There are few who can keep up with Shoreham-Wading River's Katherine Lee. As the defending Class B New York State Public School champion, Lee long has established herself as a runner who is most often seen pacing herself far in front of the pack.
And that's exactly how she likes it. While many runners enjoy the push of a fellow competitor chasing them down, Lee prefers to jump out to a big lead and settle in all by her lonesome, kept company only by her footsteps.
"Racing gets me so nervous that sometimes I psych myself out," Lee said. "It calms me down when I am able to get out and just be in my own head with nobody else there."
Lee was able to do that quickly Tuesday afternoon in a 5K race at Sunken Meadow State Park, winning the Suffolk County Divisional Championship in 19 minutes, 0.74 seconds. It was her second consecutive divisional title. She won last season in 19:02.17.
The sophomore was pulling away by the 400-meter mark, when the entire field is still visible to spectators lined along the finish line.
Once Lee got to the top of Cardiac Hill, she was comfortable enough that all the chasing was done and she could settle in.
While Lee acknowledged that her hill running, an admitted weakness last season, has gotten stronger this year, she said there is still room for improvement before the Suffolk State Qualifier.
"Today wasn't my day up Cardiac," Lee said. "I walked a little bit, which was something I was trying not to do. But, it happened. That kind of stunk, that I couldn't run all the way up Cardiac, but I'm happy that I still pushed myself. Better luck next week."
Lee was pleasantly surprised with the Sunken Meadow course conditions, devoid of any leaves or other debris usually associated with late-October meets.
"It was an unexpected bonus that there was nothing on the trails that I had to avoid," she said.
After the race, runners' times were split into smaller categories to determine divisional champions. Smithtown's Gabrielle Schneider (19:27.58) won Division I, Bay Shore's Bridget Kanaley (19:30.37) won Division II, Lee took Division III and Mattituck's Melanie Pfennig (19:59.34) won Division IV.
Sachem North (47 points) won the Division I team title, Bay Shore (25 points) was on top in Division II, Shoreham-Wading River (22 points) won Division III and Mattituck (36 points) took Division IV.