As a standout middle distance runner and jumper, Riverhead senior Kevin Williams often faced the difficult task of competing in a jumping event immediately after finishing a run.
“It made it very hard when you’re coming off an 800, 600 or 1,000 and having the triple,” said Riverhead coach Sal Loverde. “Your legs are gone.”
In the offseason, Williams and the coaching staff spent time discussing what the best route would be for him this year, beginning in the winter track season. The consensus was for Williams to focus on middle distance events, specifically the 600.
“I think that’s going to be a very strong event for him,” Loverde said.
Williams had plenty of success in the 600 last year. He finished third at the league championship behind seniors from Hills West and Bellport. He ended up eighth in the event at the large school championship.
Williams was a terrific triple jumper last year as well. And while that won’t be his main focus this year, Loverde said he’ll still get the opportunity to jump from time to time, especially in the spring season during dual meets.
Williams leads a balanced Riverhead team. Loverde said while the Blue Waves have been known for their sprinters and jumpers, this year’s group features a strong core of distance runners as well.
“Over the course of the last three or four years we’ve started to progressively start to garnish points and show improvement in the mid-distance areas,” Loverde said. “And that’s only excelled more especially with the strong cross country season that Riverhead had.”
The core of distance runners includes junior Anthony Galvan, freshman Nick Cunha and sophomore Travis Wooten.
Junior Jeff Pittman will be another key contributor for the Blue Waves. He’ll run sprints from the 55 through middle distance events like the 600. He can also triple jump and long jump.
“He’s just a phenomenal kid and a great leader in our program,” Loverde said.
Sophomore Clifton Russell is a strong long jumper who can also run sprints. Last year he finished second in the long jump at the league championship.
Fresh off a trip to the state championships in cross country, Shoreham-Wading River senior John Lee returns to lead the Wildcats’ winter track team. A defending league champion in the 1,600, Lee leads the Wildcats’ distance runners, which should once again make up a strength of the team.
Lee finished fourth last year in the 1,600 at the small school county championship. He’ll also run the 3,200 this year.
Senior Tyler Keys, who’s also coming off a strong cross country season, will run the 1,000 and 1,600. Last year he placed fourth in the event at the county championship.
Sophomore Ryan Udvadia, who was another all-county cross country runner along with Lee and Keys, will also run distance events.
Sophomore Jack Kelly, junior Dan Purschke and junior Keith Steinbrecher will all run distance events. Together they’ll make up the core of the Wildcats’ 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 relay teams.
Junior Tom Sager returns in the pole vault, which is not contested until the end of the season at the state qualifier. Last year Sager just missed qualifying for the state meet after he cleared 10 feet. His teammate, Ben Canellys, was the county champion. Canellys graduated in the spring.
Sophomore Michael McDonnell is an all-around athlete who can do the triple jump, long jump and run sprints.
Junior Charles DeMaio returns in the shot put. Last year he was fourth at the league championship.
Shravan Joshi will run the hurdles.
Shoreham coach Bob Szymanski said he expects Amityville and Bayport-Blue Point to be the toughest competition within the league. The Wildcats finished in third place last year at the league championship.
The McGann-Mercy Monarchs return for their second season of winter track under coach Matthew Perry. The Monarchs scored nine points at last year’s league championship.
“I graduated a lot of seniors last year,” Perry said. “I still have some guys who have been performing well for us.”
The Monarchs return senior John Marano, who competes in the long jump and sprints. Perry said Marano can jump around 19 feet.
Marano is a captain along with Drew Rajotte who was injured last spring and is looking to bounce back in the shot put.
Patrick Derenze will run the distance events.
“We got a lot of new kids coming up and some young kids that are hopefully going to step up to the plate,” Perry said.
As the Monarchs begin the season, Perry said the focus will be on seeing where the starting point is for each kid.
“Are we starting off better than we did last year or about the same?” he said. “And where can we go from there to improve for a better end of the season compared to last year.”
Perry said the turnout has been about the same as last year when the Monarchs had 30 kids.
“They’ve been working really hard these first couple of weeks and I’m really proud of them,” Perry said. “That’s a true testament to our captains, who have been keeping everyone together.”