Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee has made a habit of topping herself. Her best is usually only temporary, with a new one just over the hills that she has learned to master. So, it was fitting that, in her final high school cross country race, the Georgetown commit topped her previous national meet performance, albeit on a different course.
Lee finished fourth at the Foot Locker Cross Country National championship Saturday afternoon. She ran the 5-kilometer course in 17 minutes, 38.3 seconds at Balboa Park in San Diego, California. Claudia Lane, of Malibu, California, won in a dominating 17:03.4. Lee was the fastest northeast runner, with athletes from Illinois and Michigan finishing second and third, respectively.
“I actually didn’t know what place I was in when I finished,” Lee told Newsday via phone. “I went over to my dad and asked him if he saw where I finished and he said ‘I think it was fourth or fifth.’ So, that was pretty exciting.”
Lee placed 10th in 17:57.1 at the Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon last season. Citing a desire to see what the Foot Locker championships were like, Lee decided against running the Nike meet this season.
“I just tried to go in with a positive attitude and run the best I could, and it worked out pretty well,” Lee said. “I kind of conserved a little bit [of energy] in the middle, so at the end I still had a good amount for my kick, which was really nice.”
Lee, who was named Newsday’s Runner of the Year last week, won her third state Class B public school championship last month. She placed second at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx on Nov. 25, qualifying her for Saturday’s event.
“As much as I loved [Nike], this was awesome also. I’m really glad I got to have both experiences because they’re just so different, but awesome in their own right,” she said. “This was a little more focused on the individual. It’s a lot more relaxed.”
After losing many of her teammates from last year’s dominant Shoreham-Wading River team and having to manage an intense college recruiting process at the beginning of her season, Lee’s senior season was arguably her most challenging. In many ways, that made the performance even sweeter.
“I didn’t have too many races that made me really excited this year, but this one did,” she said.
Now, with her decorated high school cross country career over, Lee can reflect on what has been an incredible run as she gets ready for indoor track season.
“It’s a really great way to finish it up,” Lee said. “It was a really nice day and I’m happy to end on a high note.”
St. Anthony’s Mason Gatewood, who won the state Federation championship and was named Newsday’s Runner of the Year, placed 36th in the boys race. Gatewood, who lives in Garden City, ran 16:37.9. Dylan Jacobs of Orland Park, Illinois, won in 15:19.7.
“Obviously, it was a great field and a tough course,” Gatewood said. “I went out with the leaders and kind of faded after that . . . The experience was awesome, that’s for sure. It was a pretty incredible opportunity. The race was, obviously, kind of rough. I’m not too pleased with how I finished, but I’m not going to let it shake my confidence or anything. Overall, I’m just happy with how the season went as a whole.”