On Saturday, March 7, at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island, Kal Lewis answered the starter’s gun in the State Championship 1,600-meter run and ran what may have been his last race in a Shelter Island High School singlet.
If the coronavirus causes that to happen, Kal will have finished his scholastic running career fast, in style and on top.
The State Championships for indoor track combine the best of New York State’s Public High School and State Federation High School Track & Field athletes.
Public school athletes qualify via meets in each county throughout the state.
The Federation Championship includes those athletes, plus all other athletes from private, parochial and New York City schools who qualified through their respective systems. Forty five boys qualified for the 1,600-meter run, which was run in three heats based on time.
Lewis qualified for the fastest heat by handily winning the Suffolk County Qualifying Meet in February in 4:24.84.
The 1,600-meter run is approximately 31 feet less than a mile and converts to about a 1.5 second faster time than the full mile. The Ocean Breeze track is a banked, stateof-the-art, 200-meter oval requiring the athletes to complete eight laps for the race.
Coach Toby Green had cautioned his star runner that the race would be controlled for the first 1,000 meters, but the serious racing would begin with 600 meters to go. And so it was.
At the start, Lewis tucked in with the lead pack, hitting the first 400 meters in 65 seconds. The next 400 brought the Islander to the halfway point in 2:13, with Brian Gleason of Frontier High School leading and eight athletes still in contention. Lewis bided his time through the next 200 meters, but when Pedro Bravo of Iona Prep, Lucas Beyer of Canisius, Buffalo and Gleason picked up the tempo, he wisely moved off the inside rail position to lane two to avoid being boxed in, moving into fourth place.
Bravo being from a Federation school did not count in the public school championship, but Gleason and Beyer did and the race was on.
A 63-second third 400 brought Lewis through the 1,200 in 3:16 in fourth place. With 500 meters to go, he made his move and blew past Beyer and Gleason and set out after Bravo.
He covered his last 400 in a quick 61 seconds bringing him through the finish line in 4:17.2, a new Shelter Island school indoor record and the first Shelter Islander to ever win the overall State Public High School Championship in any sport.
In simple terms, Lewis is the fastest miler in the state of New York among all public schools, regardless of school size, and is the second best high school miler in the state — period.
In the stands at the finish, a proud Coach Green, with tears in his eyes simply said, “He executed perfectly. Just what we trained for.”
Lewis said after ,that, “Coach said it would come down to the last 600 and it did. We trained hard for that for the last six weeks and it worked.”
His mother, Kristina Lange, reflected how “Kal has been preparing for this moment physically and mentally for years. The giant smile on his face on the awards podium showed it was worth all the sacrifices he made.”
In this writer’s opinion, this win is the greatest athletic accomplishment by any Shelter Island High School athlete in any sport, ever. There is no other achievement even close, unless it would be when Lewis won his third consecutive Class D cross country championship last fall. But for a single event, a moment in time, this has never been matched at Shelter Island before.
His father, Ken Lewis, summed it up well: “The thing I’m most proud of about Kal is that he’s never let his success go to his head. He continues to work hard and always strive for more and along the way he manages to take new runners under his wing, congratulate and support his fellow competitor and even take time for friends like Western and little kids who admire him. That to me is the true sign of a champion.”
The University of Iowa is going to get an exceptional athlete and person in Kal Lewis next year. This may be his last race in a Shelter Island uniform, but this will not be the last time we read about this young man’s running successes. A proud Shelter Island community thanks him for the athlete and example he is and wishes him well.