Girls Track and Field: Lee caps double triumph

Unlike the day before, Katherine Lee didn’t need to be carried off the track Saturday. One could call that progress.

“That was a success,” she said.

Along with that progress came the completion of a double triumph for the Shoreham-Wading River High School senior in the Section XI girls track and field championships. As has been the case for Lee this entire season, though, it was a struggle.

Lee capped things off Saturday with her final race as a high school runner in Suffolk County. She finished first in the 1,500 meters for the fourth time in her six-year career with the Wildcats.

After crossing the finish line in a season-best time of 4 minutes, 34.25 seconds, Lee bent over, made her way to the Comsewogue High School infield and fell to her hands and knees before rolling over on her back. After some time, she was helped into a seat.

“It’s really been a struggle for the last few months,” she later told reporters while sitting under a tent with temperatures in the high 80s.

Lee said she has been dealing with illness and fatigue. In early May she spent four days in a hospital with a variety of ailments, but no cause was identified. She said she hasn’t felt like her old self since.

On Friday, Lee was first in the 3,000 in a season-best 9:58.42. It was her fourth straight Section XI title in that event, but it came at a cost. She collapsed after that race before being carried off and examined by trainers.

Lee said she felt “subpar” Saturday. “I felt really achy from yesterday, having run that race and felt sick afterward. I definitely felt that, and then on top of that, this was a really tough race.”

After leading the pack for much of the way, a good deal of it with Mount Sinai sophomore Sarah Connelly off her shoulder, Lee picked up the pace and gained some separation with 600 meters left. Then Lee turned on the jets at full steam for the bell lap.

Ward Melville senior Samantha Rutt (4:38.02) edged out Connelly (4:38.07) for second place. Shoreham junior Alexandra Smith was 16th in 5:02.17.

“I think I just did a good job of holding on, holding my own,” Lee said. “Because I’ve been so under the weather lately, I haven’t been as confident and I haven’t been running what I could be running at this time of the year. My strategy pretty much this whole season has been just to stay with the pack and then finish as hard as you can.”

Speaking of her kick, she said: “It’s all like a mental thing. If I beat [competitors] to the kick and I’m the one to say, ‘Nope, we’re going faster now,’ I think it psychs them out, like, ‘Oh, she’s confident; she has this.’ If we’re being honest, I’m really not confident doing that every single time. It’s terrifying, and I think to myself, ‘Am I going to have enough at the end?’ ”

Lee was scheduled to take part in a 4 x 800 relay later in the day, but Shoreham withdrew.

Now Lee has her fourth straight state meet to look forward to before going on to run for Georgetown University. She will compete in the meet June 8 and 9 at Cicero North Syracuse High School.

Shoreham assistant coach Bob Szymanski pointed out that Lee has steadily reduced her 1,500 time over the previous three races — from 4:52 to 4:45 to Saturday’s time.

“I feel myself getting a little bit better every day just because I feel like I’m getting into a little bit better shape,” she said, “but it’s just not where I feel I need to be.”

In other events, Riverhead sophomore Christina Yakaboski was eight in the 2,000-meter steeplechase in 7:40.03. A teammate, senior Olivia Pizzuto, was 19th in 8:16.24.

In the high jump, Riverhead sophomore Stephanie Berkele was 12th at 5-0.

In a sentimental gesture, Riverhead coach Maria Dounelis gave Pizzuto the option of running the anchor leg in the 4 x 800 relay — an event she doesn’t normally run — since it was an opportunity to give her one final race for her high school career. Following sophomore Kristina Deraveniere, junior Laryssa Olsen and Yakaboski, Pizzuto brought the baton home as Riverhead finished 14th in 10:22.63.

“Being on track has been the best experience ever for high school,” Pizzuto said. “I’m so glad I did it.”

Casazza qualifies for state meet. Rickie Casazza was disappointed. No, make that more than disappointed.

The Shoreham senior high jumper had hopes of surpassing his career-best height of 6 feet, 7 inches, perhaps reaching 6-8 or even 6-10.

It wasn’t to be, though. Casazza cleared 6-2 before failing on three attempts at 6-4 and finishing tied for fourth with Westhampton Beach sophomore Jack Meigel.

“All I could say is I was thinking about it all week,” Casazza said. “I was very excited about it. I was excited this morning, got here, I don’t know, I just felt drained. I can’t even explain it.”

Casazza will compete in the outdoor state meet for a second time, though. He said, “To go to the states, I guess that’s all that really matters in the end because you look to do it there, but I was looking to do it here as well.”

In other boys events, Shoreham senior Anthony Guzzone clocked 52.06 for seventh in the 400.

Riverhead junior Sean Allen finished eighth in the pentathlon. He accumulated 2,748 points by finishing third in the 1,500 (4:41.09), fifth in the shot put (33-2), tied for seventh in the high jump (5-8), 11th in the long jump (17-9) and 12th in the 110 high hurdles (17.72).

Riverhead sophomore Tyreek Parker was eighth in both the 110 hurdles (16.26) and the 100 (11.59).

Shoreham sophomore Dylan Jung was ninth in the long jump (20-7 1/4).

Riverhead senior Kevin Weiss came in 11th in the discus (129-3 1/2). Shoreham sophomore Mark Costas was 13th at 126.

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior Katherine Lee leads the pack on a turn during the 1,500-meter race, which she won in a season-best time of 4 minutes, 34.25 seconds. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)