Westhampton Beach's Lily Strebel wins the 1000 meter dash in...

Westhampton Beach's Lily Strebel wins the 1000 meter dash in the Suffolk girls small school track and field championships, Saturday, February 4, 2023 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Credit: George A Faella

There’s nothing like a close race to get the blood pumping. And there’s nothing like a blowout to put the mind at ease and pump up the confidence level. On Saturday afternoon, Westhampton’s Lily Strebel got both. 

What kind of race does she like more? Well, that race isn’t close.

“I like the close races better because it doesn’t feel like I’m running [as] fast,” she said.

Strebel blew past the field to win the 1,000 meters in 2 minutes, 56.37 seconds midway through the Suffolk Small School track and field championships at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Toward the end, she found herself in a bit of a pickle as she navigated the 1,500 en route to a 4:41.57 win.

Strebel was boxed in for the first half of the 1,500, needing to inch her way toward the front of the pack, where she battled with Bayport-Blue Point’s Sophia McInnes. McInnes ceded the lead to Strebel late in the race, only to take it back almost immediately. Then Strebel responded, took back the lead, and slowly began to separate with about 350 meters left. Her lead increased as she ran through the final lap.

“I knew that I would have to have a strong kick at the end in order to beat [McInnes],” Strebel said. “I knew that she would probably be the strongest competition that I’ve faced so far. At the 300, I felt good, so I thought that I should kick as much as I could.”

No kick was needed in the 1,000 — as Strebel found herself alone for most of the usually competitive event.

“I was aiming to get 35 [seconds per lap] the whole way around,” Strebel said. “I was just trying to keep my pace the whole time. I think I did pretty well in my pacing and not giving up on the fourth lap.”

Strebel said she ran four of the five laps in 35 seconds. When the race isn’t that close, the mental battle emerges.

“It was me against me the whole time,” she said.

Westhampton won the team championship with 66 points. Bayport-Blue Point was second with 54. Westhampton’s Halle Geller won the 55 in 7.40 seconds.

McInnes, who was second in the 1,500 in 4:43.12, opened her afternoon with a massive victory in the 3,000, winning in 10:03.25 and besting the field by six seconds.

“I like to go out hard, control the race and pace myself from there,” McInnes said. “I was trying to break [or get around] 10 [minutes], and I got exactly that.”

In the field, East Islip’s Olivia Simonetti won the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 4 inches. Simonetti and Bay Shore’s Lauryn Piccirelli (who won the large school high jump title earlier in the day) are tied for the third-best jump in the state after clearing 5-6 earlier in the season, according to milesplit.com. 

After placing second in the 600 in a school-record 1:39.55 (Deer Park’s Alexandra Geosits won in 1:37.80), Simonetti had 10 minutes of rest time before her next jump.

“My legs were dead, completely dead,” she said. “So, I passed at 5-3 to try and give myself a little more time. I came in at 5-4, missed the first two times, then took my time to try and get my legs back, and ended up pulling it off at the end.”

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