Boys Track & Field Preview: Questions remain for Riverhead

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | From left, Travis Wooten, Anthony Galvan and Joe Gattreso led Riverhead on a run at practice.

It usually only takes a week into the high school boys track and field season before Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski can map out which events suit each athlete best. So much so, he can practically predict the scores of each dual meet before the team ever steps onto the track.

“This is one of the first years that there are so many unanswered questions,” Gevinski said. “I have some kids battling injuries, a lot of inexperience.”

He may not have all the answers yet, but he found a silver lining.

“One thing I love about this team is we’re going to get a lot better as the year goes on,” he said.

It doesn’t help that the Blue Waves open their season unusually early and against the best team in the league. The Blue Waves will travel to Half Hollow Hills West on Wednesday to kick off the league season.

It will be a tough challenge early on, especially as the Blue Waves try to fit all the pieces in place.

“You almost wish you could have caught these guys at the end of the year when a lot of these questions are answered and we’re in more of a rhythm,” Gevinski said.

One question the Blue Waves won’t have to answer is who will be pole vaulting. Riverhead features a dynamite trio in the pole vault, an event they can likely sweep in every dual meet. The three vaulters — seniors Dan Normoyle, Jonah Spaeth and junior Charles Villa — are all coming off a superb indoor season. Normoyle set the school record Friday at the New Balance Indoor Nationals, clearing 15 feet 3 1/2 inches.

Gevinski knew it was going to be a big year for the trio when he would see them practicing on their own during the fall while he coached the football team.

“They’d be on their own researching stuff off the Internet and running drills out on the track while I’m at football practice,” he said. “I’m like, these guys aren’t messing around.”

Spaeth was an all-state vaulter during the spring last season.

Gevinski said all three vaulters are “booming with confidence” coming into the spring.

“If you’re going with any bad thoughts in your head [during a jump], something’s going to go wrong with it,” Gevinski said.

The Blue Waves should be strong in the jumps and sprints as well. Senior Jeff Pittman returns to run the 100 and 200 meters. Last year he won the division title in the 200. Pittman can also long jump or triple jump, as well as run relays.

Pittman never got fully on track during the indoor season after an ankle injury in the fall while playing football. Gevinski said he may limit Pittman’s jumping and have him focus more on the sprints.

In running events, the Blue Waves return senior Anthony Galvan and junior Travis Wooten. Galvan will likely lean toward the middle distances like the 800 while Wooten can run the 3,200.

Junior Clifton Russel is a versatile athlete who is battling some injuries to start the season. Last year he competed in the pentathlon at the division meet. He will run the hurdles, relays and do some long jumping this year.

Junior Marcus Moore is a strong triple jumper. Junior Davion Porter is a high jumper who has cleared 6 feet. Both of them may also run in the 400 or 800. Junior Daren Jefferson can run both the 110-meter high hurdles and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. Jefferson is also dealing with some injuries to start the season.

The weaker areas to start the season are in the throws and middle distances, Gevinski said.

“We have some young kids that I think will be good, but how good right away, that remains to be seen,” he said.

Shoreham-Wading River junior Ryan Udvadia will look to build off superb indoor and cross-country seasons. A state qualifier in two events during the winter, Udvadia will lead the Wildcats in the long-distance events once again.

After a grueling indoor season, Udvadia has taken some time to recoup at the beginning of the spring.

“He’s wiped,” said Shoreham coach Bob Szymanski, who returned for the spring season after working in a reduced role last spring as an assistant.

Junior Jordan Wright will run the sprints. He recently set the school record in the 55-meter dash at 6.41 seconds during the indoor season. Another versatile athlete is sophomore Isreal Squires, who can run sprints, middle distance and do jumping events.

Junior Keith Steinbrecher, the division champion in the steeplechase last year, returns. Sophomore Matt Gladysz returns as an 800 runner. Junior Matt Leunig will run the hurdles. In the throwing events, the Wildcats feature senior Kyle Fleming. He will throw the discus and the shot put.

The Wildcats are seeded second in their league behind Bayport-Blue Point, the team that knocked them off in the dual meets last season. The two teams will square off in the final dual meet of the season this year when the league title may be on the line.

Bishop McGann-Mercy struggled during the indoor season and will look to improve during the spring. The Monarchs scored only 2 points at the division meet last spring and those came in the 800 from Matt Abazis. The Monarchs, though, were without Abazis during the indoor season this year as he chose to play basketball.

Senior Patrick Derenze, who had a strong showing in the steeplechase last year, returns. He can run middle distances as well. Junior Luis Cintron is a strong hurdler.

McGann-Mercy will open the dual-meet season on April 2 against Mattituck.

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