Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee just wanted to qualify.
The Suffolk 3,000-meter record holder was concerned about getting into the state championships more than anything else. And when she approached the finish and realized she made it, her worries washed away. Records? She broke her own, taking first in 9 minutes, 36.04 seconds at the county’s state qualifiers at Port Jefferson Friday.
“I really had no idea what I was running,” she said. “I didn’t know I was on pace for a [record] or anything. I left the pack kind of early and then I got lost and it didn’t feel that fast.”
The junior was the first of a SWR trio that included Alexandra Hays and Maria Smith. As each lap passed, they stayed exactly in that order with the same amount of space in between — barely a step. With a couple laps left, Lee felt the pace lagging and went out on her own.
“Do I go a little early? Do I not?” Lee said she wondered. “So I kept kind of a safe distance and then when it felt really like this was not working for me, I stayed on kind of a faster pace.”
Hays took second in 9:47.68, and Smith crossed in 9:51.14, both within the qualifying standard, but the top two will represent Section XI. Afterward, Lee ran around congratulating her teammates and everyone else who crossed the line.
“I like to congratulate anyone who runs against me whether they do well or not,” she said. “I love Section XI so much.”
West Babylon’s Paige Keefer grabbed an early lead in the 800 and didn’t let go. She ran to the finish with a determined stride in 2:09.25. Ward Melville’s Allyson Gaedje took second in 2:13.43.
“I knew that my competitors, like Ally, were really good and she had the 400 speed,” Keefer said. “I had to get out fast and just hold it as long as I could.”
When Keefer went out fast, it gave her no other options for the second lap.
“I knew if I took the first lap out fast, I’d have to make the second lap fast either way,” she said. “So they were both fast.”
She’ll return to the state meet next weekend with a year of progression that she’s proud of.
“It’s a good start,” she said.