East Hampton's Ryan Fowkes raises his arms after he crosses...

East Hampton's Ryan Fowkes raises his arms after he crosses the finish line in first place with a time of 6:14.30 in the open boys 2,000 meter steeplechase at the Port Jefferson Steeplefest Invitational on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

At his first invitational of the outdoor season, East Hampton’s Ryan Fowkes guaranteed that his senior year will go the distance. Fowkes won the 2,000-meter steeplechase in six minutes, 14.30 seconds at the Port Jefferson Steeplefest Plus at Port Jefferson Tuesday afternoon. The time qualified him for New Balance Outdoor Nationals, scheduled for June 13-16 at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“I definitely came in here with the goal of making nationals and winning the race,” Fowkes said. “I checked both those boxes today, so I’m really happy with myself.”

Fowkes was certainly well rested. He hadn’t raced competitively since the indoor state championships on March 2, choosing to take an extra long break between the two seasons.

“I took about a week off from running, then I got back into it slowly,” Fowkes said. “Now, I’m back to training like I would be during the season…It’s been pretty close to two months since a real race, so it was exciting to see that I’m in shape and running well.”

Memories of a third-place finish at last year’s meet, which took place about three weeks earlier because of the placement of spring break, were fresh in Fowkes' mind as he laced up for his 2019 outdoor debut.

“I made sure I got out really hard on the first lap,” Fowkes said. “Last year, I did this race and I actually got boxed in, got tripped up going into the water barrier, and fell right in. So, I made sure that I didn’t make that mistake again and went out pretty hard. Then, I just tried to hit the splits so I could run the nationals time.”

Elsewhere, Ward Melville’s Andrew Araneo won the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 10:19.82 — an impressive victory in an event he’d never run before.

“[My coaches] swayed me into doing it,” Araneo said. “I’m 6-4, so I could walk over the hurdles, really. They convinced me to do it. I wasn’t really racing this week, so why not?...I thought it was really fun. I really liked the water pit, even though I’m pretty bad at it. But, it was nice to cool off in there.”

Araneo caught Port Jefferson’s Grant Samara with 200 meters left. A strong final water jump allowed Araneo to build his final lead. Samara was second in 10:22.41.

Samara took the race out hard, but Araneo climbed back into the race with 600 meters left.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really keeping track of the laps,” Araneo said. “I thought I had four more to go at that point, then I saw the referee hold up two [laps left]. I thought, ‘Oh, I should probably start going.’ I felt pretty good at that point because I thought I had more to go.”

Mount Sinai’s Kaitlyn Chandrika won the girls 2,000-meter steeplechase in 7:08.45 — her second steeplechase victory of the week. She won at the Joe Brandi Relays at Connetquot on Monday.

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