While the course distance for the first season of the high school running year is relativity uniform, preparing for it isn’t. Just ask Shelter Island’s Kal Lewis and Miller Place’s Thomas Cirrito – two of the top runners on Long Island with very different summer training regimens.
Lewis, the two-time state Class D champion, spent his summer running on the roads, using those precious July and August days to get ready for important October and November races. Cirrito, a senior who is the top Class B returner in the state, spent most of his summer playing basketball, both on his AAU team and at various camps. Cirrito is a two-sport athlete, playing basketball in the winter and running in the fall and spring. He takes both very seriously, but has a very different approach to summer cross country training.
“I’ve never been the hardest summer trainer,” Cirrito said. “... It’s kind of been a conscious choice for me because I never wanted to do too much. I like to have a nice break. So, following spring track, I always took a nice break coming into cross country.”
Lewis said he’s been running 5Ks at a 4:50 pace this summer – trying to hold that per-mile time for as long as he could. It’s the best summer he’s ever had, he said.
“Everything is going well and according to plan,” Lewis said. “It’s a slow and steady process, but I’m looking to do what I need to do.”
Lewis is coming off the most trying cross country season since he’s been at Shelter Island. The senior contracted a bad case of bronchitis just before his junior year started. He didn’t shake it until the middle of October and wasn’t fully healthy until November. But now, he’s feeling 100 percent and ready to three-peat.
Lewis ran 16:23.3 en route to his state Class D championship last November. He said he feels he can run that time now without even going that hard.
“I’m feeling that I’m going to be able to run a lot faster times and try and give it my all when I can,” Lewis said.
Cirrito placed seventh in Class B last year, the fastest underclassman at 16:27.5 at Sunken Meadow State Park – the home base for Suffolk cross country.
“I had an idea of the pace I had to take it out where I’d be comfortable and how hard I could push myself early on,” Cirrito said. “By the end of the race, I knew that most of it was going to be downhill, so I could just push myself as hard as I could and I think that helped me push beyond what other people thought they’d be able to run.”
Despite the differences in summer training ideology, Lewis and Cirrito both have the same ultimate goal – win a state public school championship on Nov. 16 in Plattsburgh.
“The three-peat is definitely one of my top goals because, obviously, I want to try and repeat my title,” Lewis said. “If I lose it my senior year, I’ll be a little upset. I have to work hard for it and keep on grinding.”
A state public school championship would be Cirrito’s first. He has won the last two Suffolk Class B county titles at the state qualifier.
“My goal is to win states and be a three-time county champion,” Cirrito said.
After the public school state championship, however, the pair’s goals diverge a little bit. Cirrito said he typically ends his season after the state championship and isn’t sure if he’ll change that this year. Lewis intends to run at the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals on Nov. 30 at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, with the hopes of qualifying for nationals in San Diego. In fact, Lewis said qualifying for that race is his biggest goal of the season.
“I’m trying to prove to myself that I can run a lot harder than I think I can,” Lewis said. “I want to prove to others that I’m able to put in the most amount of work possible to get where I need to be.”