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Kal Lewis crowned state champion second year in a row

Kal Lewis on the podium at the Cross Country New York State Championships at Sunken Meadow State Park on November 10.

Kal Lewis has done it again.

The Shelter Island High School junior successfully defended his state public school Class D boys cross country championship title, marking two years in a row he’s been victorious. And in another first, Lewis is the only Islander to win more than one state cross country championship title.

On Saturday, November 10, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association held the 2018 Cross Country State Championships at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park. After a nine-year hiatus, our best Suffolk County athletes were proud to have an opportunity to run the championship on the Long Island 5K course they have a love-hate relationship with.

Among the most difficult in the nation, the course — every last inch of it — is known well by all county runners. The local athletes reveled in the fact that the rest of the state would have to test their mettle on our home course.

Friday night’s two inches of rain left park personnel with only two hours of daylight until the first race Saturday morning to repair the course from erosion of several parts of the steep trail system. Saturday morning turned out to be dry, but was the coldest race of the season with temperatures in the low 40s and winds blowing 15 to 25 mph and gusting to 40 mph.

There was standing water and mud that had not been drained on the flatter parts of the course. The boys raced in the Class D state championship at 11 a.m. There was a lot of hype going into the race, with the speed rating experts predicting Lewis would take second place to Beaver River’s Colton Kempney.

Lewis’ training was interrupted for a few weeks at the beginning of the season due to bronchitis, and there were concerns he would not have enough time to be ready for the state championship.

Well ahead of the rest of the field, both athletes ran a phenomenal race. They were shoulder to shoulder 1.5 miles into the race as they approached the climb on the sheer rise known as “Cardiac Hill.” Lewis crested the brutal climb to Cardiac and built a 20-meter gap during the downhill portion of the giant slope. During the last half mile, the Islander continued to extend his lead.

Coming off the last bridge toward the finish line, his lead was about 60 meters. Lewis was enthusiastically cheered by many hearty Shelter Island fans as well as fans from all over Suffolk County and beyond. The crowd roared with excitement when they saw the lead Lewis had gained and was continuing to build as he closed in on the finish line.

He came across in 16:23.3, a personal record (PR), a state champion, 14 seconds ahead of the second place finisher.

The other Island scorers ran as follows: sophomore Domingo Gil 18:34.0 (PR), junior Jonas Kinsey 18:43.3, sophomore Tyler Gulluscio 19:01.3 and sophomore Nicholas Mamisashvili 19:53.8 (PR). Senior Michael Payano ran 20:25.8 and freshman Pacey Cronin ran 22:03.6. The boys placed fifth overall, only one point out of fourth place.

The Island girls raced earlier, at 9 a.m. in the Class D state championship. All the girls ran well, with every member of the six-person squad posting a season’s best. Junior Emma Gallagher ran 22:43.6 minutes, freshman Ariana Carter ran 27:33.5 (PR), freshman Olivia Overstreet ran 27:56.7 (PR), 8th grader Madison Springer ran 30:13.0 (PR), 7th grader Kaitlyn Gulluscio ran 37:55.9 (PR) and 7th grader Sophie Clark ran 38:03.4 (PR). The young team turned in a ninth place finish.

This ends another successful season for the varsity boys and girls cross country teams and it’s been a pleasure to coach. Lewis is planning on running Nike Cross Regionals in two weeks with hopes of posting a performance that will earn him a berth at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon. Wish him luck.

Thanks to all for another inspiring and memorable season.