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SportsHigh SchoolCross Country

Skeete brings Westbury a higher profile

Westbury's Owen Skeete, right, led from start to

Westbury's Owen Skeete, right, led from start to finish at the Nassau High School cross country championships, held at Bethpage State Park. (Nov. 6, 2010) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

Owen Skeete didn't realize what he was getting into when he arrived at Westbury High School.

He always wanted to be a distance runner. But doing it at Westbury, a school not known for its distance prowess, was thought to be a far-fetched idea to many in the track community.

"My freshman year, we walked in and coach [Donald] Ross had us introduced to the seniors and asked us what we wanted to do,'' Skeete said. "I said 'distance' and everybody said ooooh.''

It's three-plus years later and Skeete, a senior, is considered one of the state's top distance runners. He is Newsday's Long Island Runner of the Year.

Skeete put forth his best effort this fall, finishing sixth at the Federation championships - the best by any Long Island runner.

And that's not all. He won the Nassau State qualifier in a career-best time of 15 minutes, 47.9 seconds, nearly 10 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher. He also won the Suffolk Officials meet in October.

Ross said there would be no distance program at Westbury if Skeete wasn't on the team.

"I've been here 30 years and we've never had a kid qualify for the Federation in cross country,'' Ross said. "Every distance record at Westbury belongs to Owen now.''

With so many talented sprinters and jumpers, being a distance runner at Westbury is a challenge.

"I didn't know [distance] was that different from the rest of the team until I actually saw the workouts,'' Skeete said. "Everyone else was doing middle distance and sprints. But I love the mile and I've always wanted to do it.''

As for cross country, Skeete didn't have a clue what it was about when he first arrived at Westbury.

"I kind of just stepped into it my sophomore year and had no idea what it really was,'' he said. "I thought it was just more running.''

Skeete has become somewhat of a folk hero at the school.

"By default, I've become a leader already. A lot of kids are already starting to follow me," Skeete said. "I turn around now and I see five people staring at me and I have no idea who they are."

Will Westbury become a bigger player in distance events?

Skeete said: "I think other people want to distance, but they just aren't saying it."

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