Coach Sal Loverde is an optimistic man by nature, so it should not be surprising that he is hopeful that his Riverhead boys winter track team will be competitive and perhaps then some.
“I hope that it becomes contagious,” he said. “Every season can be great. We’re fortunate in Riverhead. We have a solid base of athletic talent.”
And this year is no exception.
How successful the Blue Waves will be could be determined by their sprinters, distance runners, jumpers and pole vaulters.
Senior Anthony Galvan is one of Loverde’s seasoned competitors. Galvan is expected to run the 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 relay teams and the 1,600, where Loverde hopes to get him down to four minutes and 20 seconds. Galvan comes into the year off a strong cross country season.
Juniors Travis Wooten and Nicholas Cunha are slated to run in the 1,600 and 3,200 “depending on a given meet and what we’re working on,” Loverde said. “These kids are doing a very good job of getting themselves accustomed in the distance group.”
Senior Jeffrey Pittman, one of the team leaders, should be a double threat, running in the 300 and possibly competing in the 55 high hurdles. Pittman is also a strong jumper.
“He is poised to have a fantastic year,” Loverde said. “He is one of our most skilled jumpers.”
Sophomore Jacob Robinson, who can compete in several speed and jumping events, has tremendous promise, the coach said.
“We look to Jeffrey taking him under his wing and molding him into one of the leaders of the team.”
Junior triple jumpers Marcus Moore and Darren Jefferson showed “great promise in the spring,” Loverde said.
Junior Clifton Russell, who competed in the state qualifiers at the 55 high hurdles, sophomore Andrew Smith (high hurdles) and junior Davion Porter (will participate in a variety of jumping events, though his specialty is the high jump), give Riverhead depth.
The pole vault is the Blue Waves’ strongest part of their program, according to Loverde, who is counting on three talented athletes to keep the team at the top in the county. The pole vault, however, is not counted toward team scores during the winter season.
Senior captain Jonah Spaeth, who competed in the state championships last year, was called a “dedicated, smart young man,” Loverde said. “If he performs like [I know he] can,” he could clear 15 feet.
Junior Dan Normoyle, whose goal is to clear 14 feet, and sophomore Charles Villa, who wants to break 13 feet, round out a talented core at that event.
“We’re talking about significant height for the kids,” Loverde said.
Loverde liked the mix of older and younger athletes, which allows Riverhead to be competitive now and develop the younger athletes for future seasons.
“When you have that spread, it allows the senior leaders to cultivate [the team],” he said. “It allows our track program to roll along.”
Shoreham-Wading River graduated the senior core of its team, but most of the Wildcats are returning for League V competition this winter.
Brian Wrinkle, who has taken on the coaching responsibilities this year, felt the Wildcats’ strengths should be in the speed and middle-distance events.
“Things look promising,” he said. “We should be competitive in the league.”
A pair of juniors are expected to anchor the squad — Ryan Udvadia and Jordan Wright.
Udvadia, who finished ninth among Class B runners at the New York State cross country championships in Elma, ran a personal best of 15 minutes 57.1 seconds at the Section XI Division cross country championships in October. He is slated to compete in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Wright, who almost qualified for the states in the 200 meters last year, will run in the 300.
“We have a strong junior core,” Wrinkle said.
The Wildcats also have several promising runners in the 300, 600 and 1,000 meters and at two miles, although no one had shown signs of running away from the pack, at least during preseason. That could change during the season.
“We really have balance,” Wrinkle said. “We have athletes who can do well at all these events.”
Wrinkle added that he has a deep freshmen and sophomore class.
“As the year progresses, they’ll be strong competitors for us,” he said. “We’re going to be strong the next two years.”