On Saturday, March 2, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and the New York State Federation (“Federation”) held the New York State Indoor Track & Field Championships.
The Federation includes all athletes from New York City public high schools, as well as athletes from private and Catholic high schools statewide.
The State Championships were held at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Facility in Staten Island. The Ocean Breeze facility is only three years old. It is a state-of-the-art track that has the amazing capability of hydraulically changing from six to eight lanes and, more impressively, hydraulically changing the pitch of its banked curves.
Shelter Island junior Kal Lewis is only the second Indian in school history to qualify for the State indoor championships, the other being Joshua Green, who in 2018 ran on the Suffolk County distance medley relay team to a state championship title.
Lewis qualified to run the 1,6000-meter run, 9 meters shy of a mile. It would be eight full laps around Ocean Breeze’s 200-meter oval track. Lewis would be running against 35 of New York State’s fastest 1,600-meter athletes. To put it into more perspective, two of those athletes, St. Anthony’s senior Matthew Payamps and Bronxville senior Alex Rizzo, were ranked number one and number two nationally.
The 1,600-meter run was broken down into three heats, with 12 athletes in each. Lewis would be running in the last and fastest of the three heats, against Payamps and Rizzo.
With his entourage of Shelter Island fans supporting him, Kal’s race went off on time. The pack of athletes was tight through the first 600 meters. With 800 meters down, Lewis was still in contention running in the sixth place position.
But the leaders, Payamps and Rizzo, just a step separating the two, really began to create some distance between themselves and everybody else.
Lewis gave it his best to hang on but began losing ground as the two nationally ranked leaders continued to pour it on and increase their lead. By the time the race had finished, Lewis would clock 4:28.13 minutes, taking a 15th place finish overall.
Every school sending an athlete to the State championships is hoping for the same storybook ending — a state champion. For both athletes and the rest of us, some days are good, others really, really good and the rest could have been better.
Shelter Island has its state champion in Lewis multiple times over — he holds two cross country state titles and an outdoor 1,600-meter state championship title. These are incredible accomplishments by far, and Shelter Island has much to be proud of.
As any great competitor will do, Lewis will chalk this race up to another valuable experience and move on — and be back to race another day.