LEAGUE III CHAMPIONSHIP
On the bus ride to Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood Sunday, Troy Trent and Andrew Smith spoke to each other about the upcoming meet.
They each vowed to win their main events.
“We both came in today just like, we’re going to come in first,” Trent said. “We’re taking home gold medals. If the team can’t take it overall, we’ll take it for the team.”
Both Riverhead seniors had reason to be confident going into the League III Championship. Trent was among the top shot-putters in the county and Smith was one of the top hurdlers.
Just as promised, they both picked up gold medals Sunday, helping lead the Blue Waves to a fifth-place finish with 44 points. Huntington was a repeat winner, scoring 106 points to edge West Islip (85) in the 10-team league championship.
Smith ran 8.05 seconds in the finals of the 55-meter hurdles to grab first place in a bit of an upset. Huntington junior Infinite Tucker came into the meet with a faster seed time than Smith. And in the preliminaries, he ran 7.98. But he slipped in the finals, running a slower-than-normal 8.26, leaving the door open for Smith to capitalize.
“[Tucker] had a bad day and Andrew stepped his game up,” Trent said.
Confidence is something Smith doesn’t lack.
“Even if I know there are people that are faster than me, I say to myself, ‘I’m going to win,’ ” Smith said. “It’ll give me that extra boost.”
For Smith, winning a league title provided a measure of redemption after a disappointing end to last year’s indoor season. Smith let his academics slip, and shortly before the league meet, he learned he couldn’t compete any more on the track team.
“I was really sad because they told me last year that if I was still on the team, we could have won the league meet,” Smith said. “So I was disappointed and everyone else was disappointed in me.”
Riverhead finished second in last year’s league meet.
Riverhead coach Sal Loverde said it was never a question of whether Smith was capable of performing well in the classroom.
“He’s a very smart kid,” Loverde said. “It was a matter of his interests were scattered all over the place and weren’t prioritized correctly. Over the course of some general maturity and listening to people who care about him, he’s been able to turn it around.”
The Blue Waves are happy to have Smith back in the mix this season. He scored points in three events Sunday, including the 55-meter dash. He ran 6.78 to finish fourth in the finals. He also ran on the 4 x 400 relay — for the first time this season — and helped the Blue Waves to a fourth-place finish.
Smith typically runs on the 4 x 200. But Loverde switched up the relays, hoping by spreading out some runners so the team could score points in both events. It didn’t work out quite as planned. The 4 x 200 team finished eighth.
“We thought we could squeeze points and it didn’t work out,” Loverde said. “We probably should have went with our primary 4 x 2.”
In the shot put, Trent threw a season’s best 50 feet 2 1/2 inches to take first place. He was the only shot-putter above 50 feet.
“I came in with a confident feeling,” Trent said. “I was on. It was one of those good days for me.”
Trent got his best throw out of the way early during his first flight, so it took the pressure off during the finals.
“When you get the good throws out early, the 50-footers and you see everyone around you throwing 46 or 47, it’s kind of a big deal because then you go into the finals and you’re like, OK, just don’t foul, stay on the game.”
Trent has his sights set on increasing his personal best by another two or three feet, if possible, this season, he said.
Riverhead junior Curtis Flippen had a big day Sunday as well. In the triple jump, he finished second with a top mark of 40-8 1/4. He picked up a sixth-place finish in the long jump (20-0 3/4).
One of the most competitive events of the meet was the 300-dash. Riverhead senior Jacob Robinson finished fourth, a little below his season’s best, at :36.71. Huntington sophomore Kyree Johnson won the race in :36.1.
In the 3,200, Riverhead senior Nick Cuhna finished fifth in 10:30.81. Sophomore Eric Cuhna was sixth in the 1,000 in 2:48.14.