OSWEGO — Oswego High School junior Ben Lewis and senior Molly Fitzgibbons are heading to the New York Indoor Track Championship Meet at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island this Saturday.
Both recently competed at the Section III state qualifier at Onondaga Community College. Lewis took third in the 300-meter dash (37.32) and Fitzgibbons finished fifth in the 3,000-meter run (10:36.6).
Lewis punched his ticket for states right at the qualifier. Fitzgibbons didn’t qualify at first, but eventually found her way to making the cut.
Lewis ran a 37.26 in the same event at sectional finals this season, while Fitzgibbons set a personal best (10:20.94) in the 3,000 meters at the SCAC League Meet.
Lewis will compete in the intersectional relay and the 200-meter events at the state meet. He expressed excitement over the opportunity to make new friends with new relay teammates.
Coach Dom Pike mentioned how he could not be happier for the opportunity to express his track knowledge to athletes like Lewis and Fitzgibbons.
Lewis moved to Oswego last year, having competed further south in the past. Pike noted that Lewis’ first season as an indoor athlete was quite the learning experience. Pike praised Lewis for his willingness to try.
“Ben’s got an outstanding work ethic. He just doesn’t know his limitations yet,” Pike said. “Once he learns more about the sport, I think the sky’s the limit. Anything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done. He’s going to be unstoppable.”
At the state qualifier, Lewis and his teammates Tyler Beck, Isaiah Henson, and Victor Perez placed third in the 4 x 200-meter relay with a combined time of 1:46.15. Lewis won with his teammates in the 4 x 400-meter dash relay at the Fred Kirschenheiter Memorial Invitational earlier in the season.
Lewis says his favorite event to compete in is the 4 x 400 relay.
“It’s more of a team effort and you get to work with other people. It’s not just you,” he said. “You have to rely on the others as well to succeed, and it’s just fun to run with them.”
Pike added, “The relay is the perfect fit for him, because he’s such a leader. He loves being the anchor, and he always tells the other kids, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get them!’ and he’s run down plenty of athletes. That’s why I think he’s unstoppable.”
Pike and Lewis expressed the difficulty of learning spatial awareness on an indoor track. Pike noted that it was a “tough adjustment early on,” and that Lewis is truly able to shine on an outdoor track.
“He runs that great outdoor 4 x 400, where he can see the whole thing,” Pike said. “In indoor, you’d have to run two laps, and you can’t quite figure out where everyone is and how far you have to go at first. When Ben hits that one-lap 400 outdoors, his times are so much better. He can see what’s in front of him.”
Fitzgibbons has been running outdoor track since ninth grade, and has been participating in indoor track since her junior year. She said her love for the sport began in elementary school, where she was first introduced to the 600-meter run. Pike says he has had the pleasure of coaching Fitzgibbons since she was a freshman.
Last spring, Fitzgibbons suffered a compound fracture in her foot, which limited her ability to compete in high-level events for the majority of the outdoor season. She has now healed and is looking forward to competing in Staten Island.
Fitzgibbons traveled to states for Oswego during the indoor track season last year. She typically tends to push herself in more difficult workouts early in the week, tapering off as the end of the week approaches.
“Practice varies from day to day, sometimes it’s focused more on speed, but obviously for longer runs like the 3,000 it’s all about tempo and distance,” she said.
Fitzgibbons’ favorite event is the steeplechase. Fitzgibbons competed in the 2,000-meter steeplechase at last season’s outdoor track state qualifiers, setting a season record with her time of 7:06.43.
Pike mentioned how Lewis and Fitzgibbons deserve the chance to go to states not just for their athletic abilities, but the sportsmanship they express at every meet.
“To see these kids basically start from scratch and make it to the state levels, I’m thrilled,” Pike said. “They’re like my own kids. We’ve had some great leaders over the years with kids like Molly and Ben. Ben’s the first one to congratulate his opponent and Molly is the first one to say thank you for everything when she goes to a meet.”