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Two Shelter Island runners shine in prestigious event

CHRISTINE GALLAGHER PHOTO Kal Lewis and Lindsey Gallagher at the New York State Federation championships at Wappinger Falls on November 18.
Kal Lewis and Lindsey Gallagher at the New York State Federation championships at Wappinger Falls on November 18.

The New York State Federation of Secondary School Athletic Associations held its cross country championships (“Federations”) this past weekend.

The Federations bring together the four athletic associations in New York State, namely the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, of which Shelter Island is a member, the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association, the New York City Public School Athletic League and the New York State Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association.

Each athletic association has its own state championships and crowns its top teams and individual champions.

But only the Federations bring together the top teams and individuals statewide across all athletic associations in a true state championship, so there’s no arguing which team or individuals are New York’s best.

The Federations is very selective. There are nearly 1,000 cross country teams in New York State, or well over 10,000 athletes. Invitations to compete at Federations are extended only to the top 27 teams.

Outside those teams, the top 70 individuals are invited as well, so it’s a high honor to be invited. Whether first or last, every athlete earned the privilege to be take part.

Two Shelter Island athletes, senior Lindsey Gallagher and sophomore Kal Lewis, were invited this year in recognition of the stellar seasons they had this year. It’s been nearly 20 years since a Shelter Island athlete has received an invitation to this race.

The race was held Saturday, November 18, at Bowdoin County Park, set right on the Hudson River in the upstate town of Wappinger Falls. The very tough 5K course starts across an open field and narrows to an 8-foot wide path that travels up and down a few rollers before it starts the long 1.5 mile climb to the mid-point of the course.

Once reaching the heights, the course snakes downhill before finally reaching the athletic field it started on for the race to the finish. It’s on this course that many New York Olympians have raced during their high school careers.

It was a brisk start to the morning; 24 degrees at sunrise. The girls race started first at 12:15 p.m. and it had warmed up to the upper 30s, but it began to rain. In a field of 253 athletes, Gallagher ran a 20:45 on the very crowded course, out-kicking five girls in the last 150 meters, finishing among the top 10 Long Islanders running. It wasn’t her season’s best performance, but she felt good about her race, and was happy to be a part of it.

North Rockland’s Katelyn Touhy, the nation’s number one ranked high school girl in the 5K won the championship title in 16:52, a new course record.

The boys race started at 1 p.m. In a field of 258 athletes, Lewis started in about 30th place where the course first narrows off the athletic field. On the hill climb he gained enough momentum to lead the chase pack, just 15 meters behind the seven runners in the lead.

Reaching the half-way point and downhill sections of the course, positions changed back and forth for the remainder of the race. The lead pack dwindled to a tight four coming into the last 1,000 meters of the race.

Lewis ran a very impressive 16:24 for an eighth place finish. In a group of smart, more experienced racers, the sophomore held his own. He was the second Long Islander to finish, only behind St. Anthony senior Mason Gatewood who won the championship title.

Federations is a prestigious event and both athletes represented their schools well.

Saturday, November 28, is the Footlocker Northeast Regional Championships, at Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx. Gallagher and Lewis will join a few of their teammates in running this race.

For most athletes, this will be the last race of the cross country season, but for the top 10, it will mean a trip to Nationals in San Diego. Wish them all good luck.