Something big has happened to our small Island.
The varsity boys and girls cross country teams have won the Suffolk County championship in their division for the fourth year in a row. As a story in the Reporter said last week, “This is an extraordinary accomplishment of dedication, heart and commitment to their sport, their coaches and each other …”
Added to the laurels the teams have brought home to the Island is junior Kal Lewis being crowned New York State cross country champion in his division for the second year in a row. Kal has made school history by being the only Islander to win more than one state cross country championship title.
On a brutal course at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park — one of the hills on the course is nicknamed “Cardiac Hill” — made worse by torrential rain the night before, and in the coldest weather of the cross country season, Kal didn’t just endure, he literally ran away from the competition, breaking the tape 14 seconds ahead of the second place finisher.
The young athlete is ticketed for a spot in Shelter Island’s Athletic Hall of Fame with still another season ahead of him in 2019.
These hard-earned feats, which inspire all of us, might never have happened if people had not acted to devote themselves to provide the youth of the Island a chance to train, become part of a team and compete against the best in the county and state.
Shelter Island has always been recognized for the quality of its runners, especially in cross country. But the program at the school experienced a slow death until six years ago, when Coaches Bryan Gallagher, Toby Green and Bryan Knipfing brought a program back. They were aided and inspired by Island running legend Cliff Clark along with Mary Ellen Adipietro, who has been the guiding star of the nationally renowned Shelter Island 10K and 5K races.
Also to be congratulated for the renaissance of cross country here are Shelter Island School officials of past and present administrations who believed in the idea and got behind it, plus original sponsors of the teams who paid to outfit the athletes, including Dr. Frank Adipietro, Shelter Island Ace Hardware and another generous donor who would like to remain anonymous.
The cross country athletes have made Shelter Island proud because of their determination, sacrifices and perseverance. The coaches, supporters and the Island as a whole deserve to take a bow for the support, encouragement and time devoted to these fine young people, who have given us seasons to cherish.