Payton Capes-Davis made quite a splash — in more ways than one — in her introduction to the 2,000-meter steeplechase on Wednesday.
The Shoreham-Wading River High School senior, running the event for the first time, won in stunning fashion. Afterward, she had a first-place medal as well as a bloodied right knee and left shin to show for it.
Despite taking a terrible fall on the first of five water jumps in the Port Jeff Steeplefest at Port Jefferson High School, Capes-Davis picked herself up and not only won, but did so handily in a time of 7 minutes, 10.39 seconds. The second-place finisher, Mount Sinai junior Noreen Guilfoyle, was timed in 7:41.67.
“Definitely a tough race to run, but a lot of fun,” Capes-Davis said after wiping some of the blood off her legs.
That might not have been on Capes-Davis’ mind at the start when she false started. “I was very, very nervous,” she said. “In my defense, I did hear a click. I swear I did, but I’m very grateful that [the official] obviously let me go back to the starting line.”
A review of a series of photos of Capes-Davis at the first water jump show her off-balance, falling forward almost entirely horizontal at one point and then using her right leg to help absorb the landing before falling forward onto both knees in the water.
What went wrong?
“I don’t really know,” she said. “I honestly couldn’t tell you. I just know I hit the ground with both of my knees and I was just like, ‘I got to get up. I got to keep going.’ ”
And she did. Capes-Davis, who was in front at the time of her fall, soon regained the lead before pulling further away from Guilfoyle. Capes-Davis ran consistent 400-meter laps of about 84 seconds each and finished strong.
“It’s her,” Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki said. “Very brave after she hit the water face first.”
The steeplechase is difficult and it’s different. It’s not run at dual meets and some invitationals. That may contribute to its allure because it is a popular event among the athletes who compete in it.
Capes-Davis said it was her idea to try it. She had posed the question to Koretzki in a text message, asking what he thought. His reply surprised her.
“He responded with, ‘I think that’s a great idea,’ and I have been excited ever since,” she said.
The steeplechase seems to be a good choice for Capes-Davis, mixing her long-distance and hurdling talents.
“She’s an athlete,” said Koretzki, noting that Capes-Davis placed second in the pentathlon at last year’s division championships.
Capes-Davis, who will run for Bucknell University, is a threat to the Shoreham record of 7:03.5 that Toni-Lynn Salucci set in 2003.
What was the lesson of the day?
“You just got to keep going,” Capes-Davis said. “Anything that’s thrown at you, you just got to keep going. You can’t let it send you into like a defeatist kind of mental state.”
Three SWR boys take second. Three Shoreham boys — junior Dan Montenegro, junior Rickie Casazza and sophomore Eric DiLisio — came away with second-place finishes.
Montenegro covered a distance of 20 feet, 5 1/2 inches, which was second only to the 20-11 1/2 that West Babylon senior Celso Martinez recorded.
“I feel like I want to do better, but I’m fine with that right now because I placed second,” Montenegro said. “It’s alright.”
Cassaza cleared the high jump at 6-0 despite a bothersome knee, said Shoreham coach Brian Wrinkle. Smithtown East senior Daniel Claxton won with a 6-7 jump.
In the 2,000-meter novice steeplechase, DiLisio finished in 7:06.40.
Shoreham junior Calvin Schmalzle was fourth in the pole vault at 10-6.
“It’s a fun meet,” Wrinkle said. “It’s an opportunity for them to have a good time.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior Payton Capes-Davis clearing one of the barriers on the way to her victory in the 2,000-meter steeplechase. (Credit: Bob Liepa)