One could surmise that the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls track and field team’s showing in the 3,000 meters in the Section XI Division Championships on Tuesday is a reflection of the team’s outstanding depth at that distance.
Well, yes and no.
“Half of them aren’t 3,000-meter runners and they can run,” coach Paul Koretzki said. “That’s what it boils down to.”
Oh, boy can they run. Shoreham runners swept the first four places in the Division III race at Ward Melville High School. Katherine Lee, a junior, led the way with her third straight division championship in that event in 9 minutes, 58.52 seconds. She was followed by seniors Alexandra Hays (10:03.96), Maria Smith (10:09.52) and Payton Capes-Davis (10:16.35), who showed fortitude, passing three runners for fourth place.
Lee called it an “amazing showing” by her teammates.
Instead of the 24 points Koretzki was hoping for from the 3,000, the Wildcats picked up 28. Those, and 22 points from the 800, provided Shoreham with all but two of the division-leading 52 points it picked up from the four events that were completed Tuesday. Westhampton Beach is second with 18. The meet will conclude on Thursday.
Lee said she knew Hays was behind her during the course of the race, but didn’t realize the runner in the third position was Smith, and not a runner from another school. “I was like, ‘Whoa! Someone’s right there, like the whole time,’ ” Lee said, “so I started picking it up, picking it up, picking it up, and then when I finished and I turn around and it’s my teammate, and I’m like, ‘Wow, you’re paranoid.’ ”
Lee, who was recovering from a hernia operation and an ankle injury heading into this season, looked like herself, picking up a double. She not only won the 800 title for a second straight year, but did so in a school-record time of 2:11.33. The previous record of 2:12 that was held by Megan Holden had stood since 1987, according to Koretzki.
Lee led a tight pack in the 800 before gaining more separation from the runner-up, Westhampton Beach junior Kayla Berman (2:16.02). The next three finishers wore Shoreham uniforms — Amanda Dwyer (2:16.54), Capes-Davis (2:17.19) and Hays (2:19.22). Bishop McGann-Mercy seniors Kaitlyn Butterfield (2:20.01) and Madeleine Joinnides (2:20.47) were sixth and seventh.
For all of her pedigree, Lee said she’s always nervous before a race.
“How can you not be?” she said. “You want to do well for yourself. You want to do well for the team.”
Koretzki said Lee’s ankle has held her back this spring.
Asked about her left ankle, Lee said, “I haven’t had the season that I wanted, but you know, with the circumstances, having surgery, my ankle, it’s been kind of a rocky road.” She continued: “It’s getting there. It’s tight sometimes … but you just got to work through it. It shouldn’t be hindering my running really that much any more.”
Shoreham’s other two points came in the discus. Grace Ficken’s throw of 98 feet, 8 inches brought her fifth place.
Yakaboski third in 3,000. Of all that Christina Yakaboski has accomplished this season, her first on the Riverhead girls track team, what may really raise eyebrows the most is what she has done to the school’s record book.
Yakaboski has broken three school freshmen records that had all been held by Ellen Dougherty, who went on to run for Villanova University. Yakaboski now holds the freshman records in the 800 (2:23.26), 1,500 (4:47.04) and 3,000 (10:36.91).
“It was definitely cool to break her records because I look up to her,” said Yakaboski, who never got to see Dougherty run.
That 3,000 time was set Tuesday when she broke her own previous best time of 10:39.88 to take third place in Division II. Ahead of Yakaboski, two Smithtown East runners, Jaclyn Gallery (10:32.69) and Catherine Farrell (10:32.89), crossed the finish line at almost the same time.
It was only the third time Yakaboski had ever run the 3,000.
“At the end, I was hurting,” she said. “It was good.”
Yakaboski’s emergence has had coaches from other teams asking who she is.
“She kind of came out of nowhere,” Riverhead assistant coach Justin Cobis said. “I think she really is just figuring out what she is doing. She really doesn’t know yet anything about what she is doing. She is learning on the job and every race she is learning something, so I don’t think we’ve seen anything near her potential to fill. I think we see talent, raw talent, and I think we’re just seeing the beginning of something very special.”
Before the race, Yakaboski received a phone call from Dougherty.
“She just gave me some advice and just basically told me to have fun,” Yakaboski said. “I want to meet Ellen now.”
Photo caption: Katherine Lee set a Shoreham-Wading River record in the 800 meters, which she won in 2 minutes, 11.33 seconds. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)