Kaitlyn Chandrika of Mt. Sinai is the first to the...

Kaitlyn Chandrika of Mt. Sinai is the first to the water hazard during the 2x2000 meter steeplechase at the Joe Brandi Relays held in Connetquot on Monday, April 22, 2019. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Kaitlyn Chandrika dominated the field in the 2,000-meter steeplechase Monday afternoon, but the Mount Sinai sophomore is just getting warmed up.

Chandrika won the event with a time of 7:18.46 at the Joe Brandi Invitational at Connetquot, kicking off her season in the competition.

“I just went into it with a relaxed approach,” said Chandrika, who finished ninth in the state tournament in the event last season. “Today was a season-opener, getting back into form for the steeple.”

She said she competed in the event “five or six times” last year after not doing it at all in 2017, including a first-place finish in the county state qualifying meet. This year, she is looking to focus on the event and make improvements to her technique.

The early results were encouraging, as she posted a 33-second margin of victory Monday.

“As of now, steeple is my best event,” Chandrika said. “For me, it comes a bit naturally. I’ve found I don’t really have to think about it that much, because I do the 400-hurdle and I do some distance, and it’s just a fusion of those two.”

After topping the field in the state qualifier with a 6:57.9, Chandrika ran a 7:01.26 in the state meet in Syracuse last June. “That was a good experience,” she said. “It’s a lot different steepling when it’s really hot in June versus today when it was cold and raining.”

Her Mount Sinai teammate Kayleigh Robinson was also able to tackle that cold and rain en route to a win in the 400-meter hurdles earlier in the day.

“With the weather, I was trying to approach it by telling myself to do my best with what I have,” said Robinson, the reigning state champion in the event, who won with a 1:06.08 on Monday.

“Sometimes I go into days like today thinking, ‘wow, it’s not a good day to be running right now,’ but then I remember that everyone is going to be running in this weather,” she said. “I just have to keep a positive attitude and do my best with it.”

Robinson added that her focus this year is to keep gradually improving her time and return to the state tournament, where she would like to crack the 60-second mark. The senior won the state title with a personal-best time of 1:03.03 last season.

She also combined with Kate DelGandio to win the two-person 800- and 200-meter hurdles relays.

DelGandio (16.37 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles) and Half Hollow Hills East’s Jessica Grover (7:20.07 in the 1,500-meter race walk) were the day’s other individual winners from the track events.

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