12/07/12 7:00pm
12/07/2012 7:00 PM

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Three members of Riverhead’s league champion 4 x 800 relay team return this season: (from right) Meghan Van Bommel, Maria Dillingham and Rachel Conti. Gabriele Escallier (left) was the one runner who graduated.

The Riverhead Blues Waves might have a young team entering the girls winter track season, but coach Justin Cobis feels his team has a lot of potential.

“I think they’re going to surprise themselves and other people as well,” he said.

There are at least four good reasons why Cobis is optimistic, and they run on the 4 x 800 relay team that captured the league championship last year. That foursome has a junior, sophomore and a pair of freshmen who ran as eighth-graders last season.

The quartet includes junior Rachel Conti and sophomore Maria Dillingham, who are team captains and freshmen Meghan Van Bommel and Megan Carrick. One of their goals is to break the school record and Cobis felt they would take 15-20 seconds off their time.

“They are all a year wiser and a year better,” he said. “They had good numbers to build upon. … We’re a young team that’s full of potential.”

The Blue Waves graduated several good athletes, but Cobis was hopeful the next generation was ready to step up. “We have a good core of young girls,” he said.

Another captain, junior Danielle Thomas, will handle the pole-vaulting responsibilities.

The Blue Waves have one unexpected addition: senior Corinne Kimmelman, a field hockey and softball standout who did not run last winter.

“We’re very lucky to have her,” Cobis said. “She has run for us in the past, but didn’t run last year. We’re happy to have her back.”

Cobis said that he planned to have his runners reach their best around late January, prior to the county meet and state qualifier.

“We don’t want them to peak too early,” he said.

So, he is following a strategy.

“They won’t be really concentrating on their core events until later on,” he said.

For example, Cobis plans to have his 4 x 800 team running in the 4 x 400 “to get used to handing off and to work on speed,” early on.

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Laura Lee will run middle distance events for the Wildcats this winter.

Shoreham-Wading River coach Roger Sullivan could have the best of both worlds. He has a core of seniors returning, but a promising group of freshmen and sophomores as well. In other words, he can be competitive this season and build for the future at the same time.

“We should do fairly well and be competitive,” he said. “It should come down to us or Bayport for the league title. Some of the young kids are coming out for track for the first time. If we can get some points out of them, we should be good.”

Freshman Kaitlyn Ohrtman, who ran as an eighth-grader last year, is expected to do well in the 3,000.

“She’s coming off a good cross country season,” Sullivan said. “She’s a very good distance runner who is getting a lot more experience. With the crossover, it depends on the competition. She ran as fast as she had to. She probably can run 20-30 seconds faster.”

Ohrtman opened the season Monday by running 11 minutes 21.6 seconds to take first in the 3,000 at the first crossover meet at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood.

Senior Laura Lee, who was third in the 1,000 meters Monday in 3:16.14, is expected to be a key middle-distance runner.

Seniors Amanda Welischer and Ashlyn Vicari will run the 55 hurdles.

Another two seniors, Kylie Trettner and Kerri Madden, are the top two race walkers and Meghan Serdock will do the shot put. Trettner was the league champion in the race walk last season.

The Wildcats have a pair of eighth-graders running as well.

“Hopefully, if they can come through, that will help us out,” Sullivan said.