Featured Story
02/15/17 5:59am
02/15/2017 5:59 AM

Riverhead runner Eric Cunha 021417

Track and field coaches often urge runners to “hit the wall,” push themselves to the limit. It’s a lot easier said than done. All one had to do was watch Eric Cunha will himself to the finish line and then observe his body language afterward to know that the Riverhead High School senior had not only hit the wall, but burst through it. READ

Featured Story
01/17/17 4:00pm
01/17/2017 4:00 PM

Riverhead girls winter track 011617

It didn’t take long for the Riverhead High School girls winter track coach, Justin Cobis, to realize that he might have a special 4 x 200-meter relay team this year. After assembling a team of three freshmen and one sophomore and then watching their first race, it dawned on him. “We thought this [school] record may be going down this year,” he said.

And it did.

Featured Story
12/17/16 5:54am
12/17/2016 5:54 AM


The beginning of winter track season comes with a relaxed feel. The early crossover meets where teams compete are mostly a tune-up and a chance for athletes to get their legs under them in different events.

For a team like Shoreham-Wading River, a slow introduction to the winter season is an added benefit. Coming off a cross country season that saw its runners win the second state title in program history, the Wildcats could use a brief break before gearing up for the grind of indoor and outdoor track.

Katherine Lee’s cross country season ran so long, it bumped into about three weeks of winter track. After earning all-America honors at the Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon on Dec. 3, Lee took a well-deserved few days off before getting back to training. Another of Shoreham’s top runners, Ally Hays, also took about two weeks off in between seasons, coach Paul Koretzki said.

When the Wildcats get back into full swing, the duo of Lee and Hays and the other returning runners should be enough to propel the team into contention for a county title. Koretzki said the Wildcats’ strength lies in its distance runners. The team lacks depth in the sprints and field events, which should make them better suited for a county meet compared to a league meet.

In Lee, the Wildcats return the top 3,000-meter runner in the county last year. She qualified for the state meet in the 600 as well, showing off strong versatility. Koretzki said Lee’s goal is to make it back to the state meet.

Hays was right behind Lee in the 3,000 last year at the state qualifier meet to also earn a trip to states. The 3,000 will likely be her top event again this year, Koretzki said.

Senior Payton Capes-Davis was a key contributor to the Wildcats’ cross country success and will start off in the 1,000 for indoor track. Senior Amanda Dwyer is another cross country runner, along with sophomore Francesca Lilly. The distance runners should make a formidable 4 x 800 team, anchored by Hays and Lee.

Junior Grace Ficken returns as the team’s top shot-putter. She threw 30 feet 9 inches for fourth place at a crossover meet Sunday.

Koretzki said the team is eyeing the Marine Corps Holiday Classic in New York on Dec. 29 as the first big test of the season.


Delu Rizzo ran this past fall on Riverhead’s cross country team. A freshman, Rizzo showed promise for what the coaches imagined as a middle-distance or distance runner in winter track.

But Riverhead coach Justin Cobis was in for a surprise.

“We didn’t know she could run a beastly 200 and 300 meter run,” Cobis said. “She is like out of nowhere and really enjoying it.”

Rizzo had been trying to make her case to the coaches to no longer run the distance workouts. So Cobis gave her a shot at a recent practice.

“I said let me see you’re a sprinter and you won’t have to run with mid-distance and distance any more,” he said. “And she dominated that entire workout.”

Rizzo is part of a resurgence of young sprinters at Riverhead that has Cobis thinking will soon break the school indoor record in the 4 x 200 relay. Freshman Miasha Pittman is another sprinter who has shown a lot of promise. She ran 7.95 seconds in the 55-dash at Sunday’s crossover meet. And that’s a time as a novice to the event; she did not use starting blocks.

Cobis said her best attribute is a competitive fire.

“She does not like to lose,” he said.

Pittman will also compete in jump events.

The Blue Waves expect to have an equally strong 4 x 800 team, led by another freshman, Megan Kielbasa. She’s already in her third year on varsity and is coming off a strong cross country season. She ran the 1,000 Sunday in 3:20.72 for fifth place.

Cobis said he hopes to see Kielbasa break five minutes in the 1,500 this year.

Juniors Olivia Pizzuto and Aimee Drexel are team captains and can both run distance events. Freshman Emma Conroy is another key runner in distance events.

The Blue Waves will have a familiar face coaching this year. Melodee Riley, a 2012 graduate, competed for four years at UConn as a long jumper and triple jumper. Cobis said Riley will help out coaching both the boys and girls this year.


The McGann-Mercy girls feature a new coach this season in Zack Zieniewicz. Former coach Collin Zeffer accepted a coaching position at University of Pennsylvania.

The Monarchs lost their standout distance runner, Meg Tuthill, to graduation. But the team returns of a formidable duo on the track in seniors Kaitlyn Butterfield and Maddie Joinnides. Butterfield narrowly missed qualifying for the state meet last year during the indoor season in the 1,000. She was a third-place finisher at the small school county meet in the 1,500.

Butterfield, who’s coming off a strong cross country season, will attend the University at Albany to run track after her career at Mercy winds down. She’ll run anywhere from the 600 to 1,500 during the indoor season.

Joinnides runs the 600. She was first in the event at a crossover meet Sunday at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood.

The Monarchs also return senior Siobhan Merrill in the sprints and senior Devyn O’Brien in the mid-distance and distance events.

Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River runner Allie Hays (left), Maddie Joinnides of Mercy and Megan Kielbasa of Riverhead. (Credit: Bill Landon)

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Featured Story
11/08/16 12:28pm
11/08/2016 12:28 PM


Riverhead fielded one of the youngest high school girls cross-country teams at Friday’s Section XI Championships, with four freshmen among the team’s top seven runners.

But young teams have a way of surprising people, sometimes. This season, for example, Riverhead went 5-1 in Suffolk County League III, defeating Northport for the first time in the program’s history, according to coach Justin Cobis.

01/25/15 10:00am
01/25/2015 10:00 AM
Riverhead senior Ra'Shae Smith finished second in the shot put at the League III Championship Saturday. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Riverhead senior Ra’Shae Smith finished second in the shot put at the League III Championship Saturday. (Credit: Bill Landon)


As Ra’Shae Smith stepped into the circle for her final throw in the shot put, the Riverhead senior was feeling the pressure. She knew she had already locked up at least second place, but she still wanted to improve on her mark. (more…)

12/17/14 5:00pm
12/17/2014 5:00 PM
Riverhead's Ashley Courts will compete in the jumping events this year. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

Riverhead’s Ashley Courts will compete in the jumping events this year. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

For the past few years, the Riverhead track coaches have tried to nudge Ra’Shae Smith to come out for the winter track team. Last spring, competing during the outdoor track season, Smith showed promise in the shot put.

The Blue Waves had one of the top shot putters in the county last year in Madison Blom. And Smith got the chance to be the understudy to Blom.

Now as a senior, Smith agreed to join the winter track team and commit to the sport, which is good news for Riverhead.

“She’s just beginning to learn the technique and the basic skills that are involved in the sport,” said Riverhead coach Justin Cobis. “When she starts getting confident and getting everything in coordination, that’s going to be fun to watch.”

In the Blue Waves’ first crossover meet, Smith threw 33 feet 1 1/4 inch to finish in third place. To open the season throwing in the 33-foot range already puts her in the top 10 in the county, Cobis said.

And Smith has hardly reached her ceiling.

“If you saw her throw that hit 33 feet, it looked ugly,” Cobis said. “Once she gets her lower body in sync with her upper body, I would see her as one of the tops in the county.”

The Blue Waves carry over nearly the entire cross country roster into the winter track season, which should put them in good position to have strong middle distance and distance runners.

Seventh-grader Megan Kielbasa, who had a terrific cross country season, has the potential to be a big contributor right away. She ran the 3,000 in the team’s first two crossover meets. She improved her time by nine seconds from one meet to the next, finishing in 11 minutes 23.07 seconds in the most recent meet Saturday at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood.

“She’s learning as she goes,” Cobis said. “When your introduction to winter track is 15 laps, that’s a trial by fire.”

After completing her 15th lap in the first 3,000, Kielbasa kept on running, unaware she had finished the race.

“She’s like a little Energizer Bunny,” Cobis said.

Senior Rachel Clement and junior Megan Carrick will provide leadership and expertise in a number of events for Riverhead. Clement is a versatile athlete who can contribute in an array of field events and on the track. Carrick is a distance runner. Junior Meghan Van Bommel is another veteran to the track who will run some of the shorter events this year. She’ll likely run mostly the 300, 600 and 4 x 400 relay.

The X-factor for Riverhead is Ashley Courts, Cobis said.

“She’s an extremely gifted athlete,” Cobis said.

Courts has the potential to long jump beyond 17 feet and could be among the tops in the county. Cobis said Courts just hasn’t had a breakout meet yet to gain the confidence she needs.

“If we can get her consistent in her craft, she can really surprise everybody,” Cobis said.


The strength of the Shoreham-Wading River winter track team is undoubtedly on the track with some of the middle distance and distance runners. The Wildcats carry over six of the top seven runners from the county champion cross country team.

The weakness lies in the field events.

“We’re going to try to build that up,” said Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki. “But I don’t know where that’s going to go.”

The Wildcats have depth on the track, though, including with sprinters. Two soccer players who were speedsters during the fall on the county championship soccer team will run track this winter in Alex Kuhnle and Megan Kelly, who was fifth at the league championships last year in the 55-meter dash.

“We have a lot of soccer players and they’re in shape, really good,” Koretzki said.

Emily Sopko is one of those soccer players who can run shorter races like the 300.

The top runner from cross country, state champion Katherine Lee, a freshman, will transition to track now. When asked which events Lee will run, Koretzki said “I have no idea.”

As a great distance runner in cross country, the 3,000 might seem an ideal fit. But the Wildcats already have two strong 3,000 runners in junior Kaitlyn Ohrtman and sophomore Alexandra Hays. Two years ago, they went one-two in the 3,000 at the league championships.

Lee may likely slide down to the 1,500. She’ll start off running some shorter races like the 600 and 1,000.

Hays is a welcome addition to the team this year after she played basketball last year. As an eighth-grader she ran winter track on varsity, but the way the schedule worked on the middle school team, she still was able to play basketball. Now that she’s in high school, the seasons conflict.

“That’s a big addition because it gives me more flexibility,” Koretzki said.

Senior Courtney Ricca is a strong hurdler and sophomore Payton Capes-Davis is a gymnast who can do a number of events, including the pole vault. Koretzki said she has the potential to be a triple jumper. Eighth-graders Francesca Lilly and Lexie Smith provide more depth for Shoreham in the distance events.


The McGann-Mercy winter track team lost a few key contributors from last year’s squad, but should be in good position for a strong season this year. Junior Meg Tuthill, who won a medal last year as part of the medley relay team at the state championships, returns as one of the top distance runners for the Monarchs.

Tuthill can run anywhere from the 600 to 3,000. Last year she finished fourth at the state qualifier meet in the 1,000 to earn a trip to the state meet.

This year, her goal is to get back to states, but this time, in an individual event.

“It’s something she has her eyes on,” said Mercy coach Collin Zeffer.

The Monarchs return sophomore Maddie Joinnides, who was sixth in the 300 at last year’s league championships. Sophomore Kaitlyn Butterfield was a fifth-place finisher in the 1,000 a year ago and she has versatility to run a number of different events on the track. Sophomore Devyn O’Brien is another strong runner.

The Monarchs are mostly a young team again this year. The one senior on the team is Adafih Blackburn, who’s a sprinter.

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