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Girls Cross Country: San Diego sunshine is in Lee’s future

For the second straight year Shoreham-Wading River High School senior Katherine Lee has qualified to run in a national cross-country meet. This time around, though, she will run in a different meet in a different setting.

Portland, Ore., where Lee finished 10th in the Nike Cross Nationals last year to earn All-America honors (she was the first Shoreham girl to ever run in a national meet, according to coach Paul Koretzki), is known for its rainfall. San Diego, on the other hand, is lauded for its sunshine and beautiful weather. Lee hopes to experience that Dec. 9 when she runs in the Foot Locker National Championships at Balboa Park in San Diego.

Lee secured her place in the national meet by taking second place in the 39th annual Foot Locker Championships Northeast Regional Saturday. She finished second on the 5,000-meter course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx in 17 minutes, 50.0 seconds.

It was the fastest time a Shoreham girl had ever run on the course, according to Koretzki. “That’s a very, very good time,” he said. “She holds every course record at the school.”

Marlee Starliper of Wellsville, Pa., was first in 17:47.5. Lee finished 4.5 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher, Jacqueline Gaughan of Exeter, N.H.

“I think it was OK, especially how I’ve been having a lot of difficulties this season,” said Lee, who earlier this month won her third state championship. “So, for me to qualify was really exciting. I feel like I could have put a lot more into that race. I think I kind of settled at the end, realizing that I was going to be in a position to qualify for nationals.”

By finishing in the top 10, Lee secured her ticket to San Diego, where she will stay at a beach resort and compete against 39 other runners.

Lee had sat out the New York State Federation meet in order to stay fresh for the regional race.

Running in top-level meets like this is a different sort of experience for Lee, who is accustomed to pulling away from the competition, running by herself and winning handily. She isn’t used to running in a pack.

“Usually it’s me in the front,” she said. “At the Nike nationals you could be running your hardest and be in 50th place, you know, and still be within that top pack, which is pretty crazy to me. Foot Locker is a little bit smaller with 40 girls, so it’s going to be pretty different, but, you know, I’m expecting that there’s going to be a pack that goes out hard and I’m hoping to stay with them.”

For all of her success, this hasn’t been the smoothest season for Lee. In addition to losing her regular training partners from last year’s team to graduation, her season has been interrupted by college visits.

“I think that … the first half of the year was a waste of time,” Koretzki said. “She was running here and doing that and not running races … going all these places and seeing all these things … that had to be done, but it did slow her.”

Koretzki said Lee wants another top-10 finish in the national meet “and she can do it. I think now she’s hitting her stride and she’s strong.”

Lee has gotten to see other parts of the country through cross country. This past summer she attended the Nike Elite Camp in Oregon. She has been to Philadelphia with the Shoreham team. Her three official college visits were to Villanova, Stanford and Georgetown, which she committed to with the stroke of a pen in October.

But she has never been to San Diego before. She said, “I’m really excited to see San Diego.”

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Photo caption: Katherine Lee crossing the finish line second in the 39th annual Foot Locker Championships Northeast Regional at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. (Credit: PhotoRun for Foot Locker)