Track & Field: Victory clears path for Riverhead

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Riverhead junior Rachel Conti (left) crossed a step ahead of sophomore Maria Dillingham in the 3,000 Monday against Hills West.


There were no happier girls on the Riverhead track team Monday afternoon than Rachel Conti and Maria Dillingham.

Before the start of the relays against Half Hollow Hills West — the final three events of the League IV dual meet — the coaches for both teams conferred to determine the score. When the points were tallied, the Blue Waves realized they had enough points to clinch the victory without needing to win any relays.

That meant a chance for Conti, a junior, and Dillingham, a sophomore, to catch their breath.

The duo had already combined to a run a total of 10,600 meters in the two-hour meet. They went first and second in the 1,500, 800 and 3,000 — the three longest individual events of a dual meet not including the race walk.

“I was honestly ecstatic,” Dillingham said of learning she didn’t have to run a relay. “This is the only time we haven’t had to run a relay. After running the longest events, it was so tiring.”

“I don’t think we’ve ever been so relieved,” Conti added. “Today was a hard day for sure.”

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Kyra Braunskill won three events, including the long jump, Monday to help the Blue Waves to a critical dual meet victory over Hills West.

If the meet hadn’t been locked up, Riverhead coach Maria Dounelis would have needed Conti and Dillingham in the 4 x 800 relay. But a first-place victory in the long jump by Kyra Braunskill gave the Blue Waves (2-0) enough points to hang on for a 77-73 victory in a huge early season dual meet.

Hills West (1-1) was expected to be the Riverhead’s toughest competition in league. The Blue Waves’ victory at Riverhead High School on the first warm day of spring put them in the driver’s seat for the dual meet title.

“We all came out hungry for it,” said Braunskill, who had a big day with three individual victories.

While Conti and Dillingham took care of the distance events, Braunskill dominated in the jumping events plus sprints. She won the triple jump (37 feet 1/2 inch), the long jump (16-9 1/4) and the 100 dash (12.4 seconds). In the 200 she finished second by the slimmest of margins. She crossed in 26.4, a tenth of a second behind Hills West.

An all-state triple jumper last year, Braunskill has expanded her game this year by starting to do the long jump and 200. It’s been a learning process early on in the season.

“I’m not so sure as to how to run the 200 as I’m sure of how to run the 100,” she said. “So I wing it. But I was satisfied with my time in the 200 as far as someone who doesn’t do it.”

The jumping events are her speciality and Braunskill said she hopes to develop into a state qualifier in the long jump.

“I’m hungry for it and I’m going to do it,” she said.

The Blue Waves needed  a big jump for Braunskill in the long to lock up the meet and she delivered the 16-9 1/4 on her second attempt. Hills West took second and third in the event.

Conti and Dillingham began their afternoon by running stride for stride in the 1,500 to cross in 5:25 for first place. They followed that with a victory in the 800. Conti was first in 2:33.5 and Dillingham was second in 2:33.7.

There wasn’t much of a break before they stepped back on the track for the 3,000. The good news was they didn’t have to run at a high pace. The race more resembled a casual jog than competition. Conti and Dillingham hung with the pack before making their move on the final lap to surge into first.

“It was like a cool down except for in the end,” Dillingham said. “We all had to sprint it out.”

Hills West did most of its damage in the field events. The Colts swept the shot put, went first/third in the discus and first/third in the high jump.

The Blue Waves got a first-place finish in the 400 hurdles from Destiny McElroy, who ran 1:08.6. Also taking first for Riverhead was Nina Schlosberg in the 1,500 race walk. The Blue Waves swept the event with Denise Brunskill second and Isabella Marcucci third. Brunskill was also second in the 100 hurdles in 18.0. McElroy was third in 18.5. She was also third in the 400 in 1:01.3.

In the pole vault the Blue Waves grabbed first and second with Danielle Thomas and Christy Brewer both clearing 8-6.

The Blue Waves got a surprise second-place finish in the discus from Rashae Smith, who threw 91-2 1/2 in her first competition. Rachel Clement cleared 4-10 in the high jump for second.

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