At the start of last season’s spring girls track and field season, the name Melodee Riley was synonymous with success in the triple jump. At the end of the season, Riley once again proved herself as an elite jumper for Riverhead. By then, however, she wasn’t the only one who stood out for the Blue Waves.
Kyra Braunskill Miller emerged behind Riley as one of the best triple jumpers in the state, a designation she earned with a second-place finish in the federation championships in Syracuse.
While Riley — and all her dynamic abilities — is running for the University of Connecticut now, the Blue Waves can still look forward to two more seasons with Braunskill Miller, a junior who will be a key athlete heading into this spring.
“She does the sprints — the 100, 200,” said Riverhead coach Maria Dounelis. “She also has high jumped a little bit at a couple dual meets and she’s in our 4×1 relay. She’s a big kid coming back.”
The Blue Waves, who were third in the Suffolk County Division II Championships last season, return the core of last year’s young team. Of course, losing an athlete of Riley’s caliber is hard to replace. In almost any dual meet, the Blue Waves could count on four victories from Riley.
This year, they will need to rely on everyone to pick up the slack.
“As a whole we definitely have a lot of young kids, a lot of new recruits and we’re hoping for some good things,” Dounelis said.
Junior Destiny McElroy returns in the hurdles. Last season she placed third in the division meet in the 400-meter hurdles. Both McElroy and Braunskill Miller played basketball in the winter.
“[McElroy] had a fantastic finish to her season [last year],” Dounelis said. “She looks great right now. She’s really focused and came into the season raring to go.”
Senior Denise Brunskill will also run hurdles and is on the 4×100 relay team with McElroy and Braunskill Miller.
In the long-distance events, the Blue Waves return sophomore Maria Dillingham and junior Rachel Conti, both of whom had strong seasons in the winter.
“Between the two of them alone they racked in the points [last season],” Dounelis said. “They’re great kids. They feed off each other in practices and they’re only getting better.”
Two freshmen who saw varsity action last year are Meghan Van Bommel and Dezarae Brown. Van Bommel can run the 1,500 and 3,000 meters. Brown is a 200 and 400 runner.
Danielle Thomas and Christy Brewer return in the pole vault. Thomas was fourth in the division meet last year, clearing 8 feet 6 inches.
The Blue Waves will open the dual-meet season on April 3 at West Babylon. Until then, the focus is on finding the right spots for some of the younger athletes.
“Really, it’s like a trial and error with a lot of the kids,” Dounelis said. “We put them into things and say just try it, and we found a couple hurdlers that way.”
One key loss for Riverhead was Madison Blom, who excelled in the shot put and discus last season. Dounelis said Blom, a junior, is in France this spring as part of an exchange program.
Shoreham-Wading River transitions much of its winter lineup into the spring season, plus a few additions from the basketball team. The Wildcats, a fifth-place team in the Division III Championships last year, return a balanced team.
“Generally, we have almost all the positions covered,” said Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki.
Leading the charge are senior Laura Lee and freshman Kaitlyn Ohrtman. Lee will likely focus on the 200 and 400 while Ohrtman runs the distance events.
Lee was third in the 400 at the division meet last spring and was also a key runner on the 4×400 relay team.
A few additions from the winter are sophomore Courtney Clasen and senior Cari Gostic. They will compete in jumping events and run sprints.
Sophomores Rose Andrews and Maddy Kelly can both run long-distance events.
In the pole vault, seniors Amanda Welischar and Megan Safranek return. Welischar also runs hurdles. Senior Kylie Trettner will compete in the race walk. Senior Meghan Serdock will handle the throwing events.
One loss for the Wildcats was junior Krista Braaten. A sprinter and jumper, Braaten injured her ankle and will be out for the season.
Bishop McGann-Mercy will have big shoes to fill after the loss of Sasa Vann, who left with a boatload of school records after graduating last spring. Vann, who runs for Buffalo State, advanced to the state championships last spring in the 400.
The Monarchs come into the season as the three-time defending League VIII champions. McGann-Mercy knocked off Port Jefferson in the final dual meet of the season last year to clinch another title.
While Vann was a big loss, the Monarchs also lost strong all-around athletes in Tori Tremble, Meg Donnelly and Lauren Valle.
The Monarchs will turn to junior Delina Auciello, a third-place finisher in the 800 last year at the division meet.
Freshman Meg Tuthill will run long-distance events. Junior Danisha Carter can run sprints. She was fourth in the 55-meter dash at the league championships this winter and just missed scoring in the 300.