ONTARIO CENTER, N.Y. — Kal Lewis kicked things off with a bang and just kept building off his strong start.
That equally describes what happened in Saturday morning’s race and the Shelter Island sophomore’s experience as a varsity runner.
Lewis finished with a time of 16:44.6 on the 5k course at Wayne Central School to win the Class D boys public school state cross country title.
“The key was placement in the very beginning,” said Lewis, who finished fourth last season. “I wanted to get out fast so I could work off people from there. When I hit 3,200 meters, I had eight or 10 seconds on the second-place guy.” He finished with a 15.3-second edge on Michael Peppy of Maple Grove, who took second.
“I set the bar high for this year and I didn’t want to do anything less than what I did,” Lewis added.
The sophomore has made a habit of setting high expectations for himself.
Said Lewis: “As a freshman, I had a mission. Last year, my coach said my projected placement would be 15th. I stunned him a little bit and came in fourth. Doing that really gave me a push for this year, because now I know that I can compete with the best competition in the state. That’s what really gave me that drive to win it today.”
After his strong finish last season, Lewis continued to make a name for himself statewide and held the fastest 5k time in the state regardless of classification earlier in the season (the mark of 15:27.24 has since been broken, according to milesplit.com).
Aside from dueling with the field of the state’s top runners, Lewis also had to contend with a course that varied between solid, muddy and icy.
“Even though I had half-inch spikes, I couldn’t get into the dirt at all because it was frozen solid,” he said. “You would hit a turn and your ankle would roll and you wouldn’t be able to catch your ground. Other spots were all muddy, where you would sink into it. You just had to keep on going through it. When I crossed the finish line, it was a really good experience, because I lived up to my expectations and accomplished my goals.”
“This was something we’ve been working on for a while,” Shelter Island coach Jason Green said. “To do it as just a sophomore is an extra special accomplishment.”
Shelter Island was fourth in the Class B team competition and Lewis’ teammate Josh Green finished 23rd with a 17:48.2. Smithtown’s district team took fourth in Class A.
Long Island had three other top-20 finishers. Patchogue-Medford’s Carlos Santos came in 18th in Class A (16:52.1) and in Class B, North Shore’s Jack Rosencrans took 19th (17:08.4) and Seaford’s Jason Linzer (17:11.8) finished 20th.