Katherine Lee started her sophomore cross country season at Shoreham-Wading River much the same as she ended her freshman year -- winning. Lee, the defending state champion, won the sophomore 5K race at the Jim Smith Invitational in 20 minutes, 30.33 seconds earlier this month at Sunken Meadow State Park.
While the title of defending champion carries with it notoriety, Lee is taking it all in stride.
"I hope to do a lot of the things I did last year again and maybe get a new PR in the 5k," Lee said. "It does stress me out a little bit, thinking about doing what I did last year, but it doesn't matter. As long as I do my best, hopefully that's enough."
And last year, her best was good. Really, really good. In addition to the public school championship, Lee also placed fifth at the state Federation championship, running the Bowdoin Park 5k in Wappingers Falls in 18:31.6.
With three more cross country seasons remaining, last year could only be the beginning of a truly special career. And as far as she's concerned, the past doesn't really matter anymore. Lee is hardly satisfied.
"It matters what I can do now," she said.
If the Jim Smith was any indication, the wins aren't going to stop anytime soon.
But, the first major checkpoint this fall will come at the Brown Invitational on Oct. 17. It is there that Lee hopes to make a move toward matching or beating her top 5K time from last year, 17:53.
The road to that potential milestone started this summer with Lee clocking minutes of mileage six days a week on the vast trails behind Shoreham-Wading River High School.
"It was just a lot of long runs, starting with about 30 minutes and going to about 60-65 minutes by the end of the summer," Lee said.
Lee feels more comfortable training by minutes not mileage. The set clock gives her a clearer picture of what she has to do on a given day.
"Mileage gets in my head," Lee said. "Mileage is like 'I have this much left to go,' while minutes lets me do whatever I want to do and go where I want in that amount of time. I don't really focus on how far I'm going, but that I'm pushing myself for a long amount of time."
While the individual success is nice, Lee has experienced that already. This year, she wants to push more than herself across the finish line.
"I just want to get my team to states and do well as a team this year," Lee said. "I'm not really focusing individually as much as I did last year because our team has a real chance...A lot of people are saying this is the best Shoreham team in a while. We really want to get the most we can out of this season."
And if anyone can do that, it's Lee.