In a rare quiet moment of solitude after defending his state public school Class D boys cross country championship, Shelter Island’s Kal Lewis looked to the sky and gave two fist pumps. This hasn’t been an easy season for Lewis – a summer bout with bronchitis severely hampered his training and led to a slow start to his fall.
But, in the sport he’s devoted his high school years to, it doesn’t much matter where you start, only where you finish – and Lewis, once again, finished on top.
The junior won his second consecutive Class D state public school title in 16 minutes, 23.3 seconds on the 5-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park Saturday morning. The victory was pretty demonstrative, too – Beaver River’s Colton Kempney was second in 16:37.1.
“I wanted to defend my title. Being able to do so was an amazing dream that I’ve always wanted to do,” Lewis said. “I knew that I needed to put everything out on the course. There’s so many great competitors today that, no matter what, you had to keep on pushing for all those 3.1 miles. You couldn’t let up for any point.”
Lewis said he built up his lead by gradually increasing speed as the course deepened.
“Once I got to the top of Cardiac (Hill), I knew it was an all-downhill race,” Lewis said. “I had to open it up there and put a lot of distance between me and second place, just so I had enough cushion to get the win.”
Friday night’s rain storm left the course muddy and full of puddles. It wasn’t quite like last year’s public school championships – where runners were caked in mud as they ran up and down the course in Ontario Center – but the standing water was enough to make some parts mighty treacherous.
However, Lewis didn’t buy that course conditions had a large effect on final times in Class D – which ran after all four girls classes had broken in the course.
“It was a little muddy and wet but, no matter what conditions, you were still able to run on it,” Lewis said. “Everyone is going to perform the same as they would on a dry course.”
The victory could not have been sweeter for Lewis. The bronchitis that pushed his training back so much in the summer forced him to miss his first race of the season. It wasn’t until the end of October that he felt strong enough to legitimately think about winning a championship.
“It was very frustrating because I knew I had to put in so much more work, but I’m happy I did so,” Lewis said. “ . . . (Being a champion) feels so much better a second time. The first time was great because I never thought I could do it. Trying to defend my title, it was a hard go, but I had to make sure I put in all the work to be where I am.”
Elsewhere, Smithtown finished third in the Class A team competition with 91 points and third in the all-class merge. Fayetteville-Manlius won Class A and was tops in the all-class merge. Smithtown’s Nicholas DeFelice finished 18th in Class A in 16:32.4 and Northport’s Sean Ryan was 12th in 16:24.0.
North Shore’s Jack Rosencrans was fifth in Class B in 16:20.3 and Miller Place’s Thomas Cirrito was seventh in 16:27.5.