Nationally ranked Katherine Lee expects the competition to give her a real run for the money during her final high school cross country season.
The Island is loaded with senior talent, led by Mount Sinai’s Noreen Guilfoyle, Syosset’s Reilly Siebert and Great Neck North’s Samantha Law.
“It’s really exciting to have people really close that are definitely going to give me some difficult races,” Lee said. “It’s really nice to have that kind of environment right here on Long Island and not have to travel for that.”
Lee, chasing her third public school state championship, placed 10th at Nike Cross Nationals last December, finishing the 5-kilometer countrywide showcase in 17 minutes, 57.1 seconds. She won the New York race at Nike Cross Regionals in 17:44.8.
But, although national prowess is possible for Lee again, getting through her own county won’t exactly be a cakewalk either. Guilfoyle ran second to Lee at the Suffolk state qualifier last season, clocking a 19:07.37 at Sunken Meadow State Park.
Guilfoyle says her years of experience will pay off in her senior year.
“I have a better idea of how the course is laid out and where I should push and relax,” said Guilfoyle, whose personal best is 18:46. She said she would like to knock about 15 seconds off that time and put in the work during the summer to make sure that happens.
“This summer, we added more miles and have been doing strength training a lot more,” she said. “I think it’s going to make me stronger and allow me to get up those hills, breathe, and last the whole race.”
As important as summer miles are, experience is something that can’t be taught. Guilfoyle said she’s a better racer now and hopes that will lead to faster times.
“I have a better sense of when to start pushing myself, when to lay back a little bit, and then wait for that perfect moment to give it all I have,” she said.
Lee and Guilfoyle will be challenged by Sachem East’s Rachel Ruggiero, who ran 19:31.60 at last season’s Suffolk State Qualifier and is the third fastest overall returner from that race.
Although Nassau’s championship races are run at the flatter and faster Bethpage State Park, Syosset’s Siebert feels the same way about familiarity with the course as it relates to her race strategy.
“It takes a lot of the guesswork out of creating a race plan,” Siebert said. “It’s easier to know where I’m strongest on each of the courses.”
Law is the fastest returner from last season’s Nassau State Qualifier, finishing the Class B race in 19:00.77.
The CHSAA is the polar opposite of the public schools, with underclassman ruling the roost. Sacred Heart sophomore Maggie Maier is the fastest Long Island returner from the Intersectional championships, running the 2.5-mile Van Cortlandt Park course in 15:42.28. St. John the Baptist sophomore Kerri McCormack ran 15:42.39 and junior Hailey Marcello ran 15:53.28.
Runners to watch
Sarah Connelly, Mt. Sinai, So.
Lindsey Dodenhoff, Sachem East, Jr.
Maureen Lewin, Kellenberg, Jr.
Gabrielle Schneider, Smithtown, Jr.
Carly Woelfel, South Side, So.