Shelter Island's Kal Lewis wins the Class D 5k cross...

Shelter Island's Kal Lewis wins the Class D 5k cross country run in 17:00.44 during the Suffolk championship/state qualifier at Sunken Meadow State Park on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Kal Lewis’ approach sometimes raises some eyebrows, but it produced results at the 2016 state cross-country meet.

“People sometimes question my strategy, but I think it really works well for me,” said the Shelter Island sophomore who finished fourth among public high school runners in the 2016 Class D race. “I usually try and start out pretty fast and if people pass me, I always just say ‘I’m going to catch this person’ and I just keep on catching the next person until there is nothing left.”

Lewis said he didn’t see the high finish coming.

“I started at a decently fast pace,” he recalled. “I went through the race and I was 10th but didn’t really know it. Then I kept picking people off until there was no one left, because the top three had finished.”

And now, he’s in the running for the gold in this year’s state race, although he will need to contend with the returning second- and third-place finishers: Sauquoit Valley’s Dylan Canarelli and Maple Grove’s Michael Peppy.

“I know those two seniors will be working their tails off this year,” Lewis said. “I’m just going to see if I can outwork them, push harder than them, and hopefully beat them.”

n Claiborne sets the pace

Northport’s Isaiah Claiborne preferred to sit behind the leaders and let the older kids dictate the pace of a race last season. He might not have that luxury this year. As a senior, Claiborne is the older kid and, as the fastest returner from last year’s Suffolk state qualifier, might be charged with pacing big races this season.

“It’s definitely going to change the way I race,” Claiborne said of being the new top dog in Suffolk. “I might have to start leading races now. I used to just sit on [since graduated] Jonathan Lauer and Christopher Tibbetts of Sachem North and let them pace the race, but now I’m going to have to do it myself.”

Claiborne, who finished in 16 minutes, 46.46 seconds at the Suffolk state qualifier at Sunken Meadow last season, said that he led races during summer practice and is beginning to feel more comfortable in front.

The real test of Claiborne’s new strategy won’t come until the first gun of the season. “I’m going to have to lead an actual race to determine if I’m OK with it,” he said.

n Manhasset duo is tops

Manhasset has both top returners from the Nassau state qualifier. Aidan Caggiano ran a 16:28.50 and Ryan Watson ran a 16:29. Jack Cyprus, Chris Courts and Nicky Harris round out a very strong unit.

n Talent abounds in CHSAA

There’ll be some good battles down the stretch in the CHSAA. St. John the Baptist’s Patrick Kain leads the Long Island returners, finishing third in last year’s 2.5-mile intersectional championship. Kain ran a 13:08.83 at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and was an integral part of the Cougars’ CHSAA league championship winning team.

St. Anthony’s Mason Gatewood and Chaminade’s Patrick Conklin both return from intersectional top-10 finishes.

Runners to watch

Sean Ahearn, Syosset, Jr.

Nicholas Cipolla, Smithtown, Sr.

Dan O’Connor, Northport, Sr

Matthew Payamps, St. Anthony’s, Jr.

Jack Rosencrans, North Shore, Jr.

More High Schools