For many, the cold and dreary early April temperatures may have dampened excitement about competing in the steeplechase. After all, the event features a jump over a pit of water -- water that was undoubtedly frigid by late afternoon and sometimes difficult to clear.

But Molly Dearie isn't part of the many. The Ward Melville senior steeplechaser loves her signature event and looks forward to running it no matter what the conditions. Dearie's refusal to be fazed by the drab weather helped her win the 2,000-meter steeplechase in 7 minutes, 19.38 seconds at the Port Jeff Steeple Fest Plus at Port Jefferson High School Wednesday.

By the race's midway point, Dearie had built a sizable lead over Miller Place's Laura Nolan, who finished second in 7:38.43. Part of the reason for Dearie's success was her water-jump proficiency, routinely landing one foot out of the hazard. This allowed her to keep a consistent pace without having to slog out of the dreaded liquid.

"I just pushed off the barrier to make sure I'm not landing too deep [in the water]," Dearie said. "I think that helps me speed up throughout the race."

Dearie said her personal best time is 7:07. Wednesday was her first race of the spring season. She hopes to break seven minutes before graduating.

Dearie is the daughter of St. Anthony's coach Tim Dearie. After watching his daughter, one of his athletes, St. Anthony's junior Frederick Buckholtz, won the boys 2,000- meter steeplechase in 6:25.87.

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Buckholtz's water jumps, like Dearie's, were key to his victory.

"I landed on one foot, which always helps," he said. "I was able to clear the water two times out of the five, which also helps because it keeps you from getting cold."

It was Buckholtz's first steeplechase of the season, he said.

"It was a really good start to my steeple season," he said.

Patchogue-Medford's Brian Michels won the longest race of the day, the 3,000-meter steeplechase, in 9:54.27. It was also his spring steeplechase debut.

"My form over the water was pretty good," he said. "Since it's been a year since I went over the water, it was important to see that I still retained my form."

As important as water jumping, Michels was quick to point out that the race between the hurdles can be crucial.

"You have to go hard on the straights, recover right after the barrier, and then go again," Michels said. "Your speed in between the hurdles makes or breaks the race."