The goals of the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys cross-country coach, Bob Szymanski, are quite humble.
“We’ll be .500 or better this year,” he said.
The rewards, however, could be much greater.
The Wildcats boast “five major returnees,” according to Szymanski, from a team that missed out on winning the Suffolk County League VI title for the first time in 12 years last year, finishing behind Bayport-Blue Point and East Hampton.
Shoreham (3-3 last year) has plenty of veterans, depth and up-and-coming talent to be a force in the league, if not the county.
The team is led by senior captain Michael Godfrey, who finished second among Suffolk Class B runners last fall and qualified for the state championships the past two years.
“He’s going to be in every race,” Szymanski said. “He’ll be in the top two in every race. We’re hoping he’ll make states again. He more of a go-to guy. He sets the pace running.”
Godfrey will be helped by juniors Michael Paraza, who was among Shoreham’s top five runners last year, James Chianese and Anthony Lynch.
They will be pushed for one of the five starting spots by sophomore Ray LaPorte and senior Bruce Andersen, who are running for the first time, sophomores Joey Godfrey and Harry Mikros and freshman Joey Krause.
Seniors Luke Piotrowski and Matt Corona round out the deep squad.
Szymanski has 20 runners from which to choose, so the battle for the top spots in meets is expected to be fierce.
“We don’t know much more about the kids because they’re young,” he said.
He should find out soon enough with the Wildcats’ first League VI meet against Elwood/John Glenn at Sunken Meadow State Park on Thursday and the Jim Smith Invitational at the same venue Saturday. The latter race pits class vs. class, so seniors race against seniors and so on. So, Szymanski should have a better idea about his team’s depth by the end of the weekend.
Coach William Razzano takes over a team with several veterans expected to anchor Riverhead (2-4). Razzano replaces Pat Burke, who has new responsibilities as an assistant principal.
“It’s definitely going to be a fun season,” Razzano said. “We have a good team, a lot of veterans.”
That includes five seniors and “a good balance” of veterans and newcomers, the new coach said.
Senior captain Luke Coulter is expected to be the class of the Blue Waves.
“He kind of like a coach,” Razzano said. “He puts the kids through workouts and they look up to him. I expect him to potentially make big strides and go upstate.”
Coulter, who is being recruited by Farmingdale State, will be helped by junior Eric Cunha, who has been on the varsity team since he was an eighth grader. Razzano said Cunha was “another kid who is a great leader. He’s been a seasoned veteran for a while.”
Senior Noah Schoettle and freshman Ryan Carrick round out the top four.
“We look for Noah to step up this year and move up to the top three or four runners,” Razzano said. “He understands what is at stake as a senior.”
Carrick, on the other hand, has his high school future ahead of him.
“We really expect him to make great strides,” Razzano said. “We look at him to go up and be a future star.”
Razzano, a Riverhead High School graduate who ran track at SUNY/Cortland, is optimistic the Blue Waves can make some waves this fall.
“It’s something that I jumped at the opportunity to do,” he said of the job. “We definitely have a very strong team for this year.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Les Williams doesn’t have many runners to work with, but he realizes he has a special one in senior Connor White, who finished 29th in last year’s county meet.
“He’s improved tremendously,” Williams said. “He has run some good times on the road this summer. I think Connor is going to have a real good season. My goal is to get him upstate.”
Williams is hopeful about senior Rory Glenn.
“Rory’s improving,” he said. “I won’t know until I see him on Thursday.”
That’s when the Monarchs (0-5) open their League VII schedule against Center Moriches at Sunken Meadow.
Williams’ biggest challenge to date is finding five runners to compete. Last Thursday he spoke to the freshman class and four students were interested. White told Williams that he had a couple of potential additions to the squad as well.
“If I get five, I’ll be happy,” Williams said. “We need five to have a team. We’ll see what happens.”