GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD PREVIEW: Can you improve on a 7-0 season? Monarchs will try

ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | Olivia Schumann remains a key runner for Bishop McGann-Mercy, which went 7-0 last year.

After winning the Suffolk County League VII championship last year, the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School Diocesan girls track and field team is aiming to repeat its performance and then some.

“We’re hoping to do better,” Coach Tricia Nunez said.

Do better? The Monarch finished at a perfect 7-0 and duplicating that would be just fine with the coach, although Nunez expects some individual improvement.

“That would be great,” she said. “We would love that. We definitely have a talented group of athletes. We’re hopeful and confident.

“They’re very committed and work hard. With a team like that, the possibilities are endless.”

Indeed they are.

The Monarchs are sparked by several exceptional athletes, including three talented seniors who can compete as sprinters or in the jumping events.

Olivia Schumann is coming off a winter season in which she won the county 300-meter title and was part of Section XI’s state champion medley relay team.

Kayleigh Macchirole and Lauren Woodhull also bring quality and versatility to whatever sprinting or jumping events they compete in.

Nunez said Macchirole is “one of those athletes who can do anything well.”

Junior Sasa Vann was one of the top five sprinters in the county last spring.

One of the most promising athletes is sophomore Cassidy Lessard, a former softball player who is slated to run long-distance races.

“She has a huge amount of potential she doesn’t realize she has,” Nunez said.

As for the rest of the youngsters, Nunez will get an opportunity to see how they handle the pressure of a dual meet when they host Center Moriches on March 31.

“It will be exciting to see them competing for the first time and see where they fit in,” she said. “That’s the beauty of track. There’s an event for everyone.”

Riverhead Coach Maria Dounelis knows the difference between winning and losing can be as simple as teamwork. Last year the Blue Waves (4-2) were hurt by their relay teams. “Every one of our losses came down to a relay,” she said. “It was tough. We had a nice core of kids. We could not complete our relays.”

If the Blue Waves can accomplish that this season, there could be a marked difference in their performance in League III because they certainly have the talent.

Junior Melodee Riley, the county champion in the triple jump, leads the way. She also can compete in the long jump, 400 intermediate hurdles and 4×100 relay team. She is joined by two other talent juniors — Tyesha Harrel (100, 300, triple jump, 4×100 relay) and Fatima Brown (long jump, 400 intermediate hurdles).

“We’ve got a good base of young jumpers and sprinters,” Dounelis said.

Dounelis is hoping for a healthy senior Wynisha Hatcher to sparkle in the high jump, triple jump and 400. Hatcher was moved up to the varsity as an eighth grader, but endured injury problems the last two seasons.

Freshman Kyra Braunskill, who was also brought up as an eighth grader, is looking to compete in the 100, 200, long jump and relays. “We’re looking to throw her into the fire,” Dounelis said. “We have a couple of young kids who could do really well this year.”

Juniors Kerrysha Pittman and Rebecca Kerr-Smith will handle the spot put and discus. The pole vaulters are seniors Alex Ingram and Katie Ehlers.

The top middle- and long-distance runners include freshman Rachel Conti (800), senior Sarah Governale (800, 1,500) and Rachel Harrison-Smith (1,500, 3,000) while Destiney McElroy and sophomore Denise Braunskill are expected to compete in the hurdles.

“We need to develop the middle distance and upper distance program,” Dounelis said.

The Blue Waves will compete in a developmental invitational in Bay Shore on Saturday and then open up their league schedule at Bellport on March 29.

Before the start of the outdoor track and field season, every team needs at least one dress rehearsal.

“You got to have a scrimmage,” said Shoreham-Wading River Coach Paul Koretzki. “No matter how chaotic it is, you still got to get on the track and figure out where you’re going.”

The Wildcats are set to scrimmage against a familiar rival Thursday in Mount Sinai. The Wildcats and Mustangs have battled for the League VI crown over the last several years, but Shoreham bumped up a league this year due to an increase in enrollment.

Following their scrimmage, the Wildcats will open up the League V season March 30 against one of the top teams, Sayville, in what could be the deciding meet for the league title right off the bat.

The Wildcats bring back nearly all their top athletes from the winter season after they finished second in the indoor league championship and fourth in the small school county championship.

Back for the Wildcats are their two all-state finishers from the winter in senior Danielle Opatovsky and junior Shannon McDonnell. Opatovsky was the state and national champion in the race walk. She’ll continue in the walk in addition to running the 1,500 and relays. McDonnell will run anywhere from the 100 to 800.

Junior Audrey Kelly will the run the 1,500 and 3,000. Senior Mackenzie Pendergast, who was third in the 55 hurdles at the small school championship, will continue with the 100 hurdles.

Sarah Franck, a basketball player in the winter, will run the 3,000 along with eighth grader Rose Andrews. Senior Rebecca Troyano will compete in the triple jump and Cari Gostic will do the long jump.

Seniors Samantha Maier and Shannon Gallagher both throw the shot put. Freshmen Hannah Miller and Krista Braaten will both run sprints.

Joe Werkmeister contributed to this article.