Senior Kal Lewis defended his Class D cross country state championship title on Saturday, Nov. 16. Lewis makes history by grabbing his third cross country State title.
Nine female athletes have earned three cross country titles since the sport began for women back in 1974. Long Island women like Katherine Lee of Shoreham-Wading River, Christine Gentile of Babylon and Chris Curtin of Mepham are in this company.
This feat, however, is much rarer with men. Since the first cross country championships in 1950, only three males have earned three cross country state titles — John Sheffield in 1962-1964, Christian Thompson in 2004-2006 and now Lewis.
And Lewis did it with both drama and style in the best and most exciting race of the day. The Shelter Island High school senior stayed with the lead pack the whole race, but trailed Beaver River’s sophomore standout, Colton Kempney for most of the race. An incredible young athlete, Kempney had not lost a single race all season.
In Lewis’ words, he knew he just had to hang on to the leader no matter what and wait for the right moment to make his move. By the time they hit the 2 mile mark, it was just Lewis and Kempney, both 35 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
With a half mile to go, Lewis was trailing by 15 feet. With 400 meters to go, Lewis was running shoulder to shoulder with Kempney. With 300 meters to go, Lewis surged ahead, but Kempney fought back, only a step behind. They evened up again, then Kempney took a slight lead before both athletes gave it everything they had.
When they came out of the woods around the last corner, with 100 meters to go and the finish line in sight, Lewis turned on the jets and created the distance he needed to come across the finish line one second ahead of Kempney.
Nearly 500 of the state’s fastest males had come to compete among Class A, B, C and D divisions. Lewis had run the second fastest time of the day, only 2 seconds behind the Class B champion.
The Reporter will have more on the school’s success at the state championships.