Sal Loverde, coach of the Riverhead High School boys winter track team, has a message to deliver: Look out for the Blue Waves.
“The story of this year’s team is we are a youthful program that is going to be on the rise, without question,” he said.
“We have a host of 10th- and 11th-graders and a pack of ninth-graders that show tremendous potential for the future, and they’re working hard,” he continued. “Our attendance has been strong. The kids are well committed.”
With only four seniors among the team’s 51 athletes, Riverhead has a promising future, but that doesn’t mean the present should be discounted. Scanning the roster, one can see potential state meet qualifiers in junior triple jumper Kian Martelli, junior Ryan Carrick (the team’s top returning long-distance runner) and junior pole vaulter Iyriy Denys, who cleared 12 feet last season.
“A lot could happen, but we also have kids that all of a sudden come out of nowhere and the next thing you know, they’re in a competitive field,” Loverde said. “We have a lot of younger kids excited about track and field, and that makes us excited.”
Who knows what the season has in store for other promising athletes like Sean Allen (high jump, 1,600 meters and 1,000), Daniel Arias (long distance), Eric Behr (shot put), Benjamin Catanzaro (long distance), Darnell Chandler (shot put), Ryan Keane (long distance), Antony Majewski (long and middle distances), Nicholas Mammina (300, 4×400 relay), Maximillian Solarz (hurdles, jumps), Joseph Stimpfel (shot put) and Aaron Walker (jumps, hurdles)?
The four seniors are Chandler, Majewski, Mammina and Stimpfel.
What is the biggest change in the team since last season?
“The biggest difference is the actual time frame of a year passing by because we knew we had a rich group … last year … but they were very young,” Loverde said. “Now they’re at a point where they have reached a level where they are a year stronger, a year more involved with the technical aspects of their craft, and we’re excited about that.”
One variation of a quote attributed to Woody Allen is that half of life is about just showing up. Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Les Williams subscribes to that. “If you’re there, half the battle is won,” was how he put it.
And by “there,” Williams meant practice.
Practice attendance may be more important than ever now that Mercy has only seven athletes on its team. That’s right, seven!
Such is life at a small school. So far, the seven have been at practices.
“They’re always ready at 3 o’clock, ready to go,” said Williams.
Among them are two All-League juniors in middle-distance runner Ryan Razzano and Michael Senica, a two-time state qualifier in cross country who will run 600 meters and longer.
Razzano, who will run the 300 and possibly the 600 and 4×400 relay, is in great shape and runs like greased lightning. “He’s got great talent,” said Williams, adding, “We worked his tail off in the winter.”
As for Senica, Williams said: “Michael’s big thing is he wants to lower his times. He’s going to be very competitive. He’s a competitor. He cares. He wants to do really well.”
The team’s only senior, Robert Halversen, was All-League last spring in the 400 intermediate hurdles. This winter he will run the 600, 300 and 4×400 relay.
Mercy also has freshman hurdler James Devaney, sophomore Robert DeWitt (800 and 1,600) and juniors Philip Marino (600) and Robert Penn (300, 600).
“If they believe in themselves, they’ll be fine,” Williams said. “If I can get these kids as far as they want to be, then the season is going to be successful.”
When Joe Mordarski ran track for Harborfields, he was greatly influenced by his coach, Joe Toles, so much so that Mordarski followed Toles into the coaching profession.
“Joe was an integral part of my growing up and I learned a tremendous amount from him with hard work,” Mordarski said, adding, “He’s just one of the nicest people you’ll ever come by. He ultimately just led by example, and I think that’s what all coaches and teaches are all about. We’re about raising the kids in the community.”
Mordarski, 31, joins the coaching fraternity this year as Shoreham-Wading River’s new coach. What was his first impression upon taking on the job?
“It’s a very tight-knit community and I’m happy to come in and be a part of that community,” said Mordarski, a 4-minute, 44-second miler in high school who cracked 4:40 when he ran for Sacred Heart University. “There’s a tremendous amount of talent that’s already out there and a tremendous amount of potential that we can put on the field events and the track as well.”
Dan Montenegro, a senior long jumper, captains the team along with senior sprinter Ray LaPorte. Montenegro was sixth in the long jump with a distance of 21 feet in last season’s Section XI indoor state qualifier.
Shoreham has one of the top high jumpers in the county in senior Rickie Casazza.
Sprinter Luke Rey and milers Joe Krause and Eric Dilisio could also be looking at good seasons. Patrick Lane, a senior, can run the 200 in 24.6. Another senior, Ronan O’Toole, will compete in jumping events.
“I’m curious to see how they do,” Mordarski said. “Their practices, they’re looking more and more like a great team. We are certainly going to have top scorers in the field events and I’m certainly happy to say that we’re going to make some moves on the track as well. They all give their best at practice.”
“Ultimately, if we’re talking one sentence, I want them to get out of it what they put in.”
Photo caption: Maximillian Solarz working on his hurdling during a Riverhead practice. (Credit: Bob Liepa)