Shelter Island’s distance running sensation and now Iowa Hawkeye star, Kal Lewis, will participate in Saturday’s 10K.
Lewis grew up looking forward to the third Saturday in June, when world-class runners, legends from the past and other runners of all talents, would invade his quiet little island. Like so many Islanders, but especially as a runner, he loved the weekend and the energy it brought. “I loved running it,” Lewis said. “I did pretty well on very little training when I was young and thought that maybe I could be a pretty good runner so I stuck with the sport.”
His instincts were good.
A heavily recruited Shelter Island High School scholar-athlete, Lewis has just completed a phenomenal freshman year at the University of Iowa, where he made the difficult transition from a high school with only 70 students to a large, NCAA, Division 1, Big 10 powerhouse. Prior to going to Iowa City for his collegiate running, Lewis won four Suffolk County and three New York State Class “D” Cross Country Championships and the 2019 New York State Indoor 1,600-meter run with a 4:17.2. One week later, COVID-19 shut down all scholastic sports ending Lewis’s high school career with that race.
The young Hawkeye picked up where he left off in high school. In spite of missing seven weeks of training due to an ankle injury, he opened the indoor season with a 4:19 mile. Then, on three consecutive weekends, he reeled off personal best performances at 600 meters (1:21), 800 meters (1:54) and the mile (4:14). Two weeks later he took his game to a whole new level finishing fourth in an elite field of Big 10 milers with a 4:07.14 clocking.
At the Big 10 Championships, Lewis ran a blistering 2:58 lead off a 1,200-meter leg in the Distance Medley Relay, putting Iowa in contention. The following day, he broke the Iowa freshman school record and notched the third fastest indoor mile in Iowa school history with a 4:04 finish. Lewis scored points in both events, contributing to Iowa’s first Big 10 indoor champion team title in more than 90 years.
The 2021 outdoor season opened in March. Lewis continued to excite Hawkeye coaches and fans when he clocked a 3:49.44 in his first-ever 1,500 meter- run — roughly equivalent to a 4:07 mile. Three weeks later, in Jacksonville, Fla. he lowered that time to a sizzling 3:43.42, just 4/10ths of a second off Jeff Thode’s 11-year-old school record and equivalent to a 4:01 mile.
Iowa Coach Randy Hasenbank summed it up: “Kal stepped up and scored points for us wrapping up a great freshman season.”
Kal’s mother, Kristina Lang — a high school athlete herself in multiple sports and a four-year member of the Ithaca College Rowing Team — said, “I’m blown away by his progress at Iowa. I give his high school coach, Toby Green, a lot of credit for bringing him along carefully. He didn’t burn Kal out with high mileage. I was a little surprised when I heard Kal chose Iowa at first, but once I met Coach Hasenbank and saw what he does with Kal, I knew he was in the right school.”
Saturday, Lewis returns home to a familiar course on which he’s raced and trained many times. It was not always that way. When he was 8-years-old, Lewis entered the 5K event for the first time expecting a nice run in a sport new to him. A mile into the run he and his buddy, Liam Adipietro, son of Race Director Mary Ellen Adipietro, missed the 5K turn and continued along with the 10K crowd. Both tired, aspiring athletes finished the full distance and never made that mistake again.
Coming off a track season and a two-week post season rest directed by Coach Hasenbank, Lewis has not been training for the 10K distance, but looks forward to seeing what he can do on his home course. He’s looking for a time around 33:00. Welcome home, Kal.