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Girls Winter Track: Lightning stops SWR’s opening outdoor meet

A high school girls winter track meet held outdoors. An outdoor track marked off for indoor events such as the 55-meter hurdles and 1,000 meters. The first two events, the triple jump and long jump, were canceled because rain had made the runway for those events too slippery.

Someone jested that this was going to be a track meet like none other. Well, at least since last winter when Long Island’s boys and girls winter track teams competed in outdoor dual meets instead of indoor league meets because of COVID-19 restrictions.

This time, though, it was an insurance issue with Suffolk County Community College regarding the use of its indoor track in Brentwood that had left Suffolk County’s winter track teams out in the cold, without an indoor facility to run in. On the verge of the start of the boys and girls seasons last weekend, teams were told that because the mandated liability insurance was not met, they couldn’t run at SCCC, at least until the matter was resolved. (Meanwhile, there was talk Saturday morning that the issue had been settled and the teams would be able to run at SCCC next weekend).

So, that’s why the Shoreham-Wading River girls team opened its season Saturday at Elwood/John Glenn High School’s outdoor track with a non-league dual meet.

“They’re getting a chance to run,” SWR coach Paul Koretzki said shortly before the meet started. “That’s all I care about.”

Strange enough, perhaps, but it got stranger still when the meet was abandoned less than halfway through because lightning was reported in the area. The Wildcats retreated to their team bus for the ride home. It was not expected that the meet would be completed at a later date.

What a crazy way to start a season.

“It kind of felt normal because last year we were outside for winter, so it’s fairly normal for me,” said SWR eighth-grader Olivia Pesso, who has never run a winter meet indoors. “It was fun.”

Mother Nature had cooperated to the extent that the temperature was in the mid-50s. It had rained before the meet, making for a wet running surface that caused at least one runner to take a fall at the starting line, but other than that, the conditions weren’t too bad.

Until lightning was spotted in the Elwood area.

Five of the 11 scheduled running events had been completed, and the second heat of the 55 meters was about to start when the word came to halt the proceedings. By then, SWR had first-place finishes by Pesso in the 1,500 (5 minutes, 33.2 seconds) and Emma Granshaw in the 1,000 (3:28.5).

“I thought I did pretty good for like my first meet of the season for track,” Pesso said, “and it was really fun and I hope to like improve and get faster.”

Granshaw said: “We were excited. We were all a bit nervous, but we were helping each other out, too. So happy to be here.”

SWR also saw an encouraging performance from Madison Zelin. The junior didn’t get to run her best event, the 200, but she was second in the 55 hurdles in 11.0 and second in the 300 in 46.03.

“I think that she’s amazing,” Granshaw said of Zelin. “She really helps push me and we push each other when we’re practicing with each other and I think that she’s just so talented and incredible.”

SWR also picked up second-place finishes by Maddie-Lynn McKiernan in the 1,500 (5:34.1) and Emily Cook in the 600 (1:59.7). SWR’s Jocelyn Nastasi was third in the 600 in 2:04.4. Another Wildcat, Abigail Metz, ran the third-fastest time in the first heat of the 55 (8.6) before the order came down to clear the track.

Recalling the two-month winter season that was run outdoors at the start of 2021, Zelin recalled: “Yeah, it was actually pretty weird. It was like two or three meets and then once the track had snow on it, it all got canceled. The track was like an ice skating rink.”

Saturday was another strange beginning.

“It definitely is,” Zelin agreed, “but I think we’re gonna do really good things this year.”