All throughout last night's Suffolk Small School championship track meet, Kayla Koelbel had four words on her mind: be strong, be confident.
Those words were what Kings Park coach Rob Muller told his team earlier in the day, and the senior took them to heart.
"He told us, 'We've done the hard part, we've done all the training,' " Koelbel said. "All that's left was this, and this was the easy part."
Koelbel sure made it look easy Monday night.
The senior went 3-for-3 in her events at Suffolk CC-Brentwood as the Kingsmen defeated Miller Place, 70-58, to win their third straight county title and fourth in the last five years.
Koelbel took first in the long jump, the 55 hurdles, and the triple jump to earn her team a total of 30 points.
"To me, it just means that I got 30 points for our team," she said. "The individual meets like state quals aren't until later, so this one was for the team."
Miller Place took an early 28-10 lead after three events behind the distance trio of Tiana and Talia Guevara and eighth-grader Laura Nolan. Talia (10:37.55) and Nolan (10:56.62) finished 1-2 in the 3,000 meters, and Talia's twin Tiana outkicked Kings Park's Kathleen Naeher with 100 meters left to win the 1,000 in 3:01.47.
But Koelbel won the long jump to start the Kings Park comeback. Koelbel jumped a 17-3/4 on her third attempt of the trials, which was seven inches farther than second-place Bailey Walker of Bayport-Blue Point (16-53/4).
"When I heard that we were losing points in certain events, I was like, 'Oh man, I have to jump extra well now,' " Koelbel said.
Stephanie Saccente followed with a second-place finish in the 1,500 walk for the Kingsmen in 7:18.08. Allie Bennett (8:04.79) took fourth and Megan Ingram (8:06.72) placed sixth.
Koelbel then won the 55 hurdles in 8.95 and the triple jump in 34-51/2 to give Kings Park a 66-52 lead heading into the relays. "I just tried to do whatever I had to do to get as many points as I could for the team," she said.
The Kingsmen 4 x 400 team of Naeher, Katherine Corcoran, Kelly Donovan and Madison Herbert finished fourth in 4:21.40 to clinch the championship with one event remaining.
Muller credited the work of seniors such as Koelbel as the main factor in the Kingsmen's three-peat.
"Our seniors became sort of like assistant coaches out there," he said. "It's a testament to how the older girls are able to bring along the younger ones."
Meanwhile, an enthusiastic Koelbel said that it was the team's mind-set coming into the meet that made the difference.
"We knew we were ready," she said. "We just stayed strong and stayed confident."