The streak lives. Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee, who is undefeated this season, topped a star-studded field of girls high school cross country competitors in the Nike Cross New York Regional Championship on Bowdoin Park’s 5-kilometer course in Wappingers Falls Saturday.
The victory, which came in 17 minutes, 44.8 seconds, qualifies Lee for the Nike Cross National Championship, scheduled for next Saturday at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Oregon. Lee, who ran the first half of the race in 8:56 and the second half in 8:49, blew away the field on the final time sheet. Saratoga Springs’ Kelsey Chmiel was second in 17:56.8.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Lee said of the national meet. “At Nationals, I’m not going to worry too much about the race. I’m just going to try and go out well.”
Lee, who rarely had any competition in Long Island races this season, needed to kick in the final 1,000 meters to top Chmiel, who won both the Class A public school state championship and the state Federation Championship earlier this month.
“It was strange,” Lee said of having to come from behind. “It felt kind of like track when I knew I had to kick. It really took a lot out of me. It was different, but good. I felt really strong at the end.”
Lee said she wasn’t specifically trying to win, instead just trying to secure a top five position and qualify for Nationals, but as the race entered it’s final mile, victory became a viable option.
“When we were coming down the hills, I realized that I had a lot left,” she said. “I knew that if I made a good move, I could keep myself in front . . . it was kind of nerve-wracking because I didn’t know if I could hold her off because she’s such a strong runner. But, I had to have faith in myself and in my training.”
The victory only adds to Lee’s overflowing trophy case. She won the Class B public school state championship on Nov. 12, running a 17:53.7 at Chenango Valley State Park and sat out the state Federation championship last weekend in favor of having fresher legs for the New York Regional.
Although surprising to no one who watched Lee dominate Long Island throughout the fall, Lee’s triumph could be considered an upset of sorts by state-wide standards. When all four classes at public school state championships were merged, Lee’s time placed her fifth overall. Saturday, she beat all four girls that ran faster two weeks ago.
“This season, I really haven’t been pushed in any of my races,” Lee said. “I’ve always been the clear winner. So, it was nice to know that, head-to-head, I am one of those girls and I am able to prove to them that I’m one of them.”
Lee, however, will have to wait until a little longer to find out if her team will be joining her in Oregon. Shoreham-Wading River finished third in the team scoring, meaning that they are eligible for an at-large bid to the national meet. Those bids will be announced late Saturday or Sunday, coach Paul Koretzki said.
“I have faith that we’re going to go,” Lee said. “I’m excited.”