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

05/31/13 9:14pm
05/31/2013 9:14 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle cleared 15 feet, breaking his own school record by 3 inches. He took first place while teammates Charles Villa (14-0) and Jonah Spaeth (14-0) were second and third, respectively.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle cleared 15 feet, breaking his own school record by 3 inches. He took first place while teammates Charles Villa (14-0) and Jonah Spaeth (14-0) were second and third, respectively.

SECTION XI INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIP STATE QUALIFIER

Dan Normoyle has a personal motto that he is ready to offer whenever he is asked how high he can pole vault. “The sky’s the limit,” he says.

It’s an apropos motto for a pole vaulter. Pole vaulters, after all, are a special breed. They are adventurous, courageous, often free-spirited, and they tend to not put limits on themselves as they soar to greater and greater heights.

They are dealing with a flukish event in which so many things can go wrong. But on Friday, so many things went right for Normoyle and his fellow Riverhead pole vaulters.

It was as simple — and impressive — as one, two, three.

Riverhead pole vaulters, led by Normoyle’s record-setting performance, swept the top three places in the Section XI individual championship state qualifier at Port Jefferson High School.

Normoyle, a senior, cleared 15 feet on his last attempt at that height, surpassing the school record of 14-9 that he set last week in the division championships. But that wasn’t the only notable element of the day’s proceedings. Riverhead junior Charles Villa took second place at 14-0, edging teammate Jonah Spaeth, a senior who also cleared that height, by a tiebreaker.

“Being able to say we took one, two, three in the county championships is really cool,” said Normoyle.

Normoyle cleared 14-6 on his first try, and that must have helped him toward the record, saving energy required for each attempt. He said he believed he could handle 15 feet. “That was the big thing,” he said. “I knew I could do it, so it definitely gave me the confidence to do it.”

Normoyle missed all three of his attempts at 15-5.

“Fifteen-five would have been nice,” said Normoyle, who qualified along with Villa for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships that will be held June 7 and 8 at Middletown High School.

The three Riverheaders were among the top four seeds in the meet, with Normoyle the favorite. A persuasive argument could be made that this is the golden era for Riverhead pole vaulting.

Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski thinks it is.

“I never heard of that [happening] in the pole vault, that the top three [places] are swept,” by one team, he said. “It’s not like it’s a bad year in the pole vault. It’s probably one of the better years in the pole vault in Suffolk County. So, to do it, they almost raised the bar for the whole county, these guys.”

Referring to the one, two, three finish, Riverhead’s pole vaulting coach, John Andresen, said, “It is almost unheard of.”

Smithtown West senior Karl Nilsen, who was obviously struggling with an ankle injury, was tied for fourth with Mount Sinai junior Charlie Kollmer at 13-6. After the three Riverheaders were the last ones still in the competition, Normoyle said he told a coach, “This might be history.”

It is the third time this season that Riverhead’s pole vault record was raised. Spaeth set a school record last year when he reached 14-6. Then, earlier this season, Normoyle and Villa both cleared 14-6, leaving a three-way tie for the school mark that lasted for about five minutes before Normoyle hit 14-9.

Spaeth, who went to the state meet last year, will miss out this year, but Normoyle and Villa will make their first appearances in the state competition.

“I always wanted it,” Villa said. “I get to go, finally, after all the years of dreaming of going to the states.”

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Ryan Udvadia of Shoreham-Wading River made up ground quickly and surged to victory in the 3,200-meter final in 9 minutes 17.27 seconds.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Ryan Udvadia of Shoreham-Wading River made up ground quickly and surged to victory in the 3,200-meter final in 9 minutes 17.27 seconds.

UDVADIA GIVES SZYMANSKI A SCARE Shoreham-Wading River coach Bob Szymanski was kidding — or at least it sounded like he was kidding — when he said he thought he was going to need a defibrillator as he watched the thrilling finish to the 3,200-meter final.

Shoreham-Wading River junior Ryan Udvadia trailed Northport sophomore Mike Brannigan by about 25 meters with some 200 meters to go, and Szymanski appeared to be panicking, worrying that Udvadia had given Brannigan too much of a cushion.

Not so, though. The top-seeded Udvadia made up ground quickly, taking the lead for the first time while coming off the final turn and winning in 9 minutes 17.27 seconds.

Szymanski could do without that kind of drama.

“I have faith in him, but … it’s still scary,” the coach said. “The only thing I saw that was in our favor was the kid looked back over his shoulder. Someone heard Ryan was coming.”

Brannigan ended up in third place in 9:23.72. He was passed by a teammate, junior Tim McGowan (9:20.60), for second place.

Another Shoreham junior, Connor McAlary, was 10th in 10:01.37. Riverhead junior Travis Wooten came in 18th in 10:22.77.

Udvadia said he was nervous, but confident at the same time. He sensed Brannigan starting to slow down with 400 meters to go.

Known for his late kick. Udvadia had something left in the tank for the strong finish.

“It was painful and tough, but I got it,” said Udvadia, who is headed to his first outdoor state meet. “Even when I don’t think I have a kick, I do have a kick.”

An example was the Penn Relays earlier this season. Udvadia was seeded 14th in the 16-runner 1,600 race. He went from dead last to finish seventh in 4:15.64.

Udvadia said he took a glance at Szymanski during Friday’s race and knew his coach was stressed. “I saw the look on his face,” Udvadia said. “I could tell he was talking to himself.”

TRACK NOTES Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Israel Squires finished fourth in the long jump, covering 21-9.

bliepa@timesreview.com

05/23/13 10:45pm
05/23/2013 10:45 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle had little trouble on his entry height, easily clearing 13 feet 6 inches in the pole vault Thursday night at Connetquot High School.

DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIPS

At 7:13 p.m. Thursday night — the majority of events at the track and field division championships already completed — Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle sprinted down the pole vault runway for his first run-through.

For more than three hours, Normoyle, wearing sweats over his uniform, watched pole vaulter after pole vaulter compete in the division championships at Connetquot High School.

Finally, it was his time.

Electing to enter the competition at 13 feet 6 inches, Normoyle began at a time when 32 pole vaulters had already bowed out of the competition, leaving just four athletes still standing.

He had reason to be confident.

He easily soared over the bar at 13-6. And about 45 minutes later, in an intense competition featuring four outstanding pole vaulters, Normoyle set an outdoor school record by clearing 14-9.

What made the competition so great for Normoyle was the fact he was competing against two of his teammates. Sophomore Charles Villa set a personal best by clearing 14-6. He came awfully close on his second attempt at 14-9, just nicking the bar with his chest as he glided over.

Smithtown West senior Karl Nilsen matched Villa by clearing 14-6, but couldn’t equal Normoyle.

Riverhead senior Jonah Spaeth was fourth in the competition by clearing 13-6.

Normoyle attempted 15 feet three times just before the lights shut off at Connetquot.

Nilsen, who was persevered through a leg injury, was the first to clear 14-6 on his second attempt. Normoyle matched him on his next attempt, leaving it up to Villa to join them at the next height. On Villa’s third attempt he topped 14-6 for his personal best.

The four pole vaulters from Division II cleared higher heights than any pole vaulter from Division I or III.

See their top jumps below:

Dan Normoyle clears 14-9

Charles Villa clears 14-6

02/23/13 12:00am
02/23/2013 12:00 AM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Dan Normoyle, one of three Blue Waves to pole vault 14 feet in the same meet, took first place in the Long Island Elite Track Invitational

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Dan Normoyle, one of three Blue Waves to pole vault 14 feet in the same meet, took first place in the Long Island Elite Track Invitational

LONG ISLAND ELITE TRACK INVITATIONAL

After all the drama and all the excitement subsided, it was time for photographs. Photos for posterity.

Five smiling pole vaulters posed for photos in front of the pole vault mat, each athlete holding up one finger from one hand and four fingers from the other to represent the number 14. That is 14, as in 14 feet, the height each of them cleared.

Most high schools don’t have one pole vaulter who can clear 14 feet. Riverhead had three of them reach that height on Friday night.

Dan Normoyle, Charles Villa and Jonah Spaeth all reached 14-0 — along with two other pole vaulters — in the Long Island Elite Track Invitational at St. Anthony’s High School. Riverhead’s pole vaulting coach, John “Doc” Andresen, said it is the first time in the school’s history that three Blue Waves cleared 14 feet in the same meet.

“It’s never been done on Long Island, I don’t believe, certainly not in Riverhead,” he said.

Because the three Riverheaders handled 14-0 along with Smithtown West’s Karl Nilsen and Syosset’s Michael Wilkens, a tiebreaking procedure was used to determine the places. Normoyle finished first, Villa was second and Spaeth finished in a tie for third with Nilsen, leaving Wilkens fifth.

“I thought it was unbelievable,” Normoyle, a junior, said. “Five guys over 14 is just crazy. … It’s great to be part of the legacy of our school, to make a name for ourselves.”

For Villa, a sophomore, the height was a personal record. Villa said that as the bar was raised higher, he started getting nervous and began doubting himself a little bit.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River junior Ryan Udvadia moved up from the middle of the pack and finished second in the 1,600 meters in a personal-best time of 4 minutes 17.26 seconds.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River junior Ryan Udvadia (6) moved up from the middle of the pack and finished second in the 1,600 meters in a personal-best time of 4 minutes 17.26 seconds.

In the end, there was no need for doubt or nerves.

“It was great, all of us just getting 14,” Villa said. “It was just amazing.”

Villa’s first vault was at 12-6, with Normoyle and Spaeth entering the competition with the bar at 13-0.

One of the challenges of pole vaulting is dealing with the fatigue factor as the height rises.

“I was getting a little light-headed near the end,” said Spaeth, a senior who set the Riverhead indoor record of 14-6 earlier this season.

Pole vaulting can be a fickle event, as Andresen knows only too well. “Any time something goes wrong, we have the expression, that’s pole vaulting,” he said. “You know, it’s like a horse race, anything can happen.”

Spaeth will compete in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships along with Normoyle on March 2 at Cornell University.

“We’re coming to the point of the season where [personal records] start to weigh in,” Spaeth said. “This is when it’s supposed to happen, now.”

The Long Island Elite Track Invitational, which brings in many of the top athletes in Nassau and Suffolk counties, is seen as good preparation for the state meet. It surely was a good run for Shoreham-Wading River’s Ryan Udvadia and Jordan Wright.

Udvadia achieved several things with his race in the 1,600 meters. The junior posted a personal-best time of 4 minutes 17.26 seconds that was good enough for second place. The time should also place him in the seeded race at the state meet. Plus, the performance was a timely confidence boost.

“When you have good competition, it’s good,” Udvadia said. “Everybody says low competition, it’s easy to win, but I’d rather get second and do a great time.”

The one person Udvadia didn’t outrun was Northport senior James Dickinson, who won in 4:16.60.

“Coming into this meet, I didn’t see him as a threat, but he really came through,” Udvadia said. “He really did a great job, and he really pushed me to what I needed to do.”

Wright, competing in the 55-meter dash, also clocked a personal record, 6.65 seconds, to win his preliminary heat. The junior then posted a 6.67 in the final, good enough for third place.

Wright said the moments near the starting line before the gun goes off may test the nerves of some runners, but are important, nonetheless.

“It helps you a little bit, though, the adrenaline,” he said.

Two Riverhead juniors turned in sixth-place finishes: Davion Porter (5-10 in the high jump) and Marcus Moore (42-3 1/2 in the triple jump).

Porter said the quality competition helped him, too. “It gets you motivated and [helps you to] try to strive for higher heights,” he said.

Another Riverheader, senior Anthony Galvan, was 11th in the 1,000 in 2:43.51, slicing a second off his personal record. “That’s really something right there,” he said.

Riverhead sophomore Jacob Robinson finished first in the frosh/soph 300 in 37.73 seconds.

As the meet was winding down, and after Riverhead’s pole vaulters had finished their night’s work, the mild-mannered Andresen may have been among the most satisfied people in St. Anthony’s beautiful fieldhouse.

“He just had a smile on his face,” Normoyle said. “He doesn’t say much, but he was excited.”

bliepa@timesreview.com