Kal Lewis, Shelter Island
While the numbers may not have shown it at the time, Kal Lewis got exactly what he needed from a mid-September trip up to the far reaches of New York State. Lewis traveled to SUNY-Plattsburgh, the site of this year’s state public school cross county championships, for the Section VII Cross Country Invitational on Sept. 21.
The senior finished 42nd in his 5-kilometer race in 17 minutes, 49.40 seconds. His main competitor in Class D, Beaver River sophomore Colton Kempney, won that day, running a speedy 15:57.30. But those numbers didn’t matter much to Lewis. He just wanted the lay of the land.
“ ... For me, it was just to learn the course,” Lewis said. “I had to go out there, free run, and see where I had to work hard ... Once you get a look at the course, you know what’s coming and you know where to beat him in these places and where to stick with him in others. That last straightaway is where the best part is.”
It was on that last straightaway that, nearly two months later, Lewis came from behind to overtake Kempney in the final 100 meters and win his third straight public school Class D state title in 14:28.1 on a course that was shortened from a 5K (3.1 miles) to approximately 2.8 miles because of snow and ice.
“Oh, it feels fantastic,” Lewis said moments after finishing on the bitterly cold day. “The whole season I thought I’d have to work hard for this state championship. This kid from Beaver River is a beast."
Sarah Connelly, Mount Sinai
Sarah Connelly’s first state championship was all about her fight. There she was coming from behind at Sunken Meadow State Park, her home course, to shock Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy’s Olivia Morganti and win her first cross country state title last November.
Connelly’s second state championship was all about dominance. This November, there she was speeding down the straightaway at SUNY-Plattsburgh with her second straight state public school Class B title in sight and, seemingly, no one behind her.
Connelly cruised to a 16 minute, 47.1 second victory this year on a course that was shortened from 5-kilometers (3.1 miles) to approximately 2.8 miles because of snow and ice. It was dominant for sure and left absolutely no doubt as to who was the class of Class B.
Connelly won by 15 seconds – an eternity in cross country.
“Coming into the race, I knew there was going to be a lot of people that wanted to get me because of last year,” said Connelly, a Syracuse-bound senior. “I knew I was going to have competition. My coach said that ‘Whenever you feel ready to go, just go for it and open up.' "