Katherine Lee had a plan for the girls championship race in the Section XI Division Cross-Country Championships on Tuesday: Take the lead early and stay there.
A lot easier said than done, yet Lee did it.
“It’s really hard,” she said. “It actually made me almost faint at the end, it was so hard.”
The Shoreham-Wading River High School sophomore flew out in front early and never relinquished her lead, pushing herself to the finish line — and the limit.
After Lee became the first runner to finish, she stopped dead in her tracks and buckled over in obvious pain. The thought that she had just won the Division III race for the second straight year, helping the Wildcats take the team title for the second year in a row, wasn’t foremost on her mind at the moment.
“My first thought was ask for the trainer because I was really hurting,” she said later, clutching an ice bag to the right side of her aching abdomen.
With her winning time of 19 minutes 0.74 seconds, Lee sliced over two seconds off her previous best time at Sunken Meadow State Park’s five-kilometer course in Kings Park. Her teammate, junior Alexandra Hays, was second in 19:31.98.
Coach Paul Koretzki’s Shoreham team made a strong showing with seven Wildcats among the top 11 places. Kaitlyn Ohrtman was seventh in 20:07.83. Then four Wildcats took places 8 through 11: Amanda Dwyer (20:28.84), Francesca Lilly (20:36.75), Maria Smith (20:46.89) and Lexie Smith (20:52.77).
It added up to Shoreham seizing the division title with 22 points, well ahead of runner-up Bayport-Blue Point (64).
“This is the dream team, I think,” said Lee.
If so, Lee may then be called the dream runner. The course at Sunken Meadow is a demanding one, and the competition pushes runners, not that Lee needs to be pushed.
“She’s so fast and she’s really fun,” Bishop McGann-Mercy junior Kaitlyn Butterfield said. “To even be in the same race with her is exciting.”
Hays said pride played a role in Shoreham’s triumph.
“Last year when we won it, it was kind of like a shock to us,” she said. “So, I think definitely this year for us it was like a huge thing because we wanted to defend our title. We’re a very prideful team.”
As is Mattituck, which took the Division IV crown with 36 points, 10 points better than runner-up McGann-Mercy.
Melanie Pfennig, a junior, noted that the division championships can be “really intimidating, but I feel like knowing you have that competition makes you know you have to run better.”
Pfennig clocked a time of 19:59.34, good enough for first place. McGann-Mercy’s Butterfield was second at 20:37.76.
“I definitely think you’re more mentally focused coming into a race like this, being a fast race, and just trying to do everything you can to place as a team, so I definitely just gave it everything I had,” said Butterfield.
Seven of the top 14 places went to Mattituck runners. Payton Maddaloni was fifth in 21:21.34 and Audrey Hoeg came in seventh in 21:41.34. Meg Dinizio (22:43.60) was 11th and followed in order by teammates Mia Vasile-Cozzo (23:01.29), Sascha Rosin (23:08.84) and Maddie Schmidt (23:12.84).
“I feel like, as a team we just did probably the best we ever had so far,” said Pfennig.
McGann-Mercy’s Meg Tuthill was third in 20:42.59 and teammate Tori Barlow was ninth in 22:08.76.
Photo: Katherine Lee, far right, led the girls championship race from start to finish and led Shoreham-Wading River to a second straight division championship. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)