Standing at the starting line, Katherine Lee looked uneasy and unsure of herself, as if it was the first time she had ever stepped on a track. The truth is, the Shoreham-Wading River High School sophomore is an accomplished track and field athlete. Perhaps one of the reasons for that is she doesn’t take anything for granted.
“I get so nervous,” she said. “You never know what other people are going to do. Track is like one of those things where if someone’s got a good day, they can put everything out there and do it.”
And that is precisely what Lee did on Wednesday night. She went out and got the job done — twice.
Lee pulled off a difficult double, taking first place in both the 3,000 and the 600 meters in the Section XI Championships, a state qualifying meet, at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
“Going into the 600, I thought nothing,” Lee said. “I thought, I’ll come in last and I’ll be O.K. with it. I just ran a 3,000 and I’m ready to have some ice cream and go to bed.”
It was the second straight county championship for Lee in the 3,000, which she won in 10 minutes 5.95 seconds, a personal record. She made a sign of the cross three times before the start of the race. “I needed it,” she said.
With only a 75-minute break between races, Lee then went on to run the 600 for only the third time in her career and won in 1:37.55.
“She ran like she always does,” said teammate Allie Hays, a junior who was second to Lee in the 3,000 in 10:16.65, her fastest time in the event.
Lee turned in quite a showing.
Impressive? Yes. Surprising? No.
At least not to Shoreham coach Bob Szymanski, who said, “She doesn’t surprise me any more.”
Although Lee qualified in both events for the state meet March 5 at Cornell University, she said she hasn’t decided whether she will run both distances upstate.
Lee and Hays will be joined by a third Shoreham runner, senior Kaitlyn Ohrtman, in the state meet. Ohrtman qualified by virtue of her performance in the 1,500. She was second to Eastport/South Manor’s Taylor McClay (4:44.86) in 4:45.61, a personal-best time.
Ohrtman said that when she crossed the finish line, she felt “pure relief, like thank God! I did it.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Meg Tuthill will make her third appearance in the state meet. The only difference is this time she will do so as a county champion.
Tuthill used her strong kick down the stretch to take the lead in the 1,000 race with about 60 meters left. She triumphed in 2:55.26, topping second-place Alexandra DeCicco of Sachem East (2:56.12). McGann-Mercy junior Kaitlyn Butterfield finished fifth in 3:02.79.
Tuthill said her coach, Collin Zeffer, told “me to be the last one to make a move, so basically, with a hundred meters to go, that’s when he wanted me to go, and that’s when I did.”
“Second place is great, too, but there’s just something about being a champion,” she said, adding, “I will still call this the best race of my life.”
Tuthill and Butterfield also joined juniors Devyn O’Brien and Maddie Joinnides on a 4×800-meter relay team that took second place in 9:52.07. Sachem East won in 9:30.65.
KELLY, COULTER ARE CHAMPIONS It’s hard to say who was happier, Dale Kelly or his coach, Les Williams, after Kelly was the first one to bolt to the finish line in the boys 300-meter dash final. The McGann-Mercy senior flew to the finish in 35.37 seconds. Huntington junior Lawrence Leake was second in 35.43.
Kelly, who was seeded third, was exuberant afterward, calling it “probably the greatest achievement I ever had.”
“I thought that was spectacular,” Williams said. “At Mercy we pray a lot, and I’ve been praying for him. His workouts have been flawless. He’s been outstanding and he’s one of the best kids around.”
Kelly has drawn interest from colleges such as Princeton, Purdue, Georgia Tech and Penn State. Now he has an invitation to his first indoor state meet.
“I really have no words,” he said. “I’m very, very happy. I’m so grateful.”
Riverhead senior Luke Coulter was a county champion in the 600 with a time of 1:22.50. His nearest competition came from West Islip senior Darius Benton (1:23.19). Coulter also came in fifth in the 3,200 in 9:49.18.
Photo Caption: Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Katherine Lee won two events at Wednesday’s state qualifier meet. (Credit: Bill Landon)