07/13/15 3:36pm
07/13/2015 3:36 PM

Despite not being a fan of a wake-up alarm going off at 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning (or any morning, for that matter), I really didn’t mind too much this past Sunday.

The assignment necessitating the really early start was the Mighty North Fork Sprint Triathlon, which is neat to cover because it is so different from most of the other sports we chronicle on these pages. So, in order to be at Cedar Beach County Park in Southold well in time for the 6:50 a.m. start, it meant being on the road by 5:30 a.m., with pens, notebook and a digital recorder in hand, ready to hunt for an interesting story.  (more…)

07/06/15 6:42pm
07/06/2015 6:42 PM

SPORTS DESK/Bob Liepa

A surge of patriotic fervor swept through me on Sunday. Sure, it was the day after the Fourth of July holiday, but that wasn’t the reason for it. What caused the red, white and blue of my fiber to tingle with pride was, would you believe it, a 40-second video.

Before the start of the Women’s World Cup final between Japan and the United States on Sunday evening, I checked out a short video that someone had evidently shot from a hotel room high above as American fans marched, apparently toward BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the game. Clad in red, white and blue behind a large banner for the American Outlaws, a supporters group for United States soccer, this spirited band of fans had made its presence known. Chanting loudly, with whistles and horns blowing and drums banging, they made it clear that the United States women’s team wasn’t alone on this quest.

Americans for America. You have to love that.

(more…)

03/23/15 10:00am
03/23/2015 10:00 AM
Dave Gruner, 74, of Jamesport strung together game scores of 278, 254 and 289 for an 821 series at Wildwood Lanes in Riverhead on March 12. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Dave Gruner, 74, of Jamesport strung together game scores of 278, 254 and 289 for an 821 series at Wildwood Lanes in Riverhead on March 12. (Credit: Garret Meade)

SPORTS DESK/Bob Liepa

In bowling, 300 is unquestionably the sexy number. Dropping down 300 pins in one game is perfection.

Even so, other numbers can be more desirable and more appreciated.

Meet Mr. 800. Well, Mr. 821, to be exact. (more…)

01/04/15 12:00pm
01/04/2015 12:00 PM
Riverhead girls coach Dave Spinella goes over instructions with the Blue Waves at practice. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

Riverhead girls coach Dave Spinella and his team at a practice earlier this season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)

The best in people can emerge during trying times.

I have known Dave Spinella for a dozen years or so. I have seen him develop players, make them better, prepare them for the varsity level and assemble winning girls basketball teams for Riverhead High School. I have seen him win the right way, with class. I have seen him handle defeat with dignity.

And yet, for all he has done as a coach on the basketball court, Spinella’s shining moment, for me, came the day after Christmas when he issued a public apology for making public comments critical of his team following a loss. (more…)

12/31/14 10:00am
12/31/2014 10:00 AM

With a left turn, we were on Davis Street in Oceanside, and I had taken a drive back three decades in time.

I was with my sisters and others in a car that had stopped at an intersection on Davis Street, where my family had lived for a good chunk of my childhood. While others stared to the right, my eyes kept scanning, searching for the house we used to live in before we moved to East Meadow in 1979. Then, one of my sisters pointed me in the right direction. “There,” she said, “that’s the house we used to live in.” (more…)

10/10/14 8:00am
10/10/2014 8:00 AM
A candlelit tribute to Tom Cutinella made during a vigil at the Shoreham-Wading River football field last Thursday. (Credit: Thomas Baker)

A candlelit tribute to Tom Cutinella made during a vigil at the Shoreham-Wading River football field last Thursday. (Credit: Thomas Baker)

Football, a sport that has been as bruised and battered as some of its players sometimes, has taken hit after hit in recent years. In the NFL, we have seen Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson involved in domestic abuse and child abuse cases, respectively. The commissioner, Roger Goodell, has come under fire for his handling — or mishandling — of the Rice case. The danger of concussions hangs over the sport like a sword of Damocles. College football has had its own misdeeds, scandals and problems.  (more…)

09/17/14 5:00pm
09/17/2014 5:00 PM
Zach Holmes of Greenport/Southold/Mattituck tries to thwart an attempted tackle by Babylon's James Messina. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Zach Holmes of Greenport/Southold/Mattituck tries to thwart an attempted tackle by Babylon’s James Messina. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Friday night marked the opening game for the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck high school football team’s season, and Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field at Greenport High School may have never looked so nice. Along with the plush grass field, which has been well-watered, there were new NFL-style goal posts. The recently painted purple and gold bleachers looked brilliant in the fading sunlight as kickoff time approached. And there, on the south end of the field, was the sharp looking scoreboard, which was installed last season.

Ah, yes, the scoreboard.

On a night when the game was cut and dried, it was the scoreboard that provided the only real controversy — if you want to call it that — of the evening. (more…)

06/07/12 3:00am
06/07/2012 3:00 AM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Meghan Donnelly competing in the triple jump in the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier at Port Jefferson High School on Saturday.

Every year around this time, Port Jefferson becomes the center of the Suffolk County high school track and field world. Like the swallows to Capistrano, athletes, coaches, officials, spectators and media converge on the scenic waterside village, the home to the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifier.

I’ve driven this route so often that I could virtually do it with my eyes closed (although I would strongly recommend against that). So, there I was on Friday, headed to Port Jefferson High School for the first day of the two-day meet. Driving north on Route 25A, I made a left onto Liberty Avenue, following it up to Old Post Road before starting to make a right onto Brook Road. It was at that point when a Port Jefferson constable, with a deadly serious look on his face, held up a hand and halted me. After walking over to the passenger’s side door, he asked me, “Where are you going?”

I replied, “To the track meet,” pointing in the direction of the track, which sits alongside Brook Road.

Then, eyeing me suspiciously, as if I was up to no good, he asked me in an unfriendly manner, “Who are you?”

(Welcome to Port Jefferson.)

“I’m a reporter here to cover the track meet,” I told him.

Then, after a few quiet seconds, he directed me to make a right onto the next street up the road and find parking somewhere around there. Brook Road, where track and field visitors have parked their cars for years, was closed. School buses were permitted down the road to drop off athletes and coaches, but that was it. Barriers were erected to keep all others out.

Fine enough. My own speculation is that some Brook Road residents had complained enough that something was done to keep the nuisance of track and field traffic that they experience two days a year off their road — and move it onto the roads of their neighbors.

Port Jefferson has a beautiful track and field facility, probably the best among Suffolk high schools, so it’s no wonder that it hosts this big meet. Parking, however, has always been tricky here. This year, veteran sports photographer Garret Meade said, the parking situation was the worst he had ever seen.

But parking is only one of the challenges to covering this meet. Track meets in general are a three-ring circus, with multiple events going on at the same time.

That’s good and bad for a reporter. The good side is that it means there are multiple opportunities to find stories, whether they be on the track or in the field events. The bad side is trying to keep up with it all. With all of the running, hurdling, jumping, throwing and vaulting going on, one can feel as if he is swirling amid a tornado of activity. Even veterans of track meets can miss things.

Despite trying our best to keep tabs on things, Garret and myself both missed seeing the girls 800-meter final on Friday. We didn’t get to see Shoreham-Wading River senior Shannon McDonnell pull out a thrilling victory in 2 minutes 14.62 seconds. We were in the pole vaulting area at the time, watching Riverhead’s Jonah Spaeth soar to a second-place finish at 14 feet, and a place in the state meet.

On Saturday, we didn’t get to see Bishop McGann-Mercy senior Sasa Vann blaze to victory in the 400-meter final in a school record time of 56.61 seconds. We were watching drama unfold in the triple jump, as two Riverheaders, senior Melodee Riley and sophomore Kyra Braunskill-Miller, landed first and second, respectively. They both will compete in the state meet.

We nearly missed the boys 1,600-meter final, only catching the last lap of that race when Garret alertly noticed that it was being run. We were focused on the boys discus up to then.

The bottom line is you’re going to miss something at a track meet. With multiple events going on at the same time, it’s bound to happen. And that’s even with the wonderful new smartphone app offered by www.just-in-time-racing.com that provides real-time results of events as they are completed (it’s a must-have at 99 cents for high school track aficionados). A person has only two eyes and two legs.

Of course, that means there’s a lot to see. A big track meet like this is an adventure.

Parking in Port Jefferson can be one, too.

bliepa@timesreview.com