No one can deny that winning is preferable to the alternative. Being on the winning side surely makes things a lot more enjoyable.
The Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School boys track and field team has been savoring the winning this season. At the same time, though, Coach Matt Perry is quick to point out that other things are important to the Monarchs, such as winning with class.
“We have to do it with honor,” he said. “You don’t rub somebody’s face in it.”
In Perry’s second year as the team’s coach, the Monarchs have turned things around. Last year they went 3-6. They started this season with a loss to the Center Moriches Red Devils. Since then, however, the Monarchs have done nothing but win. They defeated the Babylon Panthers, The Stony Brook School Bears, the Mattituck Tuckers and, most recently, The Ross School/Pierson Ravens on Thursday.
That’s four straight dual-meet wins. It adds up to a 4-1 record, overall and in Suffolk County League VIII.
“We came into the season thinking we were going to do good, and from last year’s scores, it was unexpected,” McGann-Mercy senior John De Suno said. “We were definitely underdogs.”
Perhaps not any more, though. It’s hard to consider any team that heads into its final dual meet with a chance for a share of the league title — as the Monarchs do — an underdog.
The Monarchs put themselves in that position with their 106-25 defeat of The Ross School/Pierson on Thursday in Riverhead. Having started the day tied for second place with Center Moriches, the Monarchs will face the undefeated Port Jefferson Royals (5-0, 5-0) in their final dual meet of the season on Wednesday in Riverhead. It could be interesting.
“We know that Port Jeff is a powerhouse,” Perry said. “We’re going to compete. With all respect to them, we’re just going to do the best that we can.”
De Suno, a senior, sure competed on Thursday, winning three individual events and also running for a winning relay team. He finished first in the shot put (39 feet 7 inches), discus (104-10) and 100 meters (11.7 seconds) before running the anchor led for the 4×100-meter relay team. He joined Christopher Morrill, Justin Da Silva and Luis Cintron, who clocked a winning time of 48.5.
Danny Hartmann and Patrick Derenze didn’t do too badly, either, winning two individual events apiece. Hartmann long jumped 17-10 1/2 and high jumped 5-4 for his triumphs. Derenze posted a personal-record time of 4:56.4, which brought him first place in the 1,600. The sophomore was also the first to complete the 3,200 in 12:03.7.
The middle distances are McGann-Mercy’s strength, and it’s easy to see why with runners like Cintron and Damian Duda, who won the 400 and 800, respectively. Cintron’s time was 56.2. Duda was timed in 2:05.9.
Morrill took first in the 110-meter high hurdles for McGann-Mercy in 20.1. Teammate Matt Dilandro went further than anyone else in the triple jump, landing 36-9 3/4 from the takeoff line.
McGann-Mercy swept the three relays and won 14 of the 17 events that were run.
A team of Matts ran the 4×400 relay. Matt Stetler, Matt Abazis, Matt Haughn and Matt Dilandro joined forces for a winning time of 3:57.2.
The Ross School/Pierson (1-5, 1-5), which had only 12 athletes at the meet, did not field a team in the 4×800 relay. That meant McGann-Mercy’s foursome of Duda, Abazis, Stetler and Derenze ran unopposed. Their time was 10:27.7.
The Ravens produced winners in the 200 and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. Khalid Almahmoud turned in a personal-best time of 24.2 to win the 200, and Oliver Lauro took the 400 hurdles in 1:03.8.
“The boys that did compete today, I’m always very happy with the effort that they put out on the track,” said The Ross School/Pierson coach, Jim Kinnier, whose team beat Babylon earlier this season for its first victory in four years at the varsity level.
Kinnier has noticed the progress McGann-Mercy has made. “They’re making big strides,” he said. “They got a big team. They got a lot of enthusiasm. They must have some great commitment to their program, so they’re moving along at a great pace.”
The Monarchs describe themselves as a fun-loving group, and it shows. But the work they have put in in training also shows.
“Everyone tries their hardest in every one of their events, and no one gives up,” Da Silva said. “We all give a hundred percent every time.”
Since last year, McGann-Mercy’s roster has grown from 21 to 30. Perry said the athletes are more knowledgeable. A chart he prepared that compares last year’s performances to those of the current team shows undoubted improvement. As Perry noted, the measuring tape and watch don’t lie.
“We’re fortunate in that we have a lot of young guys on the team and they’re improving by leaps and bounds,” he said. “I think the beautiful thing about it is we have some young guys who don’t know they’re good athletes and are just starting to discover it.”
It makes for a bright future — and a happy present — for the Monarchs.
De Suno said, “Don’t underestimate Mercy now.”