Riverhead finds strength in its diversity

Pat Burke, the new coach of the Riverhead Blue Waves girls cross country team, believes the real strength of his team lies in its diversity.

“We have strength in diversity,” he said. “This is a very together, cohesive group that looks out for each other. We want to be competitive, but we also want to have a good time. Cross country is fun. We want to let people know we show up. We feel ready.”

While the Blue Waves lost the talented Katie Skinner to graduation from last season’s team that finished 2-3 in Suffolk County League IV, this year’s team will be led by the one-two punch of co-captains in junior Juliana Marcucci and senior Alexa White.

Burke said Marcucci trains with the top seven runners on the boys’ team.

“Juliana is a mirror image of Rob Mullen on the boys’ team,” Burke said. “She has stepped up and initiates things. She says, ‘This is good or let’s change this.’ She is a natural leader. I am looking for great things from her this season.”

Burke said the other girls look up to White.

In addition to Marcucci and White, senior Sarah Governale and juniors Rachel Harrison-Smith and Rebecca Gray also return to provide additional veteran leadership. Burke called Harrison-Smith “a consistent runner, who just keeps getting better.”

A pair of promising newcomers to the team are sophomore Sam Baum and freshman Nina Schlosberg. Both runners could see plenty of action.

Burke is looking for his team to set personal records and to go after the league title.