05/31/14 12:45am
05/31/2014 12:45 AM
Riverhead pole vaulter Charles Villa clearing 14 feet en route to his triumph Friday at Port Jefferson High School. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

Riverhead pole vaulter Charles Villa clearing 14 feet en route to his triumph Friday at Port Jefferson High School. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

SECTION XI INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS/STATE QUALIFIER

Strange as it may sound for the greatest pole vaulter in Riverhead High School history, but Charles Villa may have been suffering a crisis of confidence recently. His coaches noticed it.

One of those coaches, Jim Henderson, then provided the few words that Villa needed to hear. As Villa related, Henderson told him: “You got to stop being mental. You’re the best one here, so act like it, so jump like it.”

And, just like that, confidence was restored. (more…)

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

05/21/13 9:09pm
05/21/2013 9:09 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Kyle Fleming threw a personal record 140 feet 8 inches in the discus.

DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIPS

It was typical Ryan Udvadia.

After the Division III 3,200-meter final started, the Shoreham-Wading River junior was hanging well back in the bottom third of the field, as if toying with the opposition, who surely knew what was coming. Early in the third lap, Udvadia made a tremendous move, passing a half-dozen runners and easing into the third position. By the time there were three laps to go, he was in the lead, coasting to a victory he made look almost effortless.

Udvadia ran about 28 seconds slower than his personal record for the distance, and yet still managed to beat his nearest competitor, Bayport-Blue Point senior Adam LaFemina, who was over 10 seconds behind him in the Suffolk County Division Championships at Connetquot High School on Tuesday. Udvadia’s time was 9 minutes 29.82 seconds. Further back was Shoreham-Wading River junior Connor McAlary, who was fifth in 10:01.92.

Although the top-seeded Udvadia may have been saving his legs for Thursday, when he will run in the 1,600 (he is the favorite to win that event as well, having clocked a personal-best time of 4:15.64 earlier this year at the Penn Relays) and the 4×800 relay, he blew away the field.

“He doesn’t surprise me anymore,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Bob Szymanski said. “I mean, he doesn’t lose.”

Connetquot has a nice looking track, but Udvadia is not a fan of it. “I really hate this track, just because the turns are bigger than the straightaways,” he explained.

Not that one could tell by his performance, but the weather conditions irritated Udvadia’s allergies.

“The pollen was unbelievable,” he said. “It was horrible. I can feel it in my throat right now, so I’m expecting to feel sick on Thursday.”

That would be a setback Shoreham-Wading River could ill afford. As it was, the Wildcats took a blow on Tuesday when one of their top athletes, Israel Squires, injured his ankle while playing basketball in a physical education class. The sophomore, who was seeded third in the triple jump, fouled and did not record a distance in the event.

Squires also anchors Shoreham’s 4×100 relay team, the No. 1 seed which qualified for Thursday’s final. The meet will conclude on Thursday, when most of the finals will be held.

Szymanski fears Squires’ injury could cost the Wildcats 30 points.

“That’s not a good thing,” Szymanski said. “I’m totally depressed. I feel bad for the kid, but he’s got to use better judgment than what he did by playing hoops right before” the meet.

A more encouraging development for Shoreham was the discus, which senior Kyle Fleming took first place in with a personal-record throw of 140 feet 8 inches. Fleming, whose best throw going into the meet was 132 feet, surpassed that distance on four of his six throws Tuesday despite throwing into the wind.

“The wind was tricky,” Shoreham’s throwing coach, Bill Hiney, said. “Throwing into the wind, you really have to have hand control. If the tip of the discus is up, it will just sail right over and cut distance off your throw. Kyle controlled that very well.”

Fleming left the school before a reporter could interview him.

The Wildcats also received a fourth-place finish from senior Thomas Sager in the pole vault. He cleared 12 feet.

Riverhead junior Marcus Moore took second place in the Division II triple jump, covering 42-10. North Babylon senior Kamar Marston-Mills (44-3 1/2) was the only one to throw farther than him.

“I don’t think he had his best legs today, so I was happy with 42-11,” Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski said of Moore. “He’s a phenomenal athlete. I think he’s just growing into his body, too. I think as he builds a little more strength, he’ll be even better.”

Mattituck freshman Darius Brew, one of the youngest athletes to compete in the triple jump, was congratulated by his coach, Pete Hansen, after covering 41-1 during the preliminaries. But then Hansen delivered the distressing remark that he didn’t believe Brew had qualified for the Division III finals.

That did not sit well with Brew.

“It was terrible,” Hansen said. “It was like I killed his puppy.”

As it turned out, Hansen was wrong. Brew did indeed reach the finals, and turned in a personal-best 41-2 1/2, which brought him sixth place.

“I think the biggest thing for him is he does not like to lose,” said Hansen. He added, “There are so many good things about him, I can’t say anything bad.”

Brew, whose best triple jump before Tuesday was 40-11, said he has more distance in his legs. “Every time I get a best, a personal best, I feel that my body is able to do better,” he said.

Mattituck junior Sal Loverde finished eighth in the discus with a throw of 124-6.

BRAUNSKILL TAKES TRIPLE JUMP Riverhead junior Kyra Braunskill won the Division II triple jump title in the girls division championships on Monday at Connetquot High School. Braunskill’s winning distance was 39-3 3/4.

Riverhead also received a fifth-place finish from sophomore Rashae Smith in the discus (96-6).

Through three events of the pentathlon, Riverhead sophomore Rachel Clement held sixth place with 1,209 points. She took second in the high jump (4-7 3/4), third in the shot put (24-11 3/4) and sixth in the 100-meter high hurdles (20.02).

Following the first day of the two-day meet, which concludes Wednesday, Riverhead was tied for third place in the team scoring with Half Hollow Hills West. They both had 12 points, trailing Kings Park (21) and North Babylon (18).

In Division III, Shoreham-Wading River was in a third-place tie as well with Elwood/John Glenn. Both teams had 14 points. Miller Place (39) is first and Hampton Bays (16) is second. Bishop McGann-Mercy is 10th with two points.

Shoreham received 10 points from Meghan Serdock’s victory in the discus. The senior threw 100-11.

The Wildcats also received a fourth-place finish from freshman Kaitlyn Ohrtman in the 3,000 meters (10:33.89). McGann-Mercy junior Delina Auciello was behind her in fifth place in 11:22.00.

Mattituck junior Shannon Dwyer was fourth in the pentathlon after three events with 1,244 points. Dwyer was second in the shot put (28- 1/4), third in the high jump (4-4) and seventh in the 100-meter high hurdles (19.10).

bliepa@timesreview.com