Track & Field: Riverhead pole vaulter enters season as favorite in county

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead junior Charles Villa enters this season as the favorite in the county for the pole vault.

The three Amigos are down to one.

Last year, the Riverhead boys track team had a pole-vaulting group for the ages. Three pole vaulters were all among the top in the county, each with the potential to clear the highest height at any particular meet.

Now, with two of those vaulters in college, it’s junior Charles Villa who’s left to carry the torch this year as the winter season begins.

Villa comes into the season off a tremendous spring season at the end of last year. He cleared 14 feet at the state qualifier to earn a trip to states along with teammate Dan Normoyle.

“It is a little strange,” coach Sal Loverde said of having the other two pole vaulters no longer around. “What’s really nice about it is, he’s really accepting that independence in a sense of leadership and really cultivating some young talent. We’ve got some young kids that are very, very motivated and interested in pole vaulting. He’s starting to lay that hook in them.”

Pole vaulting is not an event that’s contested at the crossover meets during the winter season, but Villa will still be working toward the end of the season and the state qualifier.

Villa enters the season as the favorite to earn a trip to the state championship.

Loverde said Villa is already clearing big heights.

“He’s rocking and rolling,” Loverde said. “He’s looking very, very solid.”

The Blue Waves return a deep team all-around, including one of the strongest running cores that Loverde said the school has ever had. Coming off a league championship season in cross country, runners have taken the next step into winter track.

“We have a lot of kids that are really building and moving toward being very point-scoring competitive,” Loverde said.

Travis Wooten, Ryan DiResta, Joseph Gattusso and Eric and Nick Cunha will all make up the distance core for Riverhead.

Loverde said he’s excited in the potential of some of the younger runners as well.

The distance core gives the Blue Waves the chance to run a competitive 4 x 800 relay team, something the team hasn’t had in recent years. The 4 x 400 team should also be strong this year, with a chance to break the school record, Loverde said.

Senior Marcus Moore returns in the triple jump after placing second in the league championship last year. Loverde said Moore is already jumping around 43 feet at the start of the season. He jumped 39-10 at last year’s league championship.

Sophomore Curtis Flippen returns in the jumping events as well. Loverde said Flippen has the potential to clear 6-2 or 6-4 in the high jump this season.

Junior Andrew Smith returns in the sprints and hurdles.

“I think that he’s going to surprise a lot of people and have a very solid season in the hurdles,” Loverde said. “He’ll be competing to a county level, no question.”

Junior Jacob Robinson returns as sprinter as well who can also compete in some jumping events.

The ongoing construction at Riverhead will make it difficult for the Blue Waves to practice indoors at times if the weather is poor.

“It limits our versatility in terms of inside workouts, so we’re going to be outside with snow shovels if we have to,” Loverde said.

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