Katherine Lee doesn’t like running in a crowd. Her preference is to pull ahead of the pack and do her own thing.
So, the Shoreham-Wading River High School sophomore took and held the lead for the first half of the 3,000-meter final in the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier on Friday at Port Jefferson High School. At the same time, Lee had company. Bay Shore junior Bridget Kanaley wasn’t far behind.
Lee, looking determined as she chugged ahead, also doesn’t like running with someone breathing down her neck.
“I get so freaked out when someone’s right there,” she said, “so initially I was thinking, ‘I’m just going to go, go, go, go, because (Kanaley is) right there.’ ”
Then, Lee heard a familiar voice from the infield. It was Shoreham assistant coach Bob Szymanski, telling her to allow Kanaley to take the lead. Lee complied, and it made all the difference.
“It was really a relief,” Lee said, “and I think I gained my confidence back because in the beginning, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the end.’ ”
Kanaley and Lee ran side by side on the fifth and sixth laps, adding distance between them and the third-place runner, Shoreham’s Alexandra Hays, to turn it into a two-girl race.
Lee was in front for the gun lap, with Kanaley right on her tail. That was, until there were about 450 meters left and Lee pulled away. She won for the second year in a row in a personal-record time of 9 minutes 48.60 seconds. Kanaley (9:53.94) and Hays (10:02.67) followed.
Mattituck’s Melanie Pfennig (10:42.71) and Payton Maddaloni (10:47.63) were seventh and ninth among the 23 finalists.
Lee was thankful that Kanaley dragged her through much of the race.
“Today I really had someone that I willed myself to stick on, so I think that’s why I had a pr, so it’s really thanks to Bridget,” said Lee, who qualified for her second state meet. “When it’s a qualifying race, I really want to be comfortable. I want to just go out there, do my thing, but Bridget didn’t let me do that today. I’m really happy she was there.”
The first day of the two-day meet that concludes on Saturday also saw Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Meg Tuthill triumph in an exciting finish in the 800.
West Babylon junior Paige Keefer had led for virtually the entire way, until a surging Tuthill nipped her at the finish line.
“On the line,” Tuthill said. “It was extremely close.”
Tuthill won in 2:11.52, which was only 9/100ths of a second ahead of Keefer. It was the fastest Tuthill has ever run by over two seconds. Shoreham’s Kaitlyn Ohrtman was fifth in 2:16.07.
With the win, Tuthill secured a place in the state meet, which will be held June 10 and 11 at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, for the third year in a row.
Immediately after the race, Tuthill quickly and briefly raised both arms in the air in triumphant fashion, an unusual show of on-track emotion for her.
“I never do that, actually,” she said. “It’s very uncharacteristic of me. I couldn’t believe it. I never felt like that after a race, I don’t think.”
It was an exhilarating victory for her, having finished as the runner-up the past two years. She called it the best win of her career.
Referring to her second-place finishes in the 800 the last two years, Tuthill said: “It was about to be a third year, that’s why I could not let that happen. I couldn’t really believe it myself that I beat her.”
Tight Finish in Boys 800 To say the boys 800-meter final was a close one would be putting it mildly. The first three runners finished within 32/100ths of a second of each other, and Riverhead senior Luke Coulter was right in the middle of that mix.
Huntington junior Shane McGuire (1:53.64), Coulter (1:53.70, a personal record) and Hauppauge senior Nick Beglane (1:53.96) hit the finish line in that order. Bang, bang, bang.
Asked about the tight finish, Coulter, who qualified for his first state meet, said: “Honestly, I was confused. I was like, there’s like four kids like right there. We all could have had it.”
What was Coulter’s approach to the race?
“Just like any other 800,” he said. “You go out hard, and then it’s basically whoever has more gas at the end.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee, left, and Bay Shore’s Bridget Kanaley ran neck and neck for much of the 800-meter final. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)