The Riverhead High School boys track and field coach, Steve Gevinski, thought that this outdoor spring season would be a rebuilding one. After all, the Blue Waves were hit by the graduation of several key athletes, including Michael Smith, who was a New York State and Suffolk County champion in the shot put.
But as the team has prepared for the season the last few weeks, Gevinski admitted he has been pleasantly surprised by the younger athletes and newcomers. “The freshmen and sophomores have really improved a lot at this stage of the game,” he said.
During the team’s recent blue-white intrasquad scrimmage, Gevinski was encouraged with what he witnessed.
“It was very impressive to see how the young kids are doing and the leadership roles the older kids are showing,” he said. “They’re a young, hungry group. They’re fitting in better than I felt.”
Gevinski and his assistant coach, Sal Loverde, who both coach football, recruited some extra competitors for this season — 10 freshmen and sophomores. Gevinski said the group “was so talented that in two or three years they will be very good. The group has unlimited potential.”
Even with the influx of younger talent, it should not be surprising, however, that the Blue Waves (4-2 in League III last year) will be led by several athletes who excelled during the winter and reached the state championships.
Senior Treval Hatcher and junior Kevin Williams are expected to handle the triple jump and some middle-distance runs. Junior Kashaun Boynton is set to run the 110-meter high hurdles and 400-meter intermediate hurdles while sophomore Jeffrey Pittman will compete in the long jump and run some sprints.
Riverhead’s long-distance runners include three seniors — Rob Mullen, Jeremy Warner and Mike Beirle — who will run either the 800, the 1,600 or 3,200 races.
Three more seniors — Jaylin Jeffries, Shawn Yarborough and Anthony Stimpfel — will handle the shot put and discus while another senior, Matt Liquori, will throw the shot put. Sophomore Jonah Spaeth and Dan Normoyle will compete in the pole vault.
Gevinski, whose Blue Waves will open the League IV season at rival Bellport on Tuesday, admitted he would be disappointed if his team “doesn’t finish at .500.”
He called Half Hollow Hills West “the class of the league.” Hills West, which won the winter league, is better on paper, he added, noting Riverhead’s rivals captured the 4×400 relay title at the state championships.
Even before Bishop Mercy-McGann competes in a meet, Coach Matt Perry figures the Monarchs are ahead of last season, when they finished 3-6 in League VII. The reason for Perry’s optimism? More than 30 athletes came out for the team, an increase of 10 over last year.
“We’re really excited,” said Perry, who is in his second season as coach. “It’s just the kids. They energized last season. They spoke very highly of last season and it encouraged other kids.”
While more freshmen and sophomores have given McGann-Mercy much more depth, the Monarchs still will be anchored by four seniors — John Desuno (throws and sprints), Sean Cappiello (middle distance), Matt Stetler (middle distance) and Matt Di Landro (middle distance).
“I’m looking for our middle-distance runners to carry us this season,” Perry said.
Perry credited the winter season with helping to give the Monarchs a boost into the spring, saying that it was “going to make us stronger. It’s going to give us a good base for the spring. Not every team has a winter track program in our league. We’re fortunate to have one. That’s how you create a base and get better.”
McGann-Mercy’s first challenge is at an invitational meet at Amityville on Saturday before competing in its first dual meet at Center Moriches on March 31.
Perry sees the Amityville invitational as “a tune-up because we’re still a young team. It will show the younger athletes how to compete.”
Center Moriches (4-5) finished in the middle of the League VI pack last spring. Perry said the Center Moriches coaching staff was among the best in the state and the meet “will be a benchmark on how we compete with them.”
In what would have been his 32nd straight year coaching the spring track and field team at Shoreham-Wading River, Bob Szymanski decided to take a break this spring. Szymanski coached cross-country in the fall and the winter track team before handing the baton off to Paul Anderson.
“I need a little break,” Szymanski said. “I want to spend time with my family and want to visit my son in California.”
Szymanski said he plans to still help out throughout the season and will come back for cross-country next fall.
Anderson has been a vital part of the coaching staff at Shoreham, working mostly with the jumpers and vaulters. Those are two areas where the Wildcats will excel this spring, coming off a successful winter season in which they finished third in League V.
Senior Erik Anderson, Paul’s son, is one of the top high jumpers in the county. He finished second at the indoor state qualifier and cleared 6 feet 4 inches in the winter season. He can also long jump and run hurdles.
Senior Ben Canellys cleared 13 feet in the pole vault at the indoor state qualifier for the top mark in Suffolk County. He’ll look to improve on that mark in the outdoor season. He finished third in the outdoor state qualifier last year after clearing 12-6.
Canellys can also run sprints.
Senior Kevin Sanders returns as a strong middle-distance runner. He qualified for the state meet in the 600 during the winter season.
In the longer distances, the Wildcats feature senior John Lee and junior Tyler Keys.
The Wildcats bumped up a league this year into League V, pitting them against two local schools in Miller Place and Rocky Point. Shoreham will open the league dual-meet season against Sayville on March 30.
Joe Werkmeister contributed to this article.