Shamar Powell of Whitman said he was a little tired coming into the final of the 800 meters at the Suffolk state qualifying meet at Port Jefferson High School Friday.
With just 30 meters left in the race, he said he told himself, "just don't die."
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Powell used a strong final sprint to hold off the other runners, including Northport's Mike Brannigan, Long Island's most decorated runner, and capture the Suffolk title -- and the state qualifying spot that goes along with it -- in a time of 1 minute, 52.71 seconds.
"That was the first time all season that I felt like I had a kick left," Powell said. "It's been a pet peeve of mine the entire season and I'm glad I was able to finish strong."
It was extra special for Powell to finally be able to finish in front of Brannigan.
"Since ninth grade I've been motivated to beat him because I've wanted to be up there," Powell said. "I don't hold anything against him; it's a good rivalry -- hopefully he considers it a rivalry now."
Brannigan finished seventh with a time of 1:55.11 after being near the front most of the race. Tom Gassner of Bellport finished second in 1:53.34.
For Shoreham-Wading River freshman Katherine Lee, there was no concern about coming up strong at the end. She built an enormous lead and won the girls 3,000 in a time of 9:54.16. Taylor McClay of Eastport-South Manor finished second in 9:59.32.
Lee has qualified for the state tournament in each of the three seasons this year, including the 3,000 in winter track and the 5k in cross country.
"All day I was so nervous and I was scared," Lee said. "But before the race, I thought of everyone else who encouraged me and it made me feel better."
All the nerves disappeared after she opened up a big lead early.
"Usually, I try to take it out at a fast pace and see if I can stay there," Lee said. "Today, I came up with a strategy while I was running -- I counted to 10 and when I got there, I'd really go for a few seconds, then I'd start all over again."
Everything she's been doing has worked wonders all year.