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Kal Lewis finishes stellar college cross country season: Island legend opening eyes in the Big 10

University of Iowa sophomore and future Shelter Island Hall of Fame runner, Kal Lewis, wrapped up an excellent cross country season at the Midwest National Regional Championships on the university’s Iowa City home course.

Last year as a freshman, Kal shocked his coaches and most observers both indoors and out as a 1,500 meter/mile runner.

Even though his high school resume included three consecutive New York State cross country titles and a New York State Public School indoor mile title, no one expected him to approach the Hawkeye school records in both the mile and 1,500 meters.

His blistering 4:04 indoor mile, however, is a freshman school record, and the third fastest on the Iowa’s all-time list. He followed up outdoors by dropping a 3:43.42 for 1,500 meters, another freshman school record and just 4/10ths off the school record. That time is equivalent to a 4:01 mile.

But the autumn is cross country season, and Division 1 NCAA cross country is a different animal — almost a different sport than track. Races are 8-kilometers (approximately 5 miles) at the Conference level and 10-kilometers (6.2 miles) at the National level. Kal’s longest race in high school was 5-kilometers, and an injury kept him from cross country at Iowa last Fall. His longest collegiate race until this year had been the mile.

Last spring when this writer spoke with Iowa Coach Randy Hasenbank, I asked about plans for Kal in the Fall. Coach Hasenbank said, “Kal will train with the cross country team to build up his strength for the mile, but I am not counting on him to be an impact runner this year. He is a tough competitor so we will see how it goes. He was injured last fall so did not get a chance to run cross country. A lot will depend on how well he trains during the summer.”

Kal trained hard during the summer. Islanders who saw the tall blond kid last summer on the streets of Shelter Island running conspicuously faster than most other runners can testify that Kal trained hard. He had his eyes set on running a sub-4:00 mile during the 2021 indoor season, but he also visualized himself as part of the 7-man Iowa Cross Country Team this Fall.

Iowa opened their season with a home meet. Kal finished fifth man on the team. In successive races he held his spot. At the BIG 10 Championships he covered the hilly 8-kilometer Penn State course in a personal best of 24:49. He placed 29th out of 248 runners and moved to third on the Hawkeye team.

On November 12 at the NCAA Midwest Regionals, in his first collegiate 10-kilometer race, he clocked a very credible 31:38 over the hilly Iowa City course. He was the second Iowa runner to finish, just four seconds behind Hawkeye senior, Noah Healy. The 31:38 converts to an average of 5:05 per mile for a hilly 6.2-miles.

Lewis reflected on his successful season, saying, “I wanted to make the cross country team and get to the NCAA Regionals if possible. After training hard  all  summer and running 60 miles per week since returning to school, I felt a thousand percent stronger than last year. I’m very happy with how it went and I’m really looking forward to the indoor track season”

Coach Hasenbank said, ”Kal came back very fit and eager after the summer. He was not hesitant to run with our best distance runners so I put him in with the top cross country guys. He’s shown a lot of growth and development training hard through the summer. He’s fearless and is not concerned about locking horns with the best. Kal is an exceptional young team leader. He trains hard but he races even harder”

Kal at the Midwestern Regionals. (Credit: Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)