By Janee Law
Mason Gatewood has come a long way since he began dedicating his athletic career to running during his junior year at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. This year, as a senior, Gatewood raced in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championship National Finals last weekend and placed 36 overall.
Gatewood, 18, of Garden City, who completed the 5-kilometer race in 16:37.9, called the experience incredible, even though he fell just short of his goal.
“Overall it was really fun and a good time…, but I was hoping to get all American, which is top 15, so it was definitely a tough race,” he said. “It didn’t go quite as well as I hoped, but that’s cross country and that’s racing. You kind of just use it as motivation for what you have going on next.”
Born in Georgia, Gatewood moved with his family four times before landing in Garden City. Formerly a soccer player at old high school in Kentucky, Gatewood made the switch to running with his move to St. Anthony’s.
This past November, he ran in upstate Wappingers Falls with the Friars cross country team, competing in the New York State Federation Championships. Gatewood finished first in the 5K with a time of 15:52.4, five seconds ahead of second place.
“States is a huge race for St. Anthony’s. As a team it’s always important to win the race, but as an individual it was awesome,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve been training for a while and was one of my big goals.”
Gatewood went on to compete in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Cross Country 2017 event last month and placed 10th with a time of 15:54.8.
The result automatically qualified him for nationals, which were held at the Morley Field Sports Complex in San Diego on Dec. 9.
“Foot Locker is such a historic event and it’s been around for a long time,” Gatewood said. “A bunch of great runners have gone through the Foot Locker regionals and made it to nationals so just to be part of that history is pretty unique.”
With the cross country season in his rear-view mirror, Gatewood said he’s now gearing up for winter track. He runs in several categories, including the 800-meter and 1-mile events.
“We have a good distance medley relay this year,” he added. “As a team we want to qualify for nationals in that event. As an individual, I want to run some quick times.”
Looking back at his running career thus far, Gatewood said, he has grown ever since he arrived at St. Anthony’s.
Although there was “definitely a bit of a learning curve,” including a tough first season as a Friar, when he placed 109th in state, he’s thriving on the success he’s had this year under coach Tim Dearie.
“He’s one of the greatest coaches in the country, and he really prepares us well for all of our races,” Gatewood said. “Being able to handle the high-level training and just developing as a runner has been pretty huge.”