At the famed Armory Track in New York — home to some of the biggest events in track and field — the Riverhead Blue Waves always congregate in one particular area during a meet. It’s on the balcony, directly in front of the pole vault pit for an eye-level view of the vaulters as they ascend to their apex.
“We get to see them literally at the level of the bar,” said Riverhead girls coach Justin Cobis.
On Saturday at the prestigious Molloy Stanner Games, there was no better place to be for Riverhead.
Three Riverhead pole vaulters posted personal bests, led by senior Jonah Spaeth, who set the school indoor record with a top mark of 14 feet 6 inches. Spaeth finished second while junior Charles Villa and senior Dan Normoyle tied for fifth with personal-best marks of 13-4.
Spaeth topped his previous best of 13-6, but was hardly thrilled at the accomplishment three days later after practice.
“I got back to where I was last year, so I definitely have wanted to do that for a while,” Spaeth said.
At last year’s state championship in the spring, Spaeth cleared 14-6 to finish fifth overall.
Spaeth is currently the top pole vaulter on Long Island, Cobis said. Normoyle and Villa are both among the top five in the county.
“They’re only looking to get better,” Cobis said. “A lot of the guys are actually frustrated with those heights. That says they expect great things from themselves.”
Spaeth has his sights set on 15-6, a height he said he cleared during the summer while training at a camp.
“That would be great,” he said.
The Armory has always been a favorite venue for runners. The track surface allows runners to wear spikes, giving them better speed. And the curved track around the bends leads to faster speeds.
For pole vaulters, the venue is a personal favorite as well.
“It’s a fast track,” Normoyle said.
“There’s a lot of people, too,” Spaeth added.
The pole vaulters at Riverhead all train together and use similar styles of vaulting. Working with each other only makes them better.
“Having other people helps us,” Spaeth said. “Confidence and motivation for each other.”
The pole vaulters weren’t the only ones with a record day Saturday. Senior Anthony Galvan broke his own school record in the 1,600 meters when he ran 4 minutes 38.06 seconds to finish 21st overall in the varsity race.
“He’s going to break 4:30 by the end of the season, which is a huge goal,” Cobis said. “Right now he’s already one of the top-25 milers in the county and that’s some exclusive company to be in because there are some great, great runners in Suffolk County.”
Other top finishes for the boys included Andrew Smith running 8.74 seconds in the 55-meter hurdles to finish third in the sophomore race. Jacob Robinson ran 7.2 to finish 13th in the sophomore race of the 55-meter dash. Clifton Russell jumped 18-9 3/4 in the long jump for 21st overall.
For the girls, sophomore Maria Dillingham ran 1:47.11 in the 600 for 26th overall. It was her personal best of the season. “She’ll only get faster,” Cobis said. Sophomore Amanda Dickerson ran 1:53.9 in the 600 and freshman Megan Van Bommel ran 1:54.2.
Junior Danielle Thomas cleared a personal-best height of 8-0 in the pole vault.
“She’s been working just as hard as those guys,” Cobis said. “She’s with them every day and night at those practices.”
Cobis said volunteer coach John Andresen has been instrumental in helping the pole vaulters.
For Shoreham-Wading River, junior Ryan Udvadia had a big day, finishing second in the 3,200 in 9:22.26. Udvadia, the cross-country runner of the year during the fall, has the top time in the 3,200 in Suffolk County.
Sophomore Jordan Wright placed sixth in the 55 meters in 6.76. In the 1,000, sophomore Matt Gladysz ran 2:47.08 for 39th. Junior Keith Steinbrecher was 36th in the 1,600 in 4:44.06.
For the girls, senior Laura Lee ran 1:42.12 in the 600 for 10th overall. Freshman Kaitlyn Ohrtman was 16th overall in the 1,600 in 5:29.99. Eighth-grader Alexandra Hays ran 5:47.86 to place 38th.