Girls Winter Track: Capes-Davis rises from JV runner to state champion

Over the past year, Payton Capes-Davis has covered a lot of ground — both literally and figuratively.

The Shoreham-Wading River High School senior has come a long way, much further than even she could have fathomed.

Two falls ago, as a junior, Capes-Davis was running for Shoreham’s junior varsity cross-country team. Today she is a state champion in winter track.

“It’s beyond anything I ever could have imagined,” she said.

Capes-Davis ran the leadoff leg for Section XI’s triumphant distance-medley team in the intersectional relay in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on Saturday. The Section XI team won in 10 minutes, 19.03 seconds, edging second-place Section II (10:20.54) at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island.

“It’s definitely absolutely phenomenal,” said Capes-Davis, who handed off the baton at the conclusion of her 1,000 meters in 3:00 flat, which would have been a personal record for her for that distance.

Following Capes-Davis in the relay were Connetquot sophomore Emma McLaughlin (200 meters), Westhampton Beach junior Kayla Berman (600) and West Islip senior Sierra Koehler (1,600).

Capes-Davis finished the race with a small cut and some blood on her right shin. It was sort of appropriate. She is a fiery, fierce competitor who pushes herself hard and doesn’t let little things like a cut or a little blood stop her.

“She won’t give an inch,” Shoreham assistant coach Bob Szymanski said. “She’s tough. I would hate to run against her because I know it’s never going to be an easy race. Payton is, I would say, one of the best competitors that Shoreham’s ever had for females.”

The intersectional relay is like a wild card, offering runners who would otherwise not be there, an opportunity to compete at the state meet. Capes-Davis made the most of it. She said she would have loved to run at the state meet with the rest of Shoreham’s strong 4×800 relay team, “but Section XI is just like family and this was a phenomenal achievement.”

Szymanski said Capes-Davis is the most improved runner on Shoreham’s team. Capes-Davis said she committed herself to running last summer. “I really, really worked hard,” she said, adding: “I really got my priorities into place this summer and I decided that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to run and run well.”

She has run so well that she recently committed to run cross country and track for Bucknell University.

Capes-Davis wasn’t the only Shoreham girl to have state and federation medals draped around her neck Saturday. Another senior, Allie Hays, finished sixth in the 1,500 in 4:40.43, an indoor personal record for her.

“It’s really special,” Hays said. “It means a lot because the season started out pretty rough. I didn’t even know if I was going to make the state meet.”

Though delighted to earn all-state status, Hays said she was disappointed with her time. She said she had wanted to break 4:37, her fastest outdoors time.

The way the race developed, Hays found herself running by herself, well behind the lead pack and well ahead of the back pack in her section.

“I think I just felt lost,” she said. “I was running in like no-man’s land, which is frustrating. I was 13 seconds in front of the people behind me and eight seconds behind the people in front of me.”

Corning senior Jessica Lawson was the state champion in 4:25.66.

Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki said Hays, a strong runner who can maintain pace, is enjoying a “perfect” season. He said, “Anybody who gets a medal earns it.”

The Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex isn’t new to Hays, who had run at the facility twice before.

“I like this track,” she said. “It’s always a cool environment. It’s always a big race when you come here. I’m just really grateful to be here and have this happen.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior Payton Capes-Davis had a lot to smile about after earning a winner’s medal as a member of Section XI’s triumphant distance-medley relay team. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)