01/25/15 9:25pm
01/25/2015 9:25 PM
Riverhead senior Troy Trent prepares for the shot put in Sunday's League III Championship. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Riverhead senior Troy Trent prepares for the shot put in Sunday’s League III Championship. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)


On the bus ride to Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood Sunday, Troy Trent and Andrew Smith spoke to each other about the upcoming meet.

They each vowed to win their main events.

“We both came in today just like, we’re going to come in first,” Trent said. “We’re taking home gold medals. If the team can’t take it overall, we’ll take it for the team.”  (more…)

12/23/14 4:00pm
12/23/2014 4:00 PM
Riverhead senior Jacob Robinson has his sights set on reaching the state meet in the 300-dash this season. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk, file)

Riverhead senior Jacob Robinson has his sights set on reaching the state meet in the 300-dash this season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)

The beginning of the winter track season is generally a tune-up for most athletes. It’s a chance for runners to get conditioning work in, experiment in different events and begin preparation for when the season really counts in late January and February.

Because of that, it’s uncommon to see too many record runs or personal bests early in the season. The idea is, gradually increase and peak at the end of the season and springboard into the outdoor season.  (more…)

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Although Villa had qualified for what would have been his first indoor state meet, the senior has been withdrawn from the event because of an ankle injury, said Riverhead coach Sal Loverde.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…)

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.


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

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


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.”


06/01/13 7:33pm
06/01/2013 7:33 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Port Jefferson's James Burke, left, ran around Shoreham-Wading River's Ryan Udvadia about 1,200 meters into the 1,600-meter final.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Port Jefferson’s James Burke, left, ran around Shoreham-Wading River’s Ryan Udvadia about 1,200 meters into the 1,600-meter final.


Looking for the names of double winners in individual events in the Section XI boys track and field individual championship state qualifier, one will find Christopher Belcher of Sayville (100 and 200 meters), James Burke of Port Jefferson (800 and 1,600) and John Stallworth of Connetquot (110-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles), but no Ryan Udvadia of Shoreham-Wading River.

Udvadia, who was seeded first in both the 3,200 and 1,600 meters, took care of the first half of business on Friday when he triumphed in the 3,200 in 9 minutes 17.27 seconds. On Saturday, the second and final day of the meet at Port Jefferson High School, Udvadia ran the fastest 1,600 he ever did before — and he had to settle for second place.

Udvadia and Burke, the top two seeds, were actually the last two runners among the section of 11 runners for most of the first lap of the 1,600 final. Udvadia, a junior, had moved up to fifth after 800 meters, and was then third around 1,000 meters. But Burke was on Udvadia’s right shoulder and moved ahead of him into second at the 1,200-meter mark. Burke took the lead on the bell lap as Udvadia moved in to second. But Burke held onto the lead despite a desperate effort by Udvadia, who couldn’t catch him.

The Port Jefferson sophomore took the race in 4:13.72. Udvadia was right behind him in second with a personal-best time of 4:14.73. Northport senior James Dickinson was third in 4:15.66. Those three times are the fastest in Suffolk County this season.

“That was a fast race,” said Udvadia, who lost a 1,600 race to a Suffolk runner for the first time this season.

Asked if he had any regrets, Udvadia replied: “I did everything I could. Maybe, looking back on it now, I say to myself now, ‘I could have kicked harder,’ but I know when I was doing the race I couldn’t. I couldn’t move my legs any more.”

Udvadia said he was taken aback when the purple-uniformed Burke passed him.

“I couldn’t believe it was him,” Udvadia said. “When I saw that it was him, I said, ‘Alright, it’s time to go.’ ”

The times posted were impressive, especially considering the heat the runners had to endure.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Anthony Galvan made a splash in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, finishing fourth in 10 minutes 9.76 seconds.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Anthony Galvan made a splash in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, finishing fourth in 10 minutes 9.76 seconds.

“Burke ran a great race,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Bob Szymanski said. “The weather also is not conducive to fast times, and those guys ran fast times.”

After the race, Udvadia shook Burke’s hand and told a reporter he was happy for the Port Jefferson runner.

Even before the race started, Udvadia had qualified for the state meet in both the 3,200 and the 1,600.

“I’m happy that I get to go for both,” he said, “but it would have been nice to go as a Section XI champ for both of them.”

TWO TUCKERS HEADED UPSTATE Two Mattituck athletes, junior Sal Loverde and freshman Darius Brew, qualified for the first time for the state meet that will be held June 7 and 8 at Middletown High School.

Loverde threw the discus a personal-record distance of 135 feet 1 inch on his first throw, making him the top Division II finisher and ninth over all.

“I pr’d, I’m going to the states now, too,” he said. “It was a good day.”

Mattituck coach Pete Hansen said Loverde was ready for a big day. “The last two weeks he’s been really focused,” the coach said. “There was a lot of mental preparation. He’s always had the tools to throw.”

Ironically, Brew’s good day in the triple jump can be traced to his bad day in the high jump. Despite his disappointment at finishing tied for 13th place in the high jump at 5-8, Brew triple jumped 41-9 1/2, good enough for No. 1 in Division II and 11th place over all, and a ticket to the state meet. It was the best triple jump of his young career.

Brew said he was angry over his performance in the high jump, his primary event, but transferred that anger in a positive direction in the triple jump. “The triple was basically like secondary,” he said. “It was like Plan B, something to fall back on, and it ended up working.”

Loverde dedicated his performance to Hansen, who will be leaving the team and the school after this season.

“Even though Coach Hansen isn’t going to be here next year,” Loverde said, “I want to wish him the best with whatever he does, and I did this for him.”

TRACK NOTES Medals were presented to the top four finishers in each individual event. Shoreham-Wading River junior Jordan Wright grabbed a pair of fourth-place finishes in the 100 (11.09) and the 200 (22.65). Riverhead senior Anthony Galvan finished fourth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 10:09.76.


03/05/13 9:00pm
03/05/2013 9:00 PM
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 FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle, shown at the Long Island Elite Track Invitational, cleared 14-06 at the state meet Saturday for fifth place.

Like a pitcher in baseball, a pole vaulter has only so many jumps in him during a meet before fatigue begins to set in, making it more and more difficult to soar over the bar as the height increases.

The key for pole vaulters is to find the ideal height to enter the competition. Enter too early, risk fatiguing at the end. Enter too late, risk not clearing the initial height at all and falling into last place with the dreaded NH, or no height.

“The less amount of jumps you have to do in a competition, the stronger you will be in those jumps,” said Riverhead coach Sal Loverde. “The more jumps you have to do, the more your physical ability becomes spent.”

[Related: Illness slows down Udvadia at states]

At Saturday’s New York State Championships in Ithaca, Riverhead pole vaulters Dan Normoyle and Jonah Spaeth entered with lofty goals in pursuit of the top spot on the podium. The two seniors have routinely cleared 14 feet this season, giving them the confidence to wait until the bar already reached a high height before entering the competition.

Normoyle began at 13 feet 6 inches, a height 12 out of the 26 vaulters failed to reach. When it was over, he had soared over 14-06, landing him fifth among public school competitors for a spot on the podium. It was his first all-state finish. He was sixth overall in the federation, which includes all schools in the state.

Spaeth cleared 14-0 to narrowly miss a spot on the podium. He entered the competition at 13-0.

“Both Dan and Jonah had very respectable performances and should be very proud of themselves,” Loverde said.

James Steck, a senior from Shaker, won the competition by clearing 15-0. Two vaulters cleared 14-09.

“It was a very tightly packed field,” Loverde said. “It could have went either way.”

Loverde said both vaulters hoped to go as deep into the competition as possible.

“It’s a finicky event,” he said. “It’s a lot like relief pitching. But they went up there and they were well prepared and they achieved at a high level. It could have went either way. A little slip on the way down here or there and Jonah or Normoyle could have won it. But that’s the nature of the pole vault.”

Monday marked the first official spring practice and the two vaulters wasted little time getting right back out there. Along with junior Charles Villa, who narrowly missed earning a spot at states, the trio pulled out the mats for their first outdoor practice.

Coming off their success in the winter, there’s no telling what the trio can achieve in the spring, where vaulters typically jump higher.

And when dual meets begin, the Blue Waves can just about mark down a sweep in the pole vault for every meet.

Loverde said a more consistent practice schedule in the spring tends to allow vaulters to reach greater heights.

“The mere fact that they get more time in the actual vaulting setting helps to promote the opportunity for a greater height,” he said. “We got some really ridiculous potential for this spring.”

Before the winter season officially reaches the end, Riverhead’s three vaulters will compete at the New Balance Indoor Nationals at The Armory in New York. The three-day competition begins Friday.

“It’s the race to 15 now,” Loverde said. “Who’s going to be the first one over 15?”

They’ll get another chance Friday.


02/18/13 8:00pm
02/18/2013 8:00 PM
COURTESY PHOTO  |  Riverhead pole vaulters (from left) Dan Normoyle, Jonah Spaeth and Charles Villa all cleared personal bests Saturday at the Armory in New York.

FILE PHOTO | Riverhead pole vaulters (from left) Dan Normoyle, Jonah Spaeth and Charles Villa finished first, second and fourth at the state qualifier. Normoyle and Spaeth will compete at states.

Every now and then, Sal Loverde, the Riverhead boys winter track coach, gives in to temptation, walks over to his pole vaulters and tells them what he thinks about their event. Typically, he says something like this: “Do you realize you’re completely insane with what you do?”

Loverde isn’t the first to question the sanity of pole vaulters, a fearless breed, to be sure. Pole vaulters are track and field’s daredevils, always trying to fling themselves to greater heights.

Over the years, Riverhead has built a reputation for producing some of the best pole vaulters in Suffolk County. Even so, the Blue Waves almost pulled off a rare feat last Wednesday when they nearly qualified three — count them: one, two, three — pole vaulters for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships that will be held March 2 at Cornell University. Two Riverhead seniors, Dan Normoyle and Jonah Spaeth, will compete in the state meet. Another Riverheader, junior Charles Villa, failed to qualify, but came oh so close.

“I would have been a little more surprised if we sent three up,” Loverde said. “I would not have been shocked, but I would have been a little surprised.”

Normoyle finished first in the state qualifying competition in Holtsville, clearing a personal-best height of 14 feet. His previous best was 13-4. Spaeth was second at 13-9.

Villa turned in a personal-best height of 13-6, which satisfied the state qualifying standard, but he needed to take third place in order to make it upstate. That spot, however, was taken by Smithtown West senior Karl Nilsen, who recorded 13-9 on his final vault.

It will be the first appearance in the state meet for both Normoyle and Spaeth.

Spaeth also competed in the Millrose Games, which were held Saturday at The Armory in New York City. He tied for third place in the high school competition along with Justin Farrenkopf of Ellenville and James Steck of Harrison. All three reached 13-9 1/4.

“That’s a very respectable day,” said Loverde.

Riverhead has been strong in the pole vault for at least 15 years, said Loverde. “We went from strong to off the charts,” he said.

Doc Andresen, the team’s longtime pole vault coach, is a big reason for that success.

“He’s a pole vault guru, and he does a phenomenal job,” Loverde said. “Year in, year out, we have competitive kids.”

Loverde said Riverhead introduces middle school athletes to pole vaulting through clinics, “and away they go. Once they plant and clear that first height, they’re on.”

Pole vaulting has been described as an addictive business, with athletes obsessed over propelling themselves higher and higher.

“If they can plant that bar and get up and never land, they’d be happy,” said Loverde.

Spaeth set the Riverhead indoor record of 14-6 earlier this season. Loverde expects the school’s outdoor record of 14-1 that was set by David Ludlum in the 1990s to be obliterated this spring.

“We have two kids that have been over 14 feet and one kid that is slamming on the door,” said the coach.

Riverhead’s top pole vaulters have some more vaulting to do before the state meet. They will compete in the Long Island Track and Field Invitational at St. Anthony’s High School on Friday and the Eastern States Championships at The Armory on Feb. 28.

Loverde knows only too well that anything can happen when it comes to pole vaulting. Predictions can be a risky business. For example, Riverhead’s pole vaulters failed to clear a height at last year’s state qualifier.

Loverde said, “It’s a very finicky event because there are a lot of things involved from the mental component to the physical component.”