Girls Track: For Riverhead, wins hard to come by against Smithtown

Riverhead senior Ashley-Ann Courts competes in the long jump Tuesday in a dual meet against Smithtown West. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)
Riverhead senior Ashley-Ann Courts competes in the long jump Tuesday in a dual meet against Smithtown West. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Megan Carrick opened up the lead early on the first leg. On the final event of Tuesday’s dual meet, the Riverhead junior raced out to a fast start for the Blue Waves in the 4 x 400 relay.

As the baton switched hands, ultimately landing in those of senior Ashley-Ann Courts, the Blue Waves’ lead was never in doubt. As Courts crossed the finish line, capping the win in 4 minutes 52.5 seconds, the Blue Waves at last had a reason to smile. 

On a dreary afternoon at Riverhead High School, victories were few and far between for the Blue Waves against Smithtown West. The Bulls dominated nearly every event to easily dispatch the younger, less experienced Blue Waves in the League III dual meet.

It marked the first official meet for the girls on their new track, an occasion met with chilly temperatures, light rain and a fierce opponent in the Bulls.

The Blue Waves find themselves in an unusual position this season, fielding a team of half freshmen. It’s a rebuilding year, the most dramatic that coach Maria Dounelis has seen in her 14 years.

“It’s a tough loss, but you got to take the best out of it and keep the kids motivated,” she said.

The Blue Waves are still trying to figure where kids fit in best and then get the repetitions it takes to start succeeding in competitions. The poor weather at the start of the season didn’t help. Dounelis said the coaches just began going over field events in the past two weeks.

“A lot of the kids come off the middle school with a good feeling,” she said. “This is a totally different ball game.”

There are some bright spots that give Dounelis hope that better things are to come. Madelyn Batista, a tall, long-legged freshman, ran the 400-meter dash Tuesday and showed glimpses of what could make her a standout. Her long strides allow her to cover plenty of ground, the kind of attribute a coach can’t teach.

Dounelis said Batista is just beginning to learn how to run an event like the 400.

“She’s got a tremendous stride,” she said.

Batista comes from a track family, Dounelis said. Her brothers and mother all ran track at Riverhead, she said. Batista also high-jumped Tuesday and that will be another event where she could excel.

Batista was second in the 400 in Tuesday’s race, finishing in 1:05.1.

While the Blue Waves are mostly inexperienced, they do have a senior leader in Ra’Shae Smith. She had a good day Tuesday, winning the shot put (33 feet 6 inches) and taking second in the discus (83-8).

Smith got off to a tremendous start in the shot put during the winter season, but struggled down the stretch.

“For her it’s a matter of trying to channel that nervous energy and put it into her throws,” Dounelis said. “That’s what happened to her at the end of the winter season. Her nerves just got the best of her. But better she had that experience because now hopefully in the spring she could turn around.”

The Blue Waves have another up-and-comer in the discus and shot put with Ashley Graziano. Dounelis said she was a softball player previously who came out for track. Graziano finished third in both events Tuesday.

In the 1,500, Carrick was second in 5:28.2. Courts took second in the 200 (27.1) and long jump (12-11).

The Blue Waves were without several kids against the Bulls for various reasons. Some were out because of the spring vacation. Others were dealing with injuries.

The Blue Waves will run at the Suffolk Coaches Invitational Saturday at Sachem North High School. Dounelis said it’ll be a good opportunity for many of the kids because there’s a freshman/sophomore division that most of them can compete in.

“It’s perfect for our young kids because that’s what they need,” she said. “They need to go into races and feel good about it.”

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