02/27/14 5:44pm
02/27/2014 5:44 PM

New York’s best high school track and field athletes will compete Saturday in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships. Riverhead pole vaulter Charles Villa will not be among them.

Although Villa had qualified for what would have been his first indoor state meet, the senior has been withdrawn from the event because of an ankle injury, said Riverhead coach Sal Loverde. Villa sprained his left ankle during a warmup at the Long Island Elite Track Invitational last week and didn’t compete in that meet. (more…)

02/21/14 5:55pm
02/21/2014 5:55 PM
Riverhead junior Jacob Robinson clocked a personal-record time of 37.10 seconds to finish seventh in the 300-meter dash at the Long Island Elite Track Invitational. (Robert O'Rourk photo)

Riverhead junior Jacob Robinson clocked a personal-record time of 37.10 seconds to finish seventh in the 300-meter dash at the Long Island Elite Track Invitational. (Robert O’Rourk photo)

LONG ISLAND ELITE TRACK INVITATIONAL

Charles Villa, the standout Riverhead High School pole vaulter who thrills spectators by rising to greater and greater heights, made hearts sink on Friday. And it had nothing to do with his performance.

Villa, a senior preparing for his first state indoor track and field meet, saw his day come to an unexpectedly early end. While doing a so-called “short-step warmup” before the pole vaulting competition began in the Long Island Elite Track Invitational at St. Anthony’s High School, Villa’s left ankle landed awkwardly in an opening in the mat and he went down in pain. (more…)

02/12/14 11:09pm
02/12/2014 11:09 PM

Riverhead’s Charles Villa easily won the pole vault competition Wednesday night to earn a trip to the state championship. (Robert O’Rourk photo)

All it took was three vaults to send Charles Villa to the state championship.

Riverhead’s star pole vaulter — whose top height this season is nearly two feet higher than anyone else in Suffolk County — topped 14 feet on his third vault Wednesday night, clinching the Section XI title and a trip to the state championship. (more…)

01/11/14 3:23pm
01/11/2014 3:23 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead’s Charles Villa cleared 15-01 in the pole vault at The Armory Saturday to finish in first place.

For the second weekend in a row, Riverhead’s Charles Villa topped 15 feet in the pole vault as he chases the indoor school record. Villa cleared 15-01 to take first place Saturday at the Molloy Stanner Games at the Armory in New York.

Villa was two inches shy of the mark he cleared last week at the Hispanic Games, also at the Armory.

Villa was the only competitor to top the 15-foot mark. Joseph Crispi of Msgr. Farrel was second at 14-07. Riverhead’s indoor school record was set last year by Dan Normoyle at 15-03 1/2.

Shoreham-Wading River senior Ryan Udvadia finished fourth in the 3,200-meter race at the Stanner Games Saturday morning.

Udvadia ran 9 minutes, 23.75 seconds, finishing behind three runners from Northport, who swept the top three spots. Tim McGowan (9:17.96) and Mike Brannigan (9:17.99) crossed at nearly identical times.

Riverhead’s Marcus Moore was sixth in the triple jump at 42 feet 11 1/2 inches.

In other results, Jack Kelly finished 20th for Shoreham in the 1,000 (2:43.22) and Matt Gladysz was 22nd (2:43.46).

On the girls side, Riverhead’s Madison Blom continued her strong start to the season by finishing eighth in the shot put with a top mark of 33-09.

01/04/14 2:23pm
01/04/2014 2:23 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Charles Villa at last spring’s outdoor state qualifier. Villa cleared 15-03 in the pole vault Saturday at the Hispanic Games.

Riverhead junior Charles Villa narrowly missed equaling a school record this afternoon by clearing 15 feet 3 inches in the pole vault at the prestigious Hispanic Games at The Armory in New York.

Villa, the top returning pole vaulter in the county this year, finished third overall in the competition. The Hispanic Games continue throughout the day. Athletes from Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River are competing.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH A LIVE STREAM OF THE HISPANIC GAMES

Last March, Dan Normoyle, then a senior, cleared 15-03 1/2 at the New Balance Indoor Nationals. At the spring state qualifier in June, Villa finished second, sandwiched between Normoyle (first) and teammate Jonah Spaeth, by clearing 14 feet. But with his pole vaulting teammates having both graduated, the event has been Villa’s to own so far this year and he appears to have the record books well in his sights.

Records in the pole vault were set and broken throughout the season last year at Riverhead. Spaeth set the indoor school record  last year at the Stanner Games at The Armory, clearing 14-6, which Normoyle eventually topped later in the season.

The outdoor record is 15-0, set at the state qualifying meet last spring by Normoyle.

See a VIDEO of Villa’s vault below courtesy of Danielle Thomas:

12/27/13 7:00am
12/27/2013 7:00 AM
ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle.

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle.

For a track and field team to have one elite pole vaulter is a luxury. To have two? Even better. But three?

That’s just hard to imagine. But in 2013, the Riverhead Blue Waves had one of the most formidable pole vaulting trios any team could ever hope for.

Dan Normoyle, Jonah Spaeth and Charles Villa were often competing against each other at meets to determine the champion.

And at any given meet, it could be any of the vaulters with a top mark. At the state championship for the indoor season, Normoyle cleared 14 feet 6 inches and Spaeth cleared 14.

In the outdoor season, Normoyle and Villa qualified for the state championship. Normoyle again cleared 14-6 and Villa cleared 14. To qualify for states, Normoyle cleared 15 feet as the Blue Waves finished 1-2-3.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/12/13 5:00pm
12/12/2013 5:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead junior Charles Villa enters this season as the favorite in the county for the pole vault.

The three Amigos are down to one.

Last year, the Riverhead boys track team had a pole-vaulting group for the ages. Three pole vaulters were all among the top in the county, each with the potential to clear the highest height at any particular meet.

Now, with two of those vaulters in college, it’s junior Charles Villa who’s left to carry the torch this year as the winter season begins.

Villa comes into the season off a tremendous spring season at the end of last year. He cleared 14 feet at the state qualifier to earn a trip to states along with teammate Dan Normoyle.

“It is a little strange,” coach Sal Loverde said of having the other two pole vaulters no longer around. “What’s really nice about it is, he’s really accepting that independence in a sense of leadership and really cultivating some young talent. We’ve got some young kids that are very, very motivated and interested in pole vaulting. He’s starting to lay that hook in them.”

Pole vaulting is not an event that’s contested at the crossover meets during the winter season, but Villa will still be working toward the end of the season and the state qualifier.

Villa enters the season as the favorite to earn a trip to the state championship.

Loverde said Villa is already clearing big heights.

“He’s rocking and rolling,” Loverde said. “He’s looking very, very solid.”

The Blue Waves return a deep team all-around, including one of the strongest running cores that Loverde said the school has ever had. Coming off a league championship season in cross country, runners have taken the next step into winter track.

“We have a lot of kids that are really building and moving toward being very point-scoring competitive,” Loverde said.

Travis Wooten, Ryan DiResta, Joseph Gattusso and Eric and Nick Cunha will all make up the distance core for Riverhead.

Loverde said he’s excited in the potential of some of the younger runners as well.

The distance core gives the Blue Waves the chance to run a competitive 4 x 800 relay team, something the team hasn’t had in recent years. The 4 x 400 team should also be strong this year, with a chance to break the school record, Loverde said.

Senior Marcus Moore returns in the triple jump after placing second in the league championship last year. Loverde said Moore is already jumping around 43 feet at the start of the season. He jumped 39-10 at last year’s league championship.

Sophomore Curtis Flippen returns in the jumping events as well. Loverde said Flippen has the potential to clear 6-2 or 6-4 in the high jump this season.

Junior Andrew Smith returns in the sprints and hurdles.

“I think that he’s going to surprise a lot of people and have a very solid season in the hurdles,” Loverde said. “He’ll be competing to a county level, no question.”

Junior Jacob Robinson returns as sprinter as well who can also compete in some jumping events.

The ongoing construction at Riverhead will make it difficult for the Blue Waves to practice indoors at times if the weather is poor.

“It limits our versatility in terms of inside workouts, so we’re going to be outside with snow shovels if we have to,” Loverde said.

joew@timesreview.com

06/08/13 3:25pm
06/08/2013 3:25 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle.

NYSPHSAA CHAMPIONSHIPS

Before the proceedings began, Dan Normoyle dubbed the occasion “Big Pole Saturday.” It was appropriate enough, with the 29 best high school boys pole vaulters in the state competing in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships at Middletown High School.

The theory is that the longer the pole, the higher it will propel pole vaulters through the air. Normoyle, though, actually used two poles of the same length: 15 feet, one a little thicker than the other. Afterward, he acknowledged that, in his case at least, it wasn’t “Big Pole Saturday.” Normoyle didn’t quite go as high as he would have liked, but the Riverhead senior still turned in the third-best performance in the competition, and that’s not bad at all.

Normoyle cleared 14 feet 6 inches, finishing behind Justin Farrenkopf of Ellenville (15-0) and James Steck of Shaker (14-6). Another Riverheader, junior Charles Villa, was ninth at 14-0.

“It was tough today,” Normoyle said. “It wasn’t my best, but I put my all into it. There was nothing else I could have done. It wasn’t the best day for a lot of people.”

That includes the meet favorite, Warwick Valley junior Todd Uckermark, one of two pole vaulters who failed to clear a height.

Normoyle, the Section XI champion who broke his own school record by reaching 15-0 in a state qualifying meet eight days earlier, complained afterward that he lacked confidence. Then, using a phrase Yogi Berra would have appreciated, he said pole vaulting is “90 percent mental, and the rest is in your head.”

Because of heavy rain on Friday, the scheduled two-day meet was condensed into one day. Normoyle said he was in a better mental state to compete on Friday. Instead, he went to lunch with his parents and saw a movie that day.

Villa entered the competition at 13-0, and Normoyle started at 13-6. They both made heights without missing to be among the 12 pole vaulters still standing after reaching 14-0. For some of the athletes, that height represented a ceiling.

“That’s the dividing line right there,” Villa said. “That’s where it starts to really get hard.”

Both Riverheaders passed on 14-3, going straight to 14-6. That’s when Villa ran into trouble, fouling on his first two attempts and then failing on his third and final one. Normoyle made good on his first attempt at 14-6, but he couldn’t handle 14-9, although he came awfully close on his final try, just nipping the bar.

“I just didn’t have the rhythm today, I guess,” said Normoyle, who gave up playing football to devote himself to pole vaulting.

Normoyle may have been disappointed, but his coach, Steve Gevinski, wasn’t disappointed in him.

“I thought he was amazing, just the strength and the speed he showed was unbelievable,” said the Riverhead coach.

Friday’s postponement made life difficult for Shoreham-Wading River junior Ryan Udvadia, who had to run two long-distance finals on Saturday as a result. Udvadia clocked a time of 9 minutes 10.24 seconds to take sixth place in the 3,200 meters, which saw Nick Ryan of Fayetteville-Manlius triumph in 8:58.28.

“I dozed off during the race,” Udvadia said. “I wasn’t paying attention. I let the front pack get too far ahead.”

Ryan nearly pulled off an impressive double later in the day, with only a few hours to recover. He was nipped at the finish line by Eric Holt of Carmel in the 1,600 final. Holt’s winning time was 4:07.00, just 55/100ths of a second faster than Ryan. Udvadia was eighth in 4:17.11.

“I’m not disappointed,” he said. “Honestly, anything under 4:20 I’ll be happy with.”

Two Mattituck athletes made their first appearance in the state meet. Darius Brew, a freshman and the youngest competitor in the triple jump, came in 23rd place with a distance of 40-3 1/2.

“I feel I did O.K,” Brew said. “It’s acceptable because I’m young, but I feel I could have done better.”

His teammate, junior Sal Loverde, did not have one of his better days, throwing 126-0 for 28th place. The winning throw was 181-9 by Jericho’s Noah White.

“It was unreal,” Loverde said. “The amount of competition is great.”

CARTER SETS HER BEST TIME IN 100 Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Danisha Carter posted a personal-best time in the 100 meters. The junior was 16th in the 100 in 12.89. She was 13th in the 200 in 26.32.

“I think I did [well] for the competition that I was up against,” Carter said. “My back has been killing me, so I came in thinking I wasn’t going to do [well] at all.”

McGann-Mercy was represented by another athlete at Middletown’s sparkling Faller Field. Delina Auciello, a junior celebrating her 17th birthday, was reportedly not feeling well with a stomach ache, but still competed in the 3,000 finals. She finished 25th in 11:28.73.

Competing in the state meet can be a humbling experience. Even top runners can find themselves near the back of the pack.

McGann-Mercy coach Ben Turnbull said, “New York State is a big state.”

bliepa@timesreview.com