By her own admission, Katherine Lee is not her usual self.
That’s a good question.
Lee spent four days in a hospital in early May. The Shoreham-Wading River High School track and field star had complained of flu-like symptoms, was shaky with a cold and a high fever. She was convinced to go to a hospital after running the 800 meters in the St. Anthony’s Invitational. That morning she had a 102-degree fever, she said.
What was the cause? That remains a mystery.
“They didn’t know what it was,” Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki said. “… They couldn’t figure it out. Then, all of a sudden, everything came up normal and she’s fine.”
Or is she?
The senior was fine enough Friday to win her fourth straight 3,000-meter title in the Section XI Championships and qualify for her fourth consecutive outdoor state meet. It was anything but a breeze, though.
The fourth-seeded Lee held off top-seeded Mount Sinai sophomore Sarah Connelly in a furious charge down the straightaway to notch the victory at Comsewogue High School. Then Lee collapsed at the finish line before being attended to by Shoreham assistant coach Bob Szymanski and trainers.
“The last lap I really had to put it out there or else I wasn’t going to have it, and I just started to feel dizzy and my whole body felt heavy and my head felt light,” Lee said. “As soon as I crossed the line, it was really like every ounce that I had left. As soon as I knew I got over the line, I just lost it. I fell over and couldn’t even keep my eyes open for a few minutes there. I still feel a little bit shaky, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with now.”
Lee turned in a season-best time of 9 minutes, 58.42 seconds. It was about 32 seconds off her personal-best time. Connelly was second in 9:59.99. Riverhead sophomore Christina Yakaboski was seventh in 10:39.41.
The pain was etched on Lee’s face during that final stretch and even afterward when she was helped off the track and sitting against a fence in the shade. Then she smiled when her 9-year-old brother, Spencer, gave her a lick of his ice cream cone.
Lee and Connelly ran side by side for much of the race. Lee covered the first 600 meters in 2:01, the first 1,200 in 4:03, the first mile in 5:24 and clocked 8:44 at the 2,600 mark.
By the time the race started, the sun had emerged from behind clouds. It got hotter and uncomfortable.
“It was really difficult for me,” Lee said. “It’s been a rough past few weeks. Things haven’t really been going right. I was in the hospital. I was sick before that. I really just haven’t felt the same since. Every workout and every run was just harder than it used to be.”
Koretzki, noting that Lee had qualified for the seeded section at the state meet, which will be held June 8 and 9 at Cicero North Syracuse High School, said, “She has more.”
Lee is scheduled to run the 1,500 and the 4 x 800 relay on Saturday, the final day of the two-day meet. But the 3,000, she said, was important to her.
“It really meant a lot to me and I really, really wanted to come out with a win today as much as I might not want to admit it, and I don’t like to put place above all else, but there was just something special about this race today,” she said. “It hurt really bad, but I think the pain is totally worth the feeling that I have right now, having that high school sweep.”
Ledda vaults into state meet
Shoreham pole vaulter Ryan Ledda qualified for his first outdoor state meet, but not without some pain himself.
Ledda equalled his season-best by clearing 12 feet, 6 inches. That put the senior into a four-way tie for seventh place overall, but as the top Class B vaulter, he booked a spot in the state meet.
On Ledda’s final attempt of the day at 13-0, though, he struck the back of his head on the bar while coming down and was examined by trainers.
“The bar flexed when I was coming down and then shot up and hit me in the back of the head as I was trying go forward,” he said while holding an ice pack to the back of his head. “In all honesty, I’m pretty sure not making that height hurt more than my head.”
Ledda’s teammate, fellow senior Calvin Schmalzle, also tied his season-best height, reaching 12-0. That tied him for 11th with two other vaulters, including Riverhead junior Iyriy Denys.
Schmalzle, who was second in Class B, said, “I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t get 12-6, but I’m happy with second.”
Ledda, who will pole vault for Division I Monmouth University in New Jersey, said he was happy with how things worked out for him. He said, “Any time you get to the states it’s a good day.”
Photo caption: With a pained expression on her face, Shoreham-Wading River senior Katherine Lee approaches the finish line for her fourth straight 3,000-meter victory in the Section XI Championships. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)