Tears of joy shed by Riverhead’s Budd

PORT JEFFERSON STATION — The answer to Riverhead Coach Maria Dounelis’ question would leave high jumper Alexandra Budd with tears in her eyes no matter the answer. What, Dounelis asked, was the state qualifying standard for the high jump? Was it 5 feet 3 inches or 5-2?

Budd had cleared 5-2 on day two of the Section XI Individual Championships state qualifying meet Saturday at Port Jefferson High School, but grazed the bar on her last attempt at 5-3, just enough to knock it to the ground.

The meet director, Tony Toro, told Dounelis that the qualifying height was 5-2 and she could finally, officially and unequivocally, deliver the good news. So, despite finishing second to Smithtown East’s Cara Hallahan, who cleared 5-4, Budd will be joining her teammate, triple jumper Melodee Riley, on a bus to next weekend’s state meet in Vestal.

“This is the kind of kid that you want to see something like this happen to because she’s worked hard, and she’s had no luck, and she’s entitled to have a good day,” Dounelis said of Budd.

Budd had experienced nothing but bad luck and coming up short since failing to qualify for the winter track state meet in March, Dounelis said. It was time, she added, that Budd caught a break.

“I never imagined it,” Budd said. “My goal was to be all-county. I’m so thrilled.”

Budd entered the event seeded 11th, her best jump of the season being 5-1.

Joining her in Vestal will be Riley, who won the county championship in the triple jump, leaping 38-6 1/2. Riley set the standard on her first jump in the finals at 38-3 1/2. But her main competition, Bay Shore’s Imani McGhee, came back on her second jump with a leap of 38-4 3/4. Not to be outdone, Riley answered with a 38-6 1/2. And when McGhee fouled on her final attempt, the title was Riley’s.

“I think I could do better,” Riley said. “But I did what I could do today.”

She said her aim next week is to hit 40 feet. Dounelis said Riley has done that in practice, and could well accomplish the feat in a meet. Riley’s personal best came at last week’s division championships, when she hit 39-3.

“It’s exciting,” Dounelis said. “She’s got an opportunity. I know she’s got a big jump still left in her. We’ll see what happens.”

An opportunity is all one can ask for, said Bishop McGann-Mercy Coach Tricia Nunez.

“Anything can happen,” she said. “That’s the exciting part of the relay and the heartbreaking part as well.”

On Saturday, it was beyond excitement for the Monarchs’ 4 x 400-meter relay team. Sasha Vann, Tori Cataldo, Kayleigh Macchirole and Olivia Schumann were ecstatic. For the second straight year, they broke the school record. Last year, they qualified for the state meet with a time of 4 minutes 1.43 seconds. This year they broke their previous record, broke four minutes for the first time and with those accomplishments, will be headed to Vestal.

“I thought [the clock] said four minutes point something,” Schumann said.

She was the anchor, running her leg of the race in one minute flat. Then she turned to look back at the clock, as did her teammates. When they saw the result, a fourth-place finish overall, and first place in Division II, at 3:58.87, they hugged each other and howled with joy.

A day earlier they had run the sixth-best qualifying time, 4:06.43.

“I think we were scared [Bayport-Blue Point] was going to beat us,” said Vann, who ran the second leg in a team-best 58.43. The Phantoms finished more than 10 seconds behind the Monarchs.

On a day that started with a public-address announcement advising competitors to hydrate every 15 minutes, the Monarchs, Schumann said, embraced the heat and humidity.

So did Mattituck’s Emily Ianno, who won the Division II girls pentathlon, finishing with 2,147 points. After winning the title at last week’s division championships, Ianno said she thought she could do it again.

Ianno started the competition on Friday afternoon by turning in a personal best in the 100-meter high hurdles, 17.16. However, her main competition, Bailey Walker of Bayport-Blue Point, ran it in 16.98, and Ianno knew her work would be cut out for her.

“I was kind of nervous,” Ianno said. “This isn’t looking too good.”

But her coach, Jean Mahoney, was not as concerned. “She’s just a good all-around athlete,” Mahoney said on Friday.

And Ianno proved that to be true. By her count, she set personal bests in four of the pentathlon’s five events — the 100-meter high hurdles, high jump, long jump and shot put. That was more than enough to defeat Walker and send Ianno to Vestal.

“I don’t do well in heat,” Ianno said. “But for some reason during the track season I haven’t been doing too bad in the heat.”

One athlete who saw her high school career come to an end on Saturday afternoon was Riverhead’s Katie Skinner, who finished fourth in Friday’s 3,000-meter event in 10:40.74. On Saturday, she finished fifth in the 1,500 at 4:58.23.

Dounelis said Skinner took a couple elbow shots to the ribs on Friday and was still feeling the effects on Saturday. Like she did in the 3,000, Skinner cramped up in the 1,500. As the race progressed, she fell further and further behind the lead pack.

“You could see it in her face,” Dounelis said. “She was grimacing. But you know what? Not many people could do what she did this season.”

Skinner underwent foot surgery shortly before the spring season started and missed the first half of the season. Though she was seeded high enough in both events to enter the state qualifiers, she came up just slightly short.

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