Riley lands Riverhead record in triple jump (39-3)

Bishop McGann-Mercy

BOHEMIA — To those people who know how uncomfortable it is to walk with a pebble in their shoe, imagine running with a piece of metal in your foot. Katie Skinner knows the feeling.

For several years, Skinner had been running in track and field with a piece of metal in her right foot, and she didn’t even know it. Skinner can laugh about it now, recognizing how amazing the story sounds.

It was during this past indoor season when Skinner, a Riverhead High School senior, felt such pain in her foot that she had it checked out and then underwent surgery. To her surprise, a large cyst, almost two centimeters long, containing the metal piece was removed.

“It was pretty big,” Skinner said. “I probably should have known there was something” in there. “It had been in there for three or four years, and I’ve been running on it all this time.”

How the metal got there is a bit of a mystery, although Skinner has a theory. She recalls walking in the ocean and stepping on something sharp, thinking at the time that it was a crab.

The operation cost Skinner the first month of this season and put her training well behind schedule. That is why Monday was an especially big day for Skinner in the Suffolk County Division Championships at Connetquot High School. It was a test for her to see how far she has come.

“I went into this meet really unsure of how I was going to run and how I was going to feel,” Skinner said. “I didn’t have a plan because I had zero idea of how it was going to go.”

Skinner, who was seeded fifth, passed with flying colors, winning the Division II 3,000 meters for the second straight year. She did so in a personal-best time of 10 minutes 37.54 seconds in her first 3,000-meter race since May 1.

Another Riverheader who successfully defended her division title was Melodee Riley in the triple jump. Riley turned in the best triple jump by a Suffolk girl this season at 39 feet 3 inches, breaking her own school record in the process. “That’s amazing,” the happy Riley said. Her previous school mark was 37-10 1/2.

Riverhead sophomore Maria Schafer finished in a three-way tie for third place in the pole vault at 8-6.

Mount Sinai, with victories by Janie Turek in the Division III 800 (2:17.45) and Brittany Callahan in the 3,000 (10:50.31), finished the first day of the championships with a meet-leading 43 points. The next nearest challenger was Longwood with 32 points. Riverhead was tied with Northport for seventh with 20. The meet was to conclude yesterday.

One of the things Skinner liked best about her performance was how she ran even though she didn’t feel well, having tired herself out the previous day at an amusement park. Warm, humid weather on Monday didn’t help, either.

“I didn’t feel a hundred percent,” Skinner said, “but I think that’s why I’m really happy with my time because I came down here and I didn’t feel so great, but I still ran a great time.”

That’s a good sign.

“I was wondering what she was going to do,” Riverhead Coach Maria Dounelis said. “But the fact that she won it doesn’t surprise me because Katie Skinner is such a determined kid and she wanted this so bad, and she worked for it. That’s really the bottom line.”

Riley was overjoyed with her record-setting triple jump, which followed what she described as a “horrible” showing in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. She said she was so angry with herself over how she did in the hurdles that it made her more determined in the triple jump, her favorite event.

Riley complained of tightness in her right hamstring and said her hip was hurting, but one triple jump helped take that pain away. “When I got 39 [feet], I was so happy,” she said. “Nothing else mattered.”

Riley anchored a 4×100-meter relay team that included Fatima Brown, Ellie Markewitz and Christy Brewer. They won their semifinal heat in 4:10.71 to qualify for yesterday’s final. Riverhead was trailing in second place for most of the race. Markewitz made up a lot of ground on her second leg, and then Riley took the lead on the final lap, turning in a 60-second split.

“I didn’t even want to run that, to tell you the truth,” she said after her full day. “I’m tired.”

Riverhead sophomore Juliana Marcucci clocked a personal-best time of 2:25.74 to finish eighth in the 800 meters, which Smithtown East eighth-grader Deirdre Connor won in 2:22.35. “I was just looking to go out there and run a faster time,” said Marcucci, who has been on the team since she was in eighth grade. “It’s never about winning. I’m always just trying to run faster and see what I can achieve.”