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Cross Country: Lee, SWR girls triumph for third straight division title

Shoreham-Wading River runner Katherine Lee 102516

Katherine Lee has not been feeling well lately. She has been battling cold symptoms. A stuffy nose, headaches, a sore throat.

Think that was going to slow down the Shoreham-Wading River High School junior in the Section XI Division Championships on Tuesday? Think again.

This is the same girl who underwent surgery for an inguinal hernia on July 7. Doctors had told her she would need four to six weeks to recover. But the clock toward the 2016 cross-country season was ticking and Lee didn’t want to delay the start of her preseason training any more than she had to. Within two weeks of the operation she was training.

That training led up to a magnificent run of results. Lee has yet to lose a race this season, including Tuesday when she breezed to victory in 18 minutes, 17.36 seconds on Sunken Meadow State Park’s five-kilometer course. It was the third straight individual division championship for Lee and third team title in a row for Shoreham.

Shoreham senior Alexandra Hayes fought off Mount Sinai’s Noreen Guilfoyle in a close finish for second place. Hayes’ time was 19:14.20, just 48/100ths of a second ahead of Guilfoyle.

“I could feel her right on my shoulder,” said Hayes.

The Wildcats grabbed six of the first eight places in the Division III championship race, with senior Maria Smith (19:33.62) fourth and senior Payton Capes-Davis sixth (19:46.30). Another Shoreham senior, Amanda Dwyer (20:39.25), was 11th.

Lee led from the start and made it look easy, but it wasn’t. She had to battle fatigue the whole way as her muscles tightened up on the cold, windy afternoon.

Afterward, she told reporters: “I thought, it’s just a cold. It can’t keep me down for what I think is one of the biggest races of the season, so I’m just going to have to tough it out. I got through the race. That’s all that matters.”

Like a machine, Lee produces results with astounding consistency.

“Incredible,” Hayes said, adding, “She just ran like she always does. She just killed it.”

Shoreham sped to the team title with 24 points, well ahead of second-place Mount Sinai’s 66.

That was hardly a surprise. Shoreham is loaded, the top-ranked New York Class B team by the New York State Sportswriters Association.

“It really is a dream team, for sure,” said Lee, who is ranked third among the state’s Class B runners in overall speed rating by TullyRunners.com. “They haven’t really had a team like us before.”

Hayes said: “We are so strong. We did not think that we were going to get better after last year, but we have gotten better. Everyone has stepped it up to a whole completely different level.”

Bishop McGann-Mercy, with a third-place finish by Kaitlyn Butterfield (20:46.35) and a fifth from Tori Barlow (21:15.18), took second in the Division IV team scoring with 41 points. Mattituck (28) was first. Mercy’s Devyn O’Brien (21:42.67) was eighth and teammate Rita Ellis (22:38.47) was 11th.

In Division II, two Riverhead freshmen acquitted themselves well. Megan Kielbasa was sixth in 20:26.27 and Christina Yakaboski was 10th in 20:43.78.

Kicking in the wind. Riverhead senior Eric Cunha was the 26th finisher in the boys championship race in 17:38.37, which was over 16 seconds off his fastest time on the course. Cunha said he hasn’t felt well the past couple of days, but he also had to contend with running in the face of stiff wind for parts of the race.

“Coming off that bridge with 250 meters left, it really kills,” he said. “You’re trying your hardest to kick. It doesn’t work out too well when you have the wind blowing straight in your face. I had a strong kick. I still passed a lot of people, but it was nowhere near my best time.”

Cunha’s teammate Ryan Carrick was 35th in 17:47.13.

Shoreham’s top runner, Anthony Peraza, came in 64th in 18:31.53.

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River junior Katherine Lee won her third straight division title and her team took its third straight division championship. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)