Bad breaks, some mistakes are costly against East Islip

ISLIP TERRACE — Heading into the final three relay events, Riverhead trailed by 71-64. The Blue Waves would need to win all three relays in order to win its dual track and field meet against East Islip at East Islip High School last Thursday afternoon.

In the second leg of the 4 x 100-meter relay, Kyra Carter gave Riverhead a sizable lead, and Ellie Markewitz managed to hold most of it on the third leg. But then Markewitz and Tyesha Harrell botched the baton exchange. By the time Harrell had the baton in hand, she was out of the handoff zone. Riverhead was disqualified, and with that, East Islip took the race and won the Suffolk County League III meet by a final score of 81-69. The result evened East Islip’s league record at 1-1.

It was not a meet the Redmen’s coaching staff expected to win. Before the meet, East Islip’s assistant coach, Steve Brown, noted the Blue Waves’ close 75-70 loss to North Babylon in their season opener. East Islip, he said, did not have a deep enough team to compete with North Babylon at that level, and was probably not going to beat Riverhead, either.

“We’re a little weak,” East Islip Coach Jim Marino said, noting his team’s youth.

Had the Blue Waves held on to win the 4 x 100 they could well have expected the win the meet’s final two events, the 4 x 400 and the 4 x 800 relays. Sophomore Julianna Marcucci was set to run the first leg of the 4 x 400 and anchor the 4 x 800. She had already won two races earlier in the afternoon, kicking past her opponents in both the 800 and 1,500.

In the 800, Marcucci let East Islip’s Lexi Francisco take an early lead in the first backstretch, but pulled to within a step of Francisco as they started the second lap. In the middle of the second backstretch, Marcucci made her move. She pulled away easily and won the race in 2 minutes 31.2 seconds, nearly 12 seconds ahead of Francisco.

Watching Marcucci cruise to the win, Riverhead Coach Maria Dounelis said: “She’s running so smart and so efficiently. It’s a pleasure to watch.”

Marcucci had a lot more ground to make up in the final lap of the 1,500. In the final backstretch it looked as though she would have to settle for second place. But coming into the final turn, Marcucci accelerated, catching East Islip’s Quinn Favilla about 50 meters from the finish line. Marcucci’s time of 5:09.5 was good enough to beat Favilla by two seconds.

“It’s almost like she does it gracefully, like there’s no energy being exerted, like there’s nothing to it,” Dounelis said.

But almost outdoing Marcucci was her teammate Melodee Riley, whose 1:00.6 in the 400-meter dash beat East Islip’s Kristin Vogel by 3.2 seconds. Riley also won the triple jump by more than two feet, leaping 34 feet 11 3/4 inches, as well as the long jump, posting 16-8 1/2. That was perhaps her most impressive feat as Riley did not compete in the long jump last year.

“We said, ‘Hey, she can triple jump, let’s put her in long jump,’ ” Dounelis said. “And her first day out there, she did 16 [feet].”

But the 25 points put up by Marcucci and Riley were not enough to overcome some bad breaks for the Blue Waves. They lost both the high jump and pole vault because they ended up with more misses cumulatively than the Redmen in both events.

Riverhead also missed out on what could have been another three points in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. Fatima Brown won the event in 1:17.1, and a quarter of the way into her heat, Alexandra Budd looked as though she would either match or beat Brown’s time. But her timing was off as she approached the fourth hurdle. She took two stutter steps before sidestepping the hurdle, and was disqualified.

Riverhead’s record dropped to 0-3 with a 78-67 loss to West Islip on Monday.

“We’re in a tough league,” Dounelis said. “I think what it just comes down to with us is, unfortunately, we’re just not deep enough.”

Last Thursday, a lack of team depth, along with some bad breaks, proved to be Riverhead’s undoing.

Said Steve Brown, “It turned out different than I thought.”

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