It’s hard to say that a meet can be disappointing for an athlete when it’s one of the biggest of the season—and an accomplishment in and of itself to get to the New York State Indoor Track and Field Championships, but that was the emotion shared by a pair of Westhampton Beach athletes at the conclusion of the meet on Saturday.
Westhampton Beach senior Natalie Ehlers and junior Kathleen Kelly competed in the 1,500-meter race walk and high jump, respectively, at the Ocean Breeze Track and Field Athletic Complex on Staten Island. Ehlers, seeded second, and not only expected to reach the podium, but also medal in her event, wound up being one of four race walkers disqualified from the race due to receiving the maximum of three judge’s marks.
Kelly tied with three others for 13th place in the state after reaching 5 feet, just 3 inches short of her personal best set just a few weeks ago at the state qualifier. Westhampton Beach head coach John Broich said she had a couple of good attempts at 5 feet 2 inches, but couldn’t quite clear it.
“It can happen to anybody. Obviously they’re disappointed,” he said of Ehlers and Kelly. “But they did make it to that meet. It doesn’t take away how hard they worked to get there.”
Ehlers was strong all season long in the race walk, either winning the event or placing second multiple times at crossovers and into the postseason. She had most recently won at the Long Island Elite Meet and placed second in the county.
But with multiple judges keeping a keen eye on walkers at the state meet, it can prove to add to the already tough and competitive field. Broich said that Ehlers received three warnings on three separate occasions from the five judges on the track—most likely from lifting her feet too high—with many of the calls coming toward the end of the race when she was trying to make up some ground. Ehlers crossed the finish line in 7:04.28, which would have placed her third overall, which was about where she was throughout the entire race.