As temperatures dipped into the high teens last week, the Kellenberg girls team braved the frigid, painful air in chase of a common goal -- the Long Island CHSAA track title. The championships were only a few days away and they weren't going to let a minor inconvenience -- like wind chill -- crush the dream of a crown.
"You just had to make sure you wore layers and gloves," sophomore Jazmine Fray said of the conditions. "We practiced in intervals. We'd go inside, warm up for five minutes, come back outside, do repeats, and go back inside for another five minutes."
The Firebirds, forced to practice outside because of a lack of indoor facilities, badly wanted to win and it showed.
"We had 100 percent attendance [at practice]," coach Marty Brown said. "That says something about the team."
Like it does so often in track, the relentless determination paid off. Kellenberg won the league title last Sunday, edging St. Anthony's, 89-80.
Fray won both the 600 meters and the 1,000 meters. She finished the 1,000 in 3 minutes, 8.2 seconds and the 600 in 1:39.46.
The Firebirds shined in field events, an area that was severely affected by the cold week.
"It was hard to get your muscles loose and get the jumps in," long jumper Bridget McNierney said.
Practice or not, the field group let it fly when the stakes were highest. McNierney won the long jump in 16 feet, 51/4 inches, giving her team six crucial points.
"I had really good speed, kept my knees up, and tried to hold it in the air as long as possible," she said.
Senior Brittany LeJouan won the high jump with a final flight of 5-1.
"I put everything I had into it," she said. "I got over in my first attempt, which was satisfying."
Melany Belot won the triple jump with a distance of 35-41/4. She also scored top honors in the 55 hurdles, winning in 8.6 seconds.
Although graduating in the spring, shot putter Natalie Jean thinks Kellenberg isn't a one-year wonder.
"This is just the beginning," said Jean, who had a winning throw of 38-4.
The team clearly isn't built to be a one-year wonder, but rather a consistent CHSAA force. It may be hard for anything, even bitter cold, to stop them.