Katherine Lee spent October conquering Long Island. She spent November conquering New York State. And, on the first Saturday of December, she proved that she is one of the best girls cross country runners in the nation.
Lee, a junior from Shoreham-Wading River who was named Newsday’s Long Island girls runner of the year Thursday night, placed 10th in 17 minutes, 57.1 seconds at the Nike Cross Nationals at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday morning.
“It was awesome,” Lee told Newsday by phone. “It was definitely the hardest race that I’ve ever run, but it was a great experience.”
Brie Oakley from Aurora (Colo.) Grandview won the 5-kilometer race in a dominating 17:10.1. Fayetteville-Manlius won the team title with 41 points.
“Everyone is on such a high level,” Lee said. “You have to really be strategic about every move that you make. It was a completely different race than I had ever run before.”
It was also one of the muddiest, with the damp weather of the Pacific Northwest rearing it’s ugly head yet again.
“The mud really slowed everyone down,” Lee said. “It was crazy how squishy the ground was. I was not surefooted at all during the race . . . On downhills, I like to really widen my stride and try to go fast, but it was really difficult. If I had tried to go as fast as I wanted to, I could have slipped. There were a bunch of situations like that.”
With the field being far superior to any she had run in before, Lee said that positioning was a constant battle. “The race was really boxy,” she said. “You had to constantly focus on trying to be in a good position within your pack and be able to go faster when you needed to and be able to hang on and be able to make it to the end. Not having as much room as I’m used to made it a strategic race.”
Lee qualified for the national summit by winning the New York Regional race in 17:44.8 at Wappingers Falls’ Bowdoin Park on Nov. 26. She won the state Class B public schools title on Nov. 12, clocking a 17:53.7 at Chenango Valley State Park.