SECTION XI INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIP STATE QUALIFIER
Dan Normoyle has a personal motto that he is ready to offer whenever he is asked how high he can pole vault. “The sky’s the limit,” he says.
It’s an apropos motto for a pole vaulter. Pole vaulters, after all, are a special breed. They are adventurous, courageous, often free-spirited, and they tend to not put limits on themselves as they soar to greater and greater heights.
They are dealing with a flukish event in which so many things can go wrong. But on Friday, so many things went right for Normoyle and his fellow Riverhead pole vaulters.
It was as simple — and impressive — as one, two, three.
Riverhead pole vaulters, led by Normoyle’s record-setting performance, swept the top three places in the Section XI individual championship state qualifier at Port Jefferson High School.
Normoyle, a senior, cleared 15 feet on his last attempt at that height, surpassing the school record of 14-9 that he set last week in the division championships. But that wasn’t the only notable element of the day’s proceedings. Riverhead junior Charles Villa took second place at 14-0, edging teammate Jonah Spaeth, a senior who also cleared that height, by a tiebreaker.
“Being able to say we took one, two, three in the county championships is really cool,” said Normoyle.
Normoyle cleared 14-6 on his first try, and that must have helped him toward the record, saving energy required for each attempt. He said he believed he could handle 15 feet. “That was the big thing,” he said. “I knew I could do it, so it definitely gave me the confidence to do it.”
Normoyle missed all three of his attempts at 15-5.
“Fifteen-five would have been nice,” said Normoyle, who qualified along with Villa for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships that will be held June 7 and 8 at Middletown High School.
The three Riverheaders were among the top four seeds in the meet, with Normoyle the favorite. A persuasive argument could be made that this is the golden era for Riverhead pole vaulting.
Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski thinks it is.
“I never heard of that [happening] in the pole vault, that the top three [places] are swept,” by one team, he said. “It’s not like it’s a bad year in the pole vault. It’s probably one of the better years in the pole vault in Suffolk County. So, to do it, they almost raised the bar for the whole county, these guys.”
Referring to the one, two, three finish, Riverhead’s pole vaulting coach, John Andresen, said, “It is almost unheard of.”
Smithtown West senior Karl Nilsen, who was obviously struggling with an ankle injury, was tied for fourth with Mount Sinai junior Charlie Kollmer at 13-6. After the three Riverheaders were the last ones still in the competition, Normoyle said he told a coach, “This might be history.”
It is the third time this season that Riverhead’s pole vault record was raised. Spaeth set a school record last year when he reached 14-6. Then, earlier this season, Normoyle and Villa both cleared 14-6, leaving a three-way tie for the school mark that lasted for about five minutes before Normoyle hit 14-9.
Spaeth, who went to the state meet last year, will miss out this year, but Normoyle and Villa will make their first appearances in the state competition.
“I always wanted it,” Villa said. “I get to go, finally, after all the years of dreaming of going to the states.”
UDVADIA GIVES SZYMANSKI A SCARE Shoreham-Wading River coach Bob Szymanski was kidding — or at least it sounded like he was kidding — when he said he thought he was going to need a defibrillator as he watched the thrilling finish to the 3,200-meter final.
Shoreham-Wading River junior Ryan Udvadia trailed Northport sophomore Mike Brannigan by about 25 meters with some 200 meters to go, and Szymanski appeared to be panicking, worrying that Udvadia had given Brannigan too much of a cushion.
Not so, though. The top-seeded Udvadia made up ground quickly, taking the lead for the first time while coming off the final turn and winning in 9 minutes 17.27 seconds.
Szymanski could do without that kind of drama.
“I have faith in him, but … it’s still scary,” the coach said. “The only thing I saw that was in our favor was the kid looked back over his shoulder. Someone heard Ryan was coming.”
Brannigan ended up in third place in 9:23.72. He was passed by a teammate, junior Tim McGowan (9:20.60), for second place.
Another Shoreham junior, Connor McAlary, was 10th in 10:01.37. Riverhead junior Travis Wooten came in 18th in 10:22.77.
Udvadia said he was nervous, but confident at the same time. He sensed Brannigan starting to slow down with 400 meters to go.
Known for his late kick. Udvadia had something left in the tank for the strong finish.
“It was painful and tough, but I got it,” said Udvadia, who is headed to his first outdoor state meet. “Even when I don’t think I have a kick, I do have a kick.”
An example was the Penn Relays earlier this season. Udvadia was seeded 14th in the 16-runner 1,600 race. He went from dead last to finish seventh in 4:15.64.
Udvadia said he took a glance at Szymanski during Friday’s race and knew his coach was stressed. “I saw the look on his face,” Udvadia said. “I could tell he was talking to himself.”
TRACK NOTES Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Israel Squires finished fourth in the long jump, covering 21-9.