As the Bishop McGann-Mercy girls track team gathered for a recent practice, coach Collin Zeffer quipped, “Welcome to the first day of spring track.”
The warm weather that has greeted runners to start this season has been a welcome surprise. Perhaps the warm weather has helped put a little spring into the Monarchs’ step as well.
In the team’s first crossover meet Dec. 6 at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood, two of Mercy’s top runners posted times that resembled mid-season form compared to early December.
Senior Meg Tuthill, a returning state qualifier, won the 600-meter dash in 1 minute 42.45 seconds — a time that would have been good enough for top-six at last year’s state qualifier meet. Junior Kaitlyn Butterfield — a potential break-out runner this winter — won the 1,500 in 5:00.41, well ahead of the next runner who finished in 5:14.18. She followed that with a victory Sunday in the 1,000 in 3:03.72.
With a deep core of runners mixed in with some new faces in field events, the Monarchs enter the winter track season feeling poised for a big year.
“They definitely surprised me and themselves, I think,” Zeffer said. “It’s going to be a good season going forward.”
Tuthill is the most accomplished of the returning runners. She finished third last year in the 1,000 at the state qualifier meet to earn a trip to the state meet. She can run any number of events, from the two-mile to the 600.
The Monarchs return two more strong runners in juniors Maddie Joinnides and Devyn O’Brien. They both ran the 1,000 in the first crossover meet and Joinnides placed third in 3:18.14 and O’Brien was sixth in 3:25.93.
“Maddie is more of a sprinter,” Zeffer said, while adding that O’Brien will likely run some longer distances during the season.
The Monarchs hope to have some more depth in the field events this year, led by senior Taya Coniglio in the shot put.
“A lot more girls this year have expressed interest in doing more field events, which is great,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something we’ve had in the past in winter.”
Photo Caption: Maddie Joinnides runs the 600 at last year’s state qualifier meet. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)
The members of Shoreham-Wading River’s cross country team who continue into the winter track season earned a welcome breather. After extending their season about as far as it can possibly go, the Wildcats’ cross country runners were given about 10 days to two weeks off before gearing up for the indoor track season.
When the girls return to the track this week, there will be plenty of optimism for another standout year in the distance events.
Sophomore Katherine Lee, the defending Section XI champion in the 3,000, returns after another stellar cross country year. Lee won the 3,000 going away at last year’s state qualifier meet, but fell short of her best at the state meet because of injuries.
Senior Kaitlyn Ohrtman, a state qualifier in the 1,500, returns this season along with junior Alexandra Hays, who can run both the 3,000 and 1,500.
Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki said he expects most of the key returners in the distance events to line up similar to a year ago.
The Wildcats finished second in the small-school championship a year ago and the trio of Lee-Ohrtman-Hays should have them in the mix once again for a top finish.
The Wildcats return two sprinters as well in soccer players Alex Kuhnle and Megan Kelly.
Junior Haley Lindell is a pole vaulter who is looking to improve on her top mark of 9 feet 6 inches from last year, Koretzki said.
It’s been a challenging start to the season in terms of logistics. Because of the delayed construction of the turf field, the track will remain inaccessible through the winter season.
“We’re working on the high jump inside,” Koretzki said. “We can’t do long and triple because we don’t have a track. So that presents a major problem.”
Koretzki said they’re exploring the possibility of going to Rocky Point High School one day a week to practice long and triple jumps. The football team played some of its home games at Rocky Point this past season.
It’ll be a challenging competition in the league season this year for Riverhead. The Blue Waves bumped up to League II, pitting them in the same division as perennial powerhouse Bay Shore.
Riverhead coach Justin Cobis said his team is ready for the challenge. A large turnout this year, with more than 50 kids participating, has Cobis excited for the future.
“It’s the biggest numbers we’ve had for the girls’ program in winter in a long time,” Cobis said. “It’s also a quality group.”
Coming off a successful cross country season, eighth-grader Megan Kielbasa returns for her second varsity indoor season. A distance runner, Kielbasa ran 5:14.58 in the 1,500 at the team’s first crossover meet earlier this month for a third-place finish. She followed that with a victory in the 1,000 on Sunday, finishing in 3:16.13 at the team’s second crossover meet.
Cobis said he was looking for Kielbasa to learn some strategy by running the shorter race on Sunday.
“I think she’ll be able to apply what she learns in the shorter races into the longer races like the 1,500,” he said.
Junior Gabriella Marcucci, another distance runner, should be in line for a strong season as well.
Senior Ashley Graziano will throw the shot put. She hit 30-05 1/4 for fifth place at the most recent crossover meet.
Freshman Jaquasia Brandon has shown promise in the jumps already and eighth-grader Emma Panciocco, a lacrosse player in the spring, will run the sprints.
“We’ve got some nice youth influx,” Cobis said.