it proved particularly effective Saturday at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls.
Lee finished fifth overall in the New York Federation Championships, which combines the top runners from across the state. She ran a superb time of 18 minutes 30.4 seconds over the 5,000-meter course, nearly two minutes faster than her time on the same course last year that landed her 85th overall.
“She didn’t do well on that course last year,” said Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki. “And this year, because she went and got out, which is a different mode now, she did well.”
Lee earned a spot in the federation race after winning the Class B state championship race Nov. 15 in Canton, N.Y. She was the only Wildcat runner to compete in the federation race.
Koretzki said Lee’s time put her in the top-60 all-time for the course at Wappingers Falls, which has been the home of the federation race for more than a decade.
“That’s a pretty good show,” Koretzki said.
Lee was the top finisher among Long Island runners. Bella Burda, a senior from Arlington, was the winner in 17:50.4. Only two runners cracked the 18-minute barrier.
“She ran a very brave race,” Koretzki said. “She stayed with the pack and she was chasing kids all the way.”
There were more than 250 runners in the race. After about 600 meters, the course narrows down, Koretzki said. So for runners who find themselves buried in the middle, the chance of advancing after that is slim.
“If you’re in the middle of the pack, you’re going nowhere,” Koretzki said. “With all those runners, you got to be at the top or the back, otherwise you’re not going to have a race.”
It’s been a remarkable season for Lee, who seems to be getting stronger as the fall season winds down. Lee won the Section XI Division Championship race, the state qualifier and the state meet before her fifth-place finish at federations.
Koretzki noted that at Sunken Meadow State Park — the Suffolk County course runners compete at most frequently — times average about five seconds slower than the course at Wappingers Falls. Even taking that into consideration, Lee’s time this past weekend was a huge jump from her best at Sunken Meadow. Lee ran 19:02.17 at the division championship Oct. 21 for her best time at Sunken Meadow.
And her season isn’t done yet.
Lee will return to Wappingers Falls Nov. 29 to compete in the Nike Cross Nationals New York Regional for a chance to qualify for the Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon Dec. 6.
“She’s had a perfect season,” Koretzki said.
The rest of Shoreham’s runners will race at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional in New York Nov. 29.