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Girls Winter Track Preview: Lee primed for her final indoor season

Katherine Lee’s 2016-17 winter track season didn’t go the way she would have liked, and it really had nothing to do with how she performed. Lee’s undefeated indoor season was cut short when she was cleated on her left ankle from behind by another runner while running the 1,500 meters in the Millrose Games.

“Freaky things happen,” said Bob Szymanski, who is part of Shoreham-Wading River’s coaching triumvirate along with Paul Koretzki and Roger Sullivan.

That happened two days before the state qualifying meet, which the hobbled Lee watched while moving about with the aid of crutches and wearing a protective boot on her left foot.

One can imagine that the memory of that season-ending injury only made the Shoreham senior more determined to finish off her final indoor season with the Wildcats with a flourish.

Szymanski knows not to underestimate Lee’s abilities. “Lee is just a phenom,” he said. “She can do a lot of amazing things, just an amazing performer.”

Lee’s senior cross-country season has still not ended. She will run in the Foot Locker National Championships Saturday at Balboa Park in San Diego. Last month she won her third state championship.

The versatile Lee can run the 1,500 and 3,000 indoors as well as a relay or the 600.

“She’s ready to go,” Szymanski said Friday. “I timed her in the 1,000 today and she broke three minutes.”

Shoreham has undergone significant turnover, though, and lost three top athletes to graduation in Payton Capes-Davis, Amanda Dwyer and Alexandra Hayes. They were a big part of Shoreham picking up its 14th indoor county championship last season (more than any other school, according to Koretzki) and first since 2007.

The Wildcats have other top athletes in Lexi Smith (1,500, and 3,000), Francesca Lilly, (600, 4×800 relay), Nicole Garcia and Danielle Ohrtmann (triple jump, long jump, relays).

“We’re hoping to do very well this season, no doubt about it,” Szymanski said. “We have a lot of talent.”

“Young” would still be the operative word for Riverhead this season, although one could add the words “but more experienced.”

Coach Justin Cobis said Riverhead has a “very strong sophomore core and we have great supplemental pieces around it.” He said: “I think last year we were so freshman-heavy, and we’re still a very young team, but that being said, I think that a lot of the girls who ran cross country as sophomores stepped up and made improvements as far as our distance and middle-distance runners. We also have had girls like Miasha Pittman and Eve Pittman, even though they’re only a sophomore and a junior, they’re stepping [up] as leaders as far as the sprinters and jumpers are concerned. So, there is enough leadership there even though we’re a very young team and developing into something very special. And we have more depth at all those events this year than we did last year, so more experience and more depth hopefully translates into more success.”

Only five of the 48 team members are seniors. One of them is long-distance runner Olivia Pizzuto, who is in her fifth season. “She’s almost an assistant coach at this rate,” Cobis said. “She can run a workout. She can be accountable for everybody.”

Younger athletes like sophomores Christina Yakaboski (middle distances) and Miasha Pittman (300 meters, 55, long jump) could have breakthrough seasons. Yakaboski is a candidate for what looks to be a strong 4×800 relay team along with Emma Conroy, Megan Kielbasa, Madison Stromski, Linda Pomiranceva and Pizzuto. “Those girls have all kind of been on the same wavelength as far as their times and their workouts in cross country, so we’ll see how their speed develops,” said Cobis.

Cobis said the school record in the 4×800 relay (10 minutes, 20.03 seconds, set in 2005) could be in jeopardy. “Our record is something that should be broken this season in the 4×800, and we should break it, hopefully, by a good amount,” he said.

Taylor Albinksi is a leader in the hurdles. Also looking good are Kristina Deraveniere (1,000), Julia Divan (high jump, pole vault, sprints), Elizabeth Dowd (long jump, triple jump, sprints), Morgan Fritscher (pole vault), Kayla Kielbasa (long distance), Eve Pittman (300, 600, long jump) and Delu Rizzo (300, 4×200 relay).

“I’d like to see more of our girls take that next step forward and qualify for those deeper races into the postseason,” Cobis said. “I like that we have so much potential, and I’m excited. I think that the girls are excited as well. If the girls attack their season and they start preparing and really holding themselves accountable like we know they can … they could really have a very nice season.”

Bishop McGann-Mercy’s strength is in the relays, and the race for spots is on.

“This is a good problem to have,” coach Brian Manghan said. “We have seven or eight girls who are fighting it out for our number one relay.”

That would be the 4×200 relay team, which Manghan believes could be in the top five among Suffolk County small schools.

Among the candidates for that relay team are sophomores Kelsey Bundrick, Gabrielle Jean and Deanna Kelly, senior Olivia Valle and freshman Amanda Zanetti. Valle is one of the team’s four seniors, along with long-distance runner Sarah Dern, Olivia Kneski (300, 600) and sprinter Madison Willmott. The Monarchs also have sophomore long-distance runner Anna Falco, eighth-grader Rose Hayes, who runs middle and long distances, her sister, sophomore Grace Hayes (3,000), and sophomore Lilly Kneidl (600, 1,000). New to the team is freshman Lola Anderson, who ran in the recent state cross-country meet.

“We got a good group of kids,” Manghan said. “They’re going to do well.”

What does he like best about his team?

“The enthusiasm,” he answered. “These girls all show up and they want to work hard.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior Katherine Lee, who saw her 2016-17 winter season cut short by injury, is healthy and ready for the new season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)