So often when two competitive track and field teams face off in a dual meet, it comes down to the final three relays, where 15 points remain at stake, five apiece for each winner.
But rarely does it come to the final tenth of a second on the final relay as was the case Monday as Riverhead narrowly edged Copiague on its home track.
The Blue Waves pulled out a last-second, come-from-behind 73-68 victory over the Eagles by winning the 4 x 100-meter relay, the final event of the dual meet.
“It was real, real exciting,” said Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski.
The Blue Waves led by 10 points going into the relays, which meant they needed to win one out of three to clinch the victory. Gevinski knew the Eagles had a strong 4 x 400 team and that it could be difficult for the Blue Waves to win.
So he took his top two 400 runners, Kevin Williams and Jeff Pittman, and inserted them into the 4 x 100.
“We stacked up our 4 x 1,” Gevinski said. “I thought our best shot was the 4 x 1 to get that one relay we were going to need.”
The gamble paid off. The Blue Waves lost the 4 x 800 and the 4 x 400, tying the score with one event remaining.
Two hours into the dual meet, it came down to four runners combining for one lap around the track.
The Blue Waves got off to the quick start with a strong exchange between Demar Mason and Jonah Spaeth. The Eagles, meanwhile, had a poor exchange. But they caught the Blue Waves on the next exchange and held a slight lead going into the final leg.
Pittman grabbed the baton from Williams and surged into first to close out the event in 45.2 seconds. Copiague finished a hair behind in 45.5.
“We were ahead, then we were behind, then we were ahead,” Gevinski said. “It was real exciting.”
The Blue Waves improved to 4-2 in League IV. Both their losses were in close meets against Hills West and North Babylon that could have gone either way. They close out the league season against East Islip, one of the weaker teams in the league.
Pittman had a big meet against the Eagles. He won the 100 in 10.8 and the 200 in 22.4 before running the anchor leg of the 4 x 100.
Williams was a winner in the 400 in 52.2.
As has been the case all year, a huge lift for the Blue Waves came in the pole vault. The Blue Waves swept all nine points, led by Spaeth, who cleared a county-best 13 feet 9 inches. Dan Normoyle took second and Tarik Nelson was third.
“All season long they haven’t lost one point,” Gevinski. “That’s 45 to zero they’re shutting out opponents.”
The Blue Waves did well in the shot put and discus as well. Anthony Stimpfel threw a personal best of 48-9 1/2 to win the shot put. Josh Blom won the discus by throwing 120-10.
Anthony Galvan won the 1,600 in 4:37.8 for Riverhead.
The Blue Waves withstood a strong meet from Copiague senior Michael Benson, who’s one of the top hurdlers in the county. He won both the 110 and 400 while helping Copiague to victory in the 4 x 400 relay.
“He’s just outstanding,” Gevinski said. “He’s probably the best hurdler in the county.”
The Blue Waves will take a small roster to the St. Anthony’s Invitational this weekend, where many of the top athletes from across Long Island will be competing.
“The times at this meet are just as good as any times you’ll see posted all year,” Gevinski said.
The Blue Waves will hope to turn out some of their top performances of the year.
“Get some good seed times and put themselves in a situation where when it gets to the state qualifier, they’ll know what it’s like to be in a big race,” Gevinski said.