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North Shore’s Diana Vizza runs to another state crown

North Shore's Diana Vizza celebrates as she

North Shore's Diana Vizza celebrates as she crosses the finish line in first place during the 1500 meter run at the NYSPHSAA Girls Track & Field Championships held at Cornell University in Ithaca on Saturday, March 5, 2016. Credit: THOMAS LA BARBERA

ITHACA, N.Y. — Diana Vizza is batting 1.000. Two seasons, two state championships, and no signs of slowing down. The North Shore senior, who won the state Class B girls cross country championship in the fall, took the 1,500 meters in four minutes, 31.67 seconds at the state indoor track and field championships at Cornell University Saturday morning.

“Today was a much bigger field than I had at [cross country],” said Vizza, whose indoor victory came over all schools in the state, regardless of classification or size. “It was even more of an honor to win today.”

Vizza ran with a lead throughout the race, but never could fully escape North Rockland eighth grader Katelyn Tuohy, who was second in 4:32.33. Tuohy remained 10-15 meters behind Vizza as they moved around the track, making the path toward another state championship a difficult one for the Dartmouth-bound distance star.

“In New York State, you can’t ever really get comfortable because someone is always on you,” Vizza said. “You never know what their strategy is going to be. I knew Katelyn was a really tough competitor. I made sure that I never eased up until the line and really tried to apply my strength to the middle and kick throughout with much better form.”

Tuohy never let up, pushing Vizza toward a near sprint down the final straightaway, her victory hardly a certainty until she crossed the line with her arms raised, a photocopied image of her championship finish in the fall.

“I felt her on me for most, if not all, of the race,” Vizza said. “People were screaming ‘there’s people behind you.’ It was a nerve-wracking feeling. But, me and my coach [Neal Levy] have really been working on finishing in good form, staying on your toes, and really getting that speed at the end. I was trying to remember to keep my arms up and my head forward.”

Vizza’s championship is only the second indoor gold in North Shore history, Levy said. Simone Pavlides won a race-walk title in 1982.

Harris speeds to walk title

Sachem East’s Lauren Harris’ 1,500-meter race-walk victory was also accompanied by distinction, and a national one at that. Her 6:35.16 was the third-fastest time in state history, organizers said. Port Jefferson’s Lisa Kutzing has the state record, posting a 6:28.20 in 1998.

Times of distinction are nothing new to Harris. The 6:42.42 she turned in at last weekend’s LI Elite Meet was the fastest time in the state entering the state meet and, until Saturday of course, her personal best.

Harris’ recent propensity to shatter personal best times comes directly from the consistency of her training regimen, she said.

“We didn’t do anything different toward the end of the season,” Harris said. “We just kept doing what we’re doing and progressively got better.”

It also helps to have an Olympian at your disposal. Harris’ coach, Joe Coffey, is married to Maria Michta-Coffey, who competed in the 20-kilometer race walk at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The two warmed up together before Harris hit the track.

“She’s very tough and seeing everything she’s accomplished motivates me,” Harris said. “To be coached by her is a great thing. Not everyone gets that opportunity.”

Harris stayed with the pack in the opening laps, but by the race’s midway point was walking all by herself. She won by over 14 seconds.

“Toward the middle laps, I knew that I couldn’t slow down,” Harris said. “I just had to stay fast. When I realized I hadn’t slowed down, I knew my time was going to be very fast.”

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