In only his second year running cross country, St. Anthony’s Mason Gatewood is a major contender for a state championship. Gatewood, a senior who is turning heads all over as the postseason dawns, was the top ranked runner in the state after last weekend’s action, according to tullyrunners.com.
As a child of academic professionals, Gatewood is well-traveled. He was born in Georgia and lived in Texas, Colorado, and Kentucky, before moving to Long Island last year. Gatewood’s mother, Dr. Christine M. Riordan, is the president of Adelphi in Garden City.
Gatewood began his track and field career as a high schooler in Kentucky, but played soccer instead of running cross county. He had a fine first year at St. Anthony’s, garnering a fifth-place finish at the CHSAA Intersectional championships, but has really become a force on the course during his senior year.
Gatewood had the second fastest 5-kilometer time in the state, at 15:32, at the Ocean State Invitational in Rhode Island in September, as of Monday, according to milesplit.com.
“The year of experience has helped a lot,” Gatewood said. “The first year, I was kind of just learning how to race longer distances and how to race the courses in New York, which are pretty tough. This year, I was able to transition smoothly. I followed [St. Anthony’s coach Tim] Dearie’s training plan pretty strictly throughout the summer and it’s been good.”
Gatewood won the 4-kilometer Eastern States championship in 12:17.4 at the prestigious Manhattan Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx on Oct. 14.
“My coach mentioned a few weeks ago that I should be running with the top group there and put myself in a position to win,” Gatewood said. “That was the goal coming into it. I wanted to give myself a chance to come out with the win. We raced at Van Cortlandt a few other times this season, so I knew the course decently well. I didn’t go in with a straight race plan, but I’m just happy with how it worked out.”
That familiarity was enough to lift Gatewood through a highly competitive race, one that winded through a course that alternates between vast open space and narrow passages.
“You have to be pretty aggressive from the start,” he said. “The course starts off pretty wide for the first 100 meters. Then, it rapidly gets pretty narrow. You have to go out really hard, at least in the first 100 meters, to get into the position that you want before the course narrows.”
Gatewood was able to run himself into a favorable spot and make a move late in the race to leave a decently-sized pack behind. “When we reached the bridge, which is when there’s half a mile left, I knew I was feeling good and thought ‘I could win this thing,’ ” Gatewood said. “When I made my final move on the back straightaway coming home, I gave it everything I had and it worked out.”
Gatewood’s postseason kicks off Wednesday at the CHSAA championships at Sunken Meadow State Park. If the rankings hold, it could be the start of a special month for the senior distance runner.
“I want to help the team, first and foremost,” Gatewood said. “We always want to win our league and intersectional meet. If we could make a run at [a Federation championship], that would be great. That’s always what comes first at St. Anthony’s and that’s the mentality that I have as well . . . As an individual, it’s just seeing how far I can go. I don’t like to put limits on myself or make predictions.”