REDMEN 72, BLUE WAVES 64
As Davion Porter crossed the finish line, an agonizing split second shy of victory, the Riverhead senior collapsed onto the track at East Islip High School. All around him, members of East Islip’s track & field team raced to congratulate their teammate, junior Zach Acocella.
Down the final stretch of the 4 x 400 relay Tuesday afternoon, Porter and Acocella were dead even. At stake was the League IV title.
Every moment in the league season suddenly came down the final few meters.
Porter, known best in the jumping events, took the baton from Marcus Moore for the final leg of the relay with a lead of nearly 15 meters. But the Redmen had an ace in the hole in Acocella, their top athlete whose best event just so happens to be the 400.
Acocella quickly began to gain ground on Porter, finally pulling even down the final straightaway. Just a few meters before the finish line, Acocella surged ahead, clinching the relay win, the dual meet win and the league title.
The Redmen secured a 72-64 victory to finish 6-0 in league while the Blue Waves fell to 5-1.
“If everything fell into place I thought we would need one or two relays to win it,” said Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski. “We needed all three. That’s a lot to ask.”
The Blue Waves trailed by eight points going into the final three relays. In the relays, the winning team scores five points and the loser gets zero. So taking two of three relays would have only netted Riverhead five points.
The Blue Waves took care of business in the first relay, cruising to a nearly 10-second win in the 4 x 800 with the quartet of Eric Cunha, Ryan DiResta, Luke Coulter and Nick Cunha. The team finished in 8:45.9.
That set the stage for the 4 x 400.
The Redmen grabbed the early lead on the first leg before Jacob Robinson put the Blue Waves ahead. Moore extended the lead on the third leg but Acocella was too strong of an anchor for the Redmen.
If the Blue Waves had won, they still would have needed a victory in the 4 x 100. The race was rendered moot by the 4 x 400, so the teams opted to skip it to allow the Redmen to begin their celebration.
The Blue Waves would have been in good position to win the 4 x 100 had it come down to it.
“I think our 4 x 1 was loaded,” Gevinski said. “Woulda, shoulda, coulda. It never came down to that. It’s like saying you have a great place kicker. But if you can’t get the ball inside the 30, what does it matter?”
When the Blue Waves look back on the meet, it’ll be a few of the individual events where they’ll be left kicking themselves. The Blue Waves were swept in the discus, an event the Blue Waves potentially could have swept. But the Blue Waves’ throwers all had a rough afternoon, throwing well below their top marks on the season.
Gevinski said the 100-dash and the 400 intermediate hurdles were the other two events that came back to bite the Blue Waves.
The Redmen narrowly took first and second in the 100, just ahead of Robinson for third. He ran 11.15, while East Islip’s runners went 11.0 and 11.1. That split-second difference between second and third was enough to force the Blue Waves to have to win all three relays rather than two.
In the 400-hurdles, the Redmen swept. A runner in one of the later heats managed to sneak into third place to take a point away from Riverhead’s Andrew Smith.
The Blue Waves had their share of success throughout the meet. Moore, on his final jump, landed a 20 1/4-foot long jump to win the event. He was also a winner in the triple jump at 42-3.
Porter won the high jump at 5-10 and was second in the triple jump and 200. Robinson won the 200 (22.7).
The Blue Waves went first and second in the 110-hurdles with Daren Jefferson the winner in 15.9. He won out of the second heat to beat his teammate, Smith, who ran 16.0.
Troy Trent won the shot put with a top mark of 47-01. Nick Cunha won the 800 in 2:01.2. Travis Wooten took second in the 3,200 in 10:41.1 and was third in the 1,600.
Charles Villa won the pole vault at 12-06. Villa injured his left ankle at the end of the winter season and has just been getting back into form. At his best, Villa is the top pole vaulter in the county and the Blue Waves’ best hope of reaching the state meet.