The first two months of the winter track season amount to a steady climb for athletes. More so than about a team winning or losing, it’s about each individual athlete progressing in an event with the hope of peaking by the end of January for the league and county championships where the team aspect takes form.
For several of Riverhead’s top athletes, last weekend’s Molloy Stanner Games at the Armory in New York provided an important barometer to see where they stand with just a few weeks left before the league championships.
“Now we feel like we’re where we want them to be,” said Riverhead boys coach Sal Loverde. “We’re very comfortable with the pace at which kids are increasing their performance and skill in their craft.”
Both the boys and girls had several strong performances. Junior Jeffrey Pittman placed fourth in the long jump with a mark of 21 feet 2 1/2 inches. Sophomore Charles Villa cleared 12-08 in the pole vault for fifth place. Villa’s mark currently has him second in the county, Loverde said. And he’s cleared that height despite a slow start to the season because of an ankle injury. Loverde said Villa missed a good portion of the beginning of the season.
Senior Anthony Stimpfel threw a personal best in the shot put of 45-09 to finish sixth.
“It’s a good spot for him to be at,” Loverde said. “He’s up about 4 1/2, 5 feet from the beginning of the season. That’s significant.”
The field events have been a strong spot for the Blue Waves for the last several years and that’s been no different this year with the pole vault, long jump and shot put. But the Blue Waves are also performing well in some of the distance and middle-distance events, led by junior Anthony Galvan and senior Kevin Williams.
Galvan has made big strides running the 1,600. He ran a personal-best and school-record time of 4 minutes 41.75 seconds.
“Our goal was to get him into the high 4:30’s by the end of the season and it looks like we’re going to be able to achieve that,” Loverde said. “He had a real good race the other day.”
Williams, who has shifted his focus onto the 600 this season, ran 1:28.01, which wasn’t his best of the season.
“It’s a good, solid race for him,” Loverde said.
Sophomore Clifton Russell had a busy day. He competed in the long jump where his top mark was 19-03. He also competed in the sophomore 55-meter hurdles race where he finished third in 9.11.
“He’s a bright spot,” Loverde said.
On the girls side sophomore Kyra Braunskill posted the top finish for Riverhead with a fourth-place performance in the triple jump. Her top mark was 35-04 1/2. It’s her best mark of the season, but not for her career. Last year she was jumping in the 36 range, which she hopes to get back to in the upcoming weeks.
Freshman Maria Dillingham ran both the 600 and 1,000. She ran a personal best of 1:46.66 in the 600. In the 1,000 she ran 3:24.76. Sophomore Rachel Conti also ran a personal best in the 600 of 1:46.
Riverhead coach Justin Cobis said Dillingham and Conti both ran the 1,000 in the morning. Neither performed as well as they hoped.
“A strong athlete in the face of adversity is going to bounce back and both of them rose to the occasion,” he said.
They followed up their runs in the 1,000 with their personal best times in the 600. Cobis said both girls are around the top-25 in the county right now in the 600.
“For them being young, we’re really excited to see where they go from there,” Cobis said.
Other performances from the girls included senior Tyesha Harrel running an 8.01 in the 55-dash. Three girls ran in the 1,600: Megan Van Bommel (6:07.94), Rachel Harrison-Smith (6:16.75) and Maurinne Sullivan (6:29.56.
“We’re starting to see some really promising things out of these kids,” Cobis said.
Shoreham-Wading River senior Shannon McDonnell ran 1:38 in the 600 to finish fifth overall. McDonnell is a returning state qualifier in the 600.