The beginning of the winter track season is generally a tune-up for most athletes. It’s a chance for runners to get conditioning work in, experiment in different events and begin preparation for when the season really counts in late January and February.
Because of that, it’s uncommon to see too many record runs or personal bests early in the season. The idea is, gradually increase and peak at the end of the season and springboard into the outdoor season.
It may only be December, but Riverhead’s Jacob Robinson is already in prime form. Coming off the football season, Robinson — one of the Blue Waves’ top returning sprinters for the track season — is already off to a stellar start.
He ran a personal-best time of 36.51 seconds in the 300-meter dash at a crossover meet at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood Dec. 17, coach Sal Loverde said.
“He’s starting to approach our school record,” Loverde said in an interview Dec. 18.
Two days later, Robinson set that school record, running 35.99 at the Bishop Loughlin Games at The Armory in New York. The school record had been 36.2, Loverde said.
Robinson was a fourth-place finisher in the league meet last year in the 300 and he’s already well ahead of last year’s time. In that meet, he ran 38.3.
Robinson is one of several athletes who return this season that have the Blue Waves primed for another strong year after a second-place finish in League III a year ago. Robinson will have his sights set on reaching the state meet again, this time in an individual event. He qualified last year for the intersectional relay team.
Andrew Smith will be another key returnee for Riverhead. He specializes in the 55-meter hurdles, where he’ll have a chance to compete with some of the top runners in the county. He’ll also run on the 4 x 200 relay with Robinson and can compete in jumping events.
Troy Trent returns in the shot put and is already approaching the 50-foot mark this season. He threw 49 feet 8 1/2 inches at the crossover meet Dec. 17 to finish in first place.
“That’s very exciting,” Loverde said. “He kind of leads our weight and throwing crew.”
In distance events, the Blue Waves return brothers Nick and Eric Cunha. Both can run the 1,600 and 3,200 and at times will compete against each other.
“It helps motivate,” Loverde said.
Ryan DiResta and Curtis Flippen both add versatility to the lineup.
“We’ve had great participation in practice, and that’s what you want,” Loverde said. “You want to see the appropriate level of commitment that has become tradition in a Blue Waves athlete,” Loverde said.
After a standout season for Shoreham-Wading River last year, there will be plenty of new faces this year, which should be a rebuilding year. Gone are Ryan Udvadia, Keith Steinbrecher and Jordan Wright.
“We have a lot of freshmen talent,” said Shoreham coach Brian Wrinkle. “Almost 40 percent of our team are ninth-graders. We have a young team but there’s always going to be someone who’s going to be popping out of that mix. We just have to see who it’s going to be.”
The Wildcats do return some known quantities in Bryce Casey and Matt Gladysz. Casey will be the top sprinter for the Wildcats this season and Gladysz is a standout distance runner. Casey was third in the league last year in the 55-dash and he’ll be eyeing up a possible trip to states this year.
“He’s very excited,” Wrinkle said. “The top three make states and that’s kind of his goal. Hopefully we harness that and make it happen.”
Gladysz was a second-place finisher in the 1,000 last year at the league championship. He’ll lead the distance crew along with Michael Godfrey.
The early part of the season is about finding which events many of the younger kids are best suited for.
“A lot of these guys, just boys alone, need to mature a little more,” Wrinkle said. “They peak a lot later than girls do. A lot of them are still very young.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy returns several key athletes from last year, led by sprinter Dale Kelly. After a standout spring season last year, where he ran the 400, Kelly will focus on the 300 in the winter. At a crossover meet Dec. 16, he was the top finisher in 37.32.
The Monarchs also return Alex Frabizio (600) and Andrew Schlosberg (shot put).