Boys Winter Track: Top Riverhead pole vaulter injures ankle

Riverhead junior Jacob Robinson clocked a personal-record time of 37.10 seconds to finish seventh in the 300-meter dash at the Long Island Elite Track Invitational. (Robert O'Rourk photo)
Riverhead junior Jacob Robinson clocked a personal-record time of 37.10 seconds to finish seventh in the 300-meter dash at the Long Island Elite Track Invitational. (Robert O’Rourk photo)


Charles Villa, the standout Riverhead High School pole vaulter who thrills spectators by rising to greater and greater heights, made hearts sink on Friday. And it had nothing to do with his performance.

Villa, a senior preparing for his first state indoor track and field meet, saw his day come to an unexpectedly early end. While doing a so-called “short-step warmup” before the pole vaulting competition began in the Long Island Elite Track Invitational at St. Anthony’s High School, Villa’s left ankle landed awkwardly in an opening in the mat and he went down in pain.

“He was running slowly,” Riverhead’s pole vault coach, John Andresen, said. “He went up in the air and he came down but his foot got caught between two sections of the mat. It just was a freak accident.”

Not long after his fall, while laying on a trainer’s table with his elevated ankle taped and wrapped in ice, Villa told a reporter he apparently suffered a second-degree sprain.

The reigning Section XI champion sounded upbeat and optimistic, however, about making a recovery in time to compete in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships that will be held March 1 at Cornell University in Ithaca.

“I should be jumping for the states,” he said. “That’s the good news.”

The injury could jeopardize Villa’s appearance in the state meet, though.

Andresen said Villa’s ankle “began to swell immediately, which actually means that blood was filling it up, so, he ripped something. It might have been a ligament. It will be a day-by-day, but you have to be really in top form if you want to compete at the state” meet.

Villa said the injury was “very painful,” but after inclining it, icing it and resting it, it felt a lot better. “I just got to give it rest, that’s the best medicine,” he said. “I’ll be taping up my ankle and wearing ankle braces for the next four to six weeks because I did damage my ligament.”

Ankle injuries are nothing new to Villa, who was later wearing a compression wrap on his left ankle. As a freshman he broke his right ankle during an outdoor state qualifying meet. When he was a sophomore, he sprained both ankles.

“Both of my ankles are really weak,” he said. “So, I sprained it once again. I sprain my ankles all the time. It just [stinks].”

When the pole vaulting warmups began, Riverhead coach Sal Loverde was looking for Villa and couldn’t see him. Then someone caught the coach’s attention and pointed toward the trainer’s table where Villa was.

“That was, without question, the last thing I wanted to see today,” said Loverde.

Loverde said Villa represents Riverhead in a commendable fashion, “but more importantly, he’s an extremely dedicated kid. He breaks his tail every day.”

Last winter Villa narrowly missed out on qualifying for the state meet.

With Villa injured, Mount Sinai senior Charlie Kollmer came in first place Friday with a height of 14 feet, the same height Villa cleared to take the top spot in the recent Section XI Championships.

The bilingual Villa, who was born in Argentina and moved to the United States when he was 5 years old, sounded strikingly upbeat.

“I can’t do anything about it so the best thing for me to do is to stay positive,” he explained. “Yes, I got hurt. It [stinks], but I just got to look ahead and think about the positive things, and if you just think about the positive things, positive things will come back to you.”

Villa, described by his coaches as a student of the event, has emerged as one of the top pole vaulters around.

“He’s one of the top three vaulters in New York State,” Andresen said. “Not today, though.”

PORTER HIGH JUMPS 6-2 Davion Porter’s showing in the high jump was good news for the Blue Waves. The Riverhead senior cleared 6 feet 2 inches on his third and final attempt at that height, bringing him fourth place and a personal record. His previous best height was 6-1. Shoreham-Wading River senior Maxwell Maritato was sixth at 5-10.

Porter, who iced his left knee between jumps, handled heights of 5-8, 5-10, 6-0 and 6-1 before taking on 6-2. After making that third attempt at 6-2, Porter quickly bounced off the mat just in case the bar decided to fall down.

“Good day. Good day,” said Porter, who was sixth in this meet last year at 5-10.

Another Riverheader, Jacob Robinson, prepared for the upcoming state meet by taking seventh place in the 300-meter dash in 37.10 seconds. The junior won his heat in the fastest time he had ever run by 1/100th of a second.

And yet, Robinson was disappointed. He was hoping to break the school record of 36.24.

“I’m not too proud of it,” he said. “My goal was really to break the school record.”

Riverhead coach Sal Loverde had some advice for Robinson before the race.

“He told me to get out hard and I tried to listen to him but I just didn’t have anything in the tank,” Robinson said. “Sometimes you don’t have it.”

Also competing for Riverhead were sophomore Curtis Flippen (ninth place in the long jump at 20-6), senior Marcus Moore (ninth in the triple jump at 41-11) and junior Troy Trent (18th in the shot put at 41-2).

In the frosh/soph 300, Bishop McGann-Mercy sophomore Dale Kelly came in third in 38.90.

The track facility at St. Anthony’s is one of Suffolk County’s finest. It resembles an aircraft hanger, a real nice one. The caliber of the competition on Friday was worthy of the venue.

“In a championship meet it should be championship quality,” Loverde said, “and this is definitely championship quality.”

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