When it came to qualifying for the girls track state championships, Gabrielle Schneider refused to let disappointment distract from destiny. In her past two tries, the Smithtown East sophomore had narrowly missed her chance at individual state glory — and she wasn’t going to let it happen again.
Schneider won the 1,000 meters in three minutes, 0.57 seconds at the Suffolk state qualifier Feb. 13 at Suffolk CCC-Brentwood. The victory both qualified her for the state championships, scheduled for March 4 at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island, and earned her Newsday Athlete of the Week honors.
The time was just a few seconds off Schneider’s fastest of the season, a 2:58.66, run at the Molloy Stanner Games in January. As of Tuesday, that time was the best on Long Island, according to milesplit.com.
“She’s got speed,” Smithtown East coach Greg Schepanski said. “I see that in practice. She has good form and she’s quick. She’s got that extra gear at the end of the race, if she needs it.”
In the postseason, it’s not always about time — just as long as your mark is better than the other guy’s. “I was OK with it,” Schneider said of her state qualifying time. “I wasn’t really looking for time. I just wanted to come and win.”
Schneider placed fourth in the 1,000 at last season’s state qualifier, earning her a spot on the intersectional relay, but leaving her on the sidelines for individual events. Her sixth-place finish at last fall’s cross country state qualifier left her just short of a berth in November’s state public school championships.
With those near misses in mind Schneider, who plays lacrosse in the spring and so would not have another chance to run at a state championship this school year, made it her mission to make sure her season would not end in February. “Her work ethic is unbelievable,” Schepanski said. “When she sets a goal for herself, she goes for it and, usually, accomplishes it.”
The state qualifying race went out a tad slow, Schneider said. Careful not to let a shift in pace overwhelm her, she stayed behind Shoreham-Wading River’s Payton Capes-Davis, who led in the early going.
“I was planning on staying behind [Capes-Davis] and letting her set the pace and then at the end, try to out kick her,” Schneider said after the race. “I knew she was really good. I wanted to use her pace to my advantage . . . It felt a little bit slow in the beginning, but I knew that it was going to get harder as it went on. I tried to stay relaxed.”
When Capes-Davis lost her shoe on the second lap, Schneider moved up and outpaced the field on her way to the finish line.
“I went early on the last lap,” Schneider said.