There are those who don’t put a tremendous amount of stock in the Suffolk Division cross country championships. With state qualifiers just over a week away, it is a meet that, while nice to win, doesn’t carry the postseason weight of having a trip to the state public school championships on the line.
But don’t tell that to Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee.
“Me and my parents actually say that it’s the true county championship,” Lee said of the race that pits the best runners in Suffolk against one another, regardless of school size. “At (state qualifiers), we’re split up by class, so you don’t really know how we would race each other head to head. But in this one, we’re all thrown together just to battle it out.”
By that math, Lee can add another Suffolk County championship to her name. The junior ran the 5-kilometer course at Sunken Meadow State Park in 18 minutes, 17.36 seconds Tuesday to capture her third consecutive Suffolk Divisions championship.
Lee, battling a cold, struggled with muscle tightness but still ran without any true competition.
“At the start of the race, I did not feel fast at all,” Lee said. “The wind had me all off. I felt tired throughout the race. But, mentally, I was really strong and that kept my body going. I tried to just keep my body out of it and my mind in it. I was working on techniques, opening up my stride, and focusing on digging when I was going uphill.”
Lee’s teammate Alexandra Hays was second in 19:14.20, needing a late push to squeak by, and then outlast, Mount Sinai’s Noreen Guilfoyle, who was third in 19:14.68.
“I could feel her right on my shoulder,” Hays said. “I wasn’t going to work that entire race to lose on the last step.”
Shoreham-Wading River won the team championship with 41 points, hardly a surprise for a group that is the best Class B team in the state, according to rankings on the website Milesplit. The Division championship was only the beginning to what the Wildcats hope will be a special October/November swing.
“It really is a dream team,” Lee said. “(Shoreham-Wading River) hasn’t really had a team like us before. We really have a chance to win a state championship, and that would be a big deal for us.”