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Kal Lewis makes school athletic history again

ROBIN STRECK PHOTO Kal Lewis with his 1,600-meter state championship medals after his historic race Saturday, June 9 in Cicero, New York
ROBIN STRECK PHOTO Kal Lewis with his 1,600-meter State Championship medals after his historic race Saturday, June 9 in Cicero, New York

Sophomore Kal Lewis has done it again, adding more ink to the athletic history book of Shelter Island School, earning his second State Championship title this school year, at the New York State Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

On June 8 and 9, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (“NYSPHSAA”) in association with the New York State Federation of Secondary School Athletic Associations (“Federation”) held the State Championships in Cicero, New York just north of Syracuse.

A true State meet, the Federation brings together the best athletes from public, Catholic  and independent high schools, all in one meet.

About 125 of Suffolk County’s best boys and girls track and field athletes traveled six hours on Section XI charter buses to Syracuse on June 7 to afford them an opportunity to run on the track prior to the two-day championship meet. The championship meet includes many track and field events, including running, throwing and jumping events.

Depending on the event, the top 24-to-30 athletes statewide compete in each event.

There are podium finishes for the top six large-school athletes, known as Division 1, and the top six small-school athletes, known as Division 2. The 1,600-meter run was broken into two heats. Lewis ran in the second heat, which included the fastest 13 athletes in the State, regardless of Division.

The Islander had only raced against two other athletes in his heat, Northport’s Elijah Claiborne and Walt Whitman’s Aiden Smyth, seniors and Division 1 athletes from Suffolk County. Both seniors had bested Lewis the week before at the State Qualifiers, but there was some comfort in this since Lewis knew what their strengths were and he had a good idea of what their race plans would probably be.

There were only two other Division 2 athletes in Lewis’ heat. Before the race, he was ranked or “seeded” #1, and the two other Division 2 athletes were ranked #2 and #3. The first heat went off and the top Division 2 athlete ran 4:21 minutes, five seconds slower than Lewis’ best. It was now up to him to race smart and focus on those other two Division 2 athletes in his heat.

The second heat went off about 11:30 am. It was a tight race from start to finish and Lewis ran wisely. After the first 400-meter lap, he was less than one second behind the top eight athletes, all Division 1 athletes, but Matt Politis of Pearl River and Tobias Wolfson of Riverdale Country Day, both Division 2 athletes, seeded #2 and #3, respectively, were only a step behind Lewis.

After the second 400-meter lap, Lewis had matched his first lap’s split time, but Politis, a senior, was now neck and neck with him. Wolfson, a sophomore, was only a step behind them.

On the third lap, Politis threw down a blistering 62 second lap and now Lewis was trailing by one second with 400 meters to go, but he continued to keep his composure. Wolfson had dropped three seconds behind Lewis.

In the last 400 meters, Politis’ all-out 62 second lap caught up with him and Lewis passed him with 300 meters to go. But now Wolfson, who trailed behind both of them the whole race, unleashed an incredible last lap of 60 seconds flat. Wolfson was gaining ground and Lewis had to muster everything he had in the last 200 meters to the finish line to hold him off, throwing down a sub-63 second lap.

The Islander came across the finish line first for Division 2 with a time of 4:15.79 minutes. Wolfson was second in 4:16.63, Politis third in 4:21.24.

A great day for Lewis, Shelter Island and Suffolk County, as Claiborne and Smyth took first and second place in Division 1 as well. The awards ceremony followed shortly thereafter, and Lewis was crowned the Division 2 1,600-meter NYSPHSAA and Federation state champion.

Lewis’ last and final race of the spring track season will be at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Championships at North Carolina A&T State University. He will complete his outdoor track season competing in a one-mile run on Friday, June 15.

Good luck, Kal, once again!