The Riverhead Blue Waves were desperate.
In the week leading up to their biggest dual meet of the season against North Babylon last Wednesday, the Blue Waves found themselves without a race walker. Their top two walkers were both going to be away for vacation with school closed for the week.
“We kind of started recruiting kids,” said Riverhead coach Maria Dounelis. “We were really desperate. We had about 10 girls try the walk because we can’t just give up this event.”
In a dual meet where every point was crucial, the Blue Waves needed someone to step up and give the team a chance to score points in the walk.
Enter Denise Brunskill.
The Riverhead junior, who typically competes in hurdles, volunteered to try the walk for the first time. She ended up winning the event in the dual meet as the Blue Waves won 78-72 to remain unbeaten at 3-0 in League IV. Three days later at the Suffolk Coaches Invitational at Bay Shore High School, Brunskill ran 8 minutes, 50.4 seconds in the 1,500-meter race walk for 10th overall.
“She just kind of had a knack for it,” Dounelis said. “After seeing what she did this weekend, we’re like she’s going to be pretty good at this. We were pretty thrilled about that.”
With a win over North Babylon, in addition to a season-opening victory against Half Hollow Hills West, the Blue Waves have already taken down the two toughest teams in the league going into this afternoon’s home meet against Hauppauge.
Senior Melodee Riley has anchored the team. She won the triple jump, long jump, 400 hurdles and ran the final leg of the winning 4 x 400 relay team against the Bulldogs.
“Melodee is on fire,” Dounelis said. “She’s hitting 40 feet [in the triple jump] consistently, which is nice.”
At the Coaches Invitational Saturday, Riley won the triple jump with a top mark of 40 feet, 4 3/4 inches, which puts her in the top-10 nationally.
Against North Babylon the dual meet came down to whichever team could win two of three relays. The Bulldogs won the 4 x 100, but the Blue Waves clinched the meet with victories in the 4 x 400 and 4 x 800.
Dounelis said the 4 x 400 team of Riley, Fatima Brown, Destiny McElroy and Dezarae Brown ran its best time of the year at the dual meet in 4:06.
The 4 x 800 team included Maria Dillingham, Rachel Conti, Rachel Clement and Megan Van Bommel. Clement, a freshman, joined the team after senior Gabi Escallier injured her back.
Dillingham and Conti went one-two in the 3,000 against North Babylon. Conti was second in the 1,500 and third in the 800. Dillingham was second in the 800.
On Saturday Conti ran 11:55.06 in the 3,000 for third place in the freshman/sophomore event. Dillingham ran the 800 and also finished third in 2:32.77.
Sophomore Madison Blom had a big day Saturday, winning both the discus (101) and shot put (33-02 3/4).
“We named her athlete of the week because she was phenomenal,” Dounelis said. “She’s throwing consistently over 100 feet and she did great in the shot put.”
Dounelis said it’s only a matter of time before Blom breaks the discus school record.
“If not this season, definitely next season,” she said. “It’s a record that’s been held in place for a while. It’s close to 130 feet.”
McElroy and Brown went three-four in the 400 dash Saturday. McElroy ran 1:02.64 and Brown was right behind in 1:02.95.
Brunskill ran the 100 hurdles and was fourth in 19.15.
Senior Fatima Brown was fourth in the long jump with a mark of 16-10. She also jumped 33-11 3/4 in the triple for second in the intermediate division.
Dounelis said sophomore Kyra Braunskill Miller had a “phenomenal” meet against North Babylon to take second in the 100 and third in the 200, squeaking out points where the Bulldogs are strong.
Braunskill Miller ran 13.35 in the 100 finals Saturday for sixth place in the freshman/sophomore event. The Blue Waves have two dual meets remaining after Hauppauge to wrap up the league title.