PORT JEFFERSON STATION — The only opponent, it seemed, that could have defeated Riverhead’s Mike Smith was Saturday afternoon’s humidity.
His first throw in the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifying meet sailed 136 feet 4 inches. On the second throw, he fouled. Both times, he said, he was having trouble gripping the discus. It would slip out of his hands as he let go. That kept him from getting his full speed, strength and power behind it.
As Smith struggled to get a grip on the discus, some of his competition at Port Jefferson High School was outdistancing him. It got to the point that, as he stepped into the circle for his final throw, it was debatable as to whether Smith would advance to the finals. If Smith was wondering about what might happen, it did not show on his face, nor in his throw, which sailed 156-10.
“He doesn’t crack under pressure,” Riverhead’s throwing coach, Jeff Blum, said. “He accepts pressure and embraces it. I think it’s an exceptional athlete who takes that kind of advantage of things.”
Smith easily won the county discus title as his first throw in the finals sailed 157-4. It marked his second county title in as many days.
Riverhead Coach Steve Gevinski said he did not think another Riverheader had ever won county titles in both the shot put and discus.
“I don’t know what to say,” the usually loquacious Smith said of the accomplishment.
He added that he was not certain he would get the discus title. He thought Andrew Bylicki of Deer Park or Amityville’s Christopher Allen, who had the day’s second-best throw of 150-10 on his final preliminary throw, could catch him.
Smith’s stiffest competition, Shaun Blackman of North Babylon, who came within three feet of Smith at last week’s division championships, failed to qualify for the finals.
“Once I threw 157, I was like: ‘OK, now I feel like I’m good,’ ” Smith said. “Now I want to further that, but the last release wasn’t high enough.”
Smith’s third throw of the finals landed at 149-9.
Though he said that his coaches were pleased with his performance, Smith was not as happy, having thrown 157-4. He thinks he can throw the discus farther, just as he believes he can throw the shot put farther than the 57-10 1/4 that won him the county shot put title on Friday.
Smith wants the state shot put record, which he estimates would take a throw of 65 feet. That is his goal when he heads to the state meet in Vestal next weekend. That kind of accomplishment, Smith added, would shock people.
But it would not shock his coaches. As Smith warmed up before the event started on Friday, he launched a throw of 64 feet. On his last throw in the finals, he did it again. The only problem was he stepped over the kickboard.
“In the shot, I use a lot more power than speed,” Smith said. “That’s why it’s so hard for me to get those good throws and stay in instead of foul. I tend to put too much power and over jump the kickboard, and that’s not good.”
On Saturday afternoon, Smith stated that he knew what he needed to do to get the results he wants next weekend. And he is determined to get them.
Smith will be the only one headed to the state meet from the Riverhead boys track and field team. Gevinski had hoped pole vaulter Sasha Schafer would join him, but Schafer sprained his right ankle the day before the division championships started.
To protect his ankle, Schafer selected a different pole than he would normally use and took a shorter approach. That worked in clearing 12-6 on his final attempt. When it came time to attempt 13-0, Schafer brought out his regular pole and retreated to his accustomed spot on the runway. But three straight times he stopped himself short of the pit. After the final halt, he went back to his short approach. It did not work. The ankle, Gevinski said, brought Schafer’s high school track career to an end a week ahead of schedule.
“That’s the only thing that [stunk] about today,” Gevinski said after the pole vault ended on Friday.
Gevinski was also hoping that Ryan Budd and Treval Hatcher could find some luck and qualify for the state meet. But Budd’s 56.28 seconds in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles was only good enough for sixth place. Hatcher’s 45-7 1/2 was good enough for seventh place in the triple jump.
Bishop McGann-Mercy sent its 4 x 800-meter relay team to Saturday’s event on the strength of a season-best time of 9:12.96 at last week’s division championships. Matthew Stetler, Patrick Derenze, Sean Cappiello and Matt Di Landro finished 17th out of 18 teams with a time of 9:22.65.
“They ran hard,” Monarchs Coach Matt Perry said. “It was a fast race. It will get them ready for next season.”