Members of the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls cross-country team looked at each other and smiled knowingly when they were asked if they had heard much about the school’s 1986 state champion team. Oh yes, they have, from coach Paul Koretzki himself.
“Mr. K will not stop talking about it,” said junior Katherine Lee.
Well, maybe now Koretzki will not talk so much about that 1986 team, not when he has the 2016 version to brag about.
Thirty years after Koretzki’s girls covered themselves in state glory, the current Wildcats earned the team’s second state title Saturday in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on the rolling hills of Chenango Valley State Park in Chenango Forks. It was a double triumph for Lee, who took first place in the Class B race for the second time in three years.
When Koretzki delivered the news to his runners that they were state champions about 10 minutes after the race, some of them cried. “I was just so overwhelmed,” said senior Maria Smith.
To put matters into perspective, only three Suffolk County girls teams have ever won a state cross-country championship — the two Shoreham teams and the 2002 Class C champion Bayport-Blue Point squad.
The Wildcats have lived up to the pressure being called the “best girls team in Suffolk County history” by Koretzki.
The undefeated Lee, appearing in her fourth state meet, completed the five-kilometer race in 17 minutes, 53.7 seconds, for her 11th win in as many races this season. Alexandra Hays (19:01.0) and Smith (19:04.3) finished 11th and 12th and another Shoreham senior, Payton Capes (19:14.4), was 18th. Francesca Lily (20:39.1) was the fifth Shoreham scorer. The other Wildcats who ran were Alexandra Smith (20:56.8) and Amanda Dwyer (21:19.6).
“We all ran the race that we had to,” said Alexandra Hays.
Finishing second in last year’s state meet to John Jay-Cross River was a major motivating factor for Shoreham. This time Shoreham was first with 51 points, separated by 17 points from runner-up John Jay-Cross River.
“This whole season we’ve been thinking of this one race, and it turned out how we wanted it to,” said Maria Smith.
For Hayes, the experience was as good as she could have hoped for. Asked how she would rate it, she answered, “Ten out of 10.”
The dream team’s dream season is coming to a dreamy end, but not exactly yet, though.
Koretzki said the Wildcats will skip the New York State Federation Championships Saturday in Wappingers Falls in order to prepare for the Nike National Northeast Regional meet that will be held at the same site a week later. The top two teams from that competition will qualify for the national championships in Oregon.
On Tuesday afternoon the heavy medals of six of the Wildcats clanged against each other as they posed for photos in front of a trophy case in a school hallway.
How have the Wildcats been welcomed since they returned to school? Have they received celebrity treatment?
“We’ve received the congratulations, but nothing’s really changed,” Lee said, laughing.
Well, at least now Koretzki has another story to tell.
Photo caption: Clockwise, starting from top left: Shoreham-Wading River’s Alexandra Hays, Maria Smith, Payton Davis, Katherine Lee, Francesca Lily and Alexandra Smith showing of their newly won hardware. (Credit: Bob Liepa)