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Track and Field: Lee breaks her own county record in 3,000

Katherine Lee’s face lit up in glee.

It was at once a familiar sight, and an unusual one at the same time.

The familiar part was Lee winning yet another race, albeit a big one, the 3,000 meters in the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier on Friday. What was a bit unusual was her reaction.

After crossing the finish line at Port Jefferson High School, the Shoreham-Wading River junior exuberantly raised her arms briefly in triumphant fashion before hugging and high-five teammates as well as other competitors in the race.

“I was pretty happy,” she told reporters.

That might have had something to do with the announcement that Lee had set new meet and Suffolk County records with her winning time of 9 minutes, 36.04 seconds. Lee broke her own county mark of 9:39.88 that she set last June, according to suffolkxctf.com.

Afterward, however, Lee said she was overjoyed for her teammates, seniors Aly Hays (9:47.68) and Maria Smith (9:51.14), who came in second and third. Hays beat her previous best time by 13 seconds and Smith finished 19 seconds faster than she ever had before.

“They did so amazing,” said Lee.

Hays qualified along with Lee for the state meet that will be held at Union-Endicott High School on June 9 and 10. Even though Smith came in under the state qualifying time, she will not be going to the state meet because no more than two athletes from the same school are permitted per event, Shoreham coaches said.

Lee said her mind-set was not about setting a record. Her plan was to run just fast enough to qualify for the state meet.

Lee could thank Hays and Smith for the roles they played in her record run. For most of the race, Hays was right behind Lee and Smith was right behind Hays. The threesome was packed so tightly that Lee said she hear them breathing behind her.

“This is the best trio we ever had,” said Hays.

Then, Lee made her move, separating herself and racing off on her own.

It was a scene Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki has seen in practice countless times. “They work together,” he said. “What if she was all alone out there? She would run around 9:50. It’s like having rabbits.”

Another Shoreham girl, senior Amanda Dwyer, clocked a personal record in the 800 meters, 2:16.07, bringing her third place.

The second and final day of the meet will be tomorrow.

The goal for all the athletes in this meet is basically the same: make it to the state championships.

“I really, really, really wanted to make states,” said Lee, who will compete in her third outdoor state meet. “This feeling is never going to get old, ever.”

Cunha third in 800. Eric Cunha finished third in the 800, and he was fine with it. His legs told him it was fine.

“I thought I did everything I could,” the Riverhead senior said. “My legs just didn’t want to move faster than that.”

Cunha’s time was 1:58.04. He finished behind Hauppauge junior Nick Crociata (1:56.82) and Deer Park senior Nick Fenton (1:57.37).

At one point, Cunha was fifth with traffic in front of him and some work to do.

“It was a hard race,” he said.

In the pole vault, Shoreham junior Ryan Leda cleared 12 feet, 6 inches, bringing him fourth place. Teammate Calvin Schmalzle, a junior, tied for sixth at 11-6.

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Photo caption: Katherine Lee raises her arms after breaking her own county record in the 800 meters. (Credit: Bob Liepa)