Kaitlyn Ohrtman is not easily deterred. It would take a lot to prevent the Shoreham-Wading River High School junior from running.
That sort of approach got Ohrtman into some trouble during the cross-country season in the fall of 2013. She believes that by running while she had a chest cold at the time, she had developed a condition in which her vocal chords closed when she breathed in instead of opening up like they should. Sometimes, she said, she felt as if she was breathing through a straw.
Ohrtman’s breathing condition has since been corrected, and she said she has been feeling fine. Her times don’t lie. They have been good.
“It’s been a good season, building up my confidence,” she said.
Ohrtman and teammate Katherine Lee, a freshman, will run in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on Saturday at Cornell University in Ithaca. It will be the first appearance for both Wildcats in the state indoor track and field meet.
The long-legged Ohrtman will run the 1,500. She took second place in the state qualifying meet at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Feb. 8, clocking a personal record: 4 minutes 48.20 seconds. She finished behind Sachem East junior Alexandra DeCicco, who was clocked in 4:46.71.
“She’s a dedicated, hard worker,” Roger Sullivan, who coaches Shoreham along with Paul Koretzki, said of Ohrtman. “She’s really coming into her own this year.” Sullivan described Ohrtman as a driven athlete who “will push as hard as she can. She won’t back off.”
Ohrtman simply says, “I love running.”
Speaking of the state meet, she said, “I want to try and just run the best that I can, try and get another [personal record], hopefully.”
The extreme cold and snow that this winter brought has made it tough on runners trying to get their road work in. “It’s been hard getting outside because there’s nowhere to run, really,” said Ohrtman.
Still, she has been training with Lee, with both of them running in each other’s neighborhoods.
Ohrtman was fortunate to have recently spent two weeks in Hawaii, where she was able to get some long-distance running in.
On Tuesday, Ohrtman joined Alexandra Hayes, Megan Kelly and Lee in running the distance-medley relay in the Eastern States Indoor Track & Field Championships at The Armory in New York City. They were disqualified for a race infraction, along with four other teams.
Lee will run the 3,000 in the state meet. Her best indoor time in the event is 10:09.83, which she ran in the first race of the season at Suffolk County Community College. Lee was first in the state qualifier in 10:11.12 and also took top honors in the recent Long Island Elite Track Invitational at St. Anthony’s High School in 11:04.50.
Lee is also an alternate for Section XI’s distance-medley relay team.
“I feel O.K.,” Lee said. “I don’t feel awesome because I’ve been running on roads for like a month, but I feel like that’s probably what everyone’s been doing and hopefully, with just being in a big race with very good runners, I’ll be able to push through.”
Asked what the biggest challenges facing Ohrtman and Lee in Ithaca will be, Koretzki answered: “Really good runners. There’s no [Class] A, B, C, D or anything like that. It’s all one class. Therefore, you’re going to have the best runners.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy junior Meg Tuthill will return to Cornell as a state champion. She will run the 1,000 meters. In last year’s state meet, she ran the first 1,000 meters for the Section XI team that took first place in the distance-medley relay.
Koretzki said he expects both Wildcats to finish in the top 10 of their individual events.
One thing Ohrtman and Lee have to avoid, Koretzki said, is getting lost in the pack. “They got to get in the race,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. If they sit back and get into a crowd, it’s 10th or 12th. These kids are not going to hold back with four laps to go. … They got to be in the top six or top five spots, no matter what it costs, even if in the middle of the race they have to put in a hard lap to get to that place so that when everybody’s ready to put the hammer down, they’re within striking range of putting the hammer down.”
Sullivan noted that his runners will face tough competition, but he said, “I think they’re ready.”