Riverhead coach Sal Loverde doesn’t hold back on superlatives to describe Luke Coulter.
“Right now he’s poised to develop into potentially the best mid-distance, distance runner we’ve ever had in Riverhead history,” Loverde said.
Coulter, a senior, continued his torrid start to the indoor track season with two outstanding times over the weekend. He surpassed the state qualifying standards in both the 1,000-meter race and 600 at separate meets on Saturday and Sunday.
He ran the 1,000 in 2 minutes 34.59 seconds at the Molloy Stanner Games at the Armory in New York Saturday to break his own school record.
Coulter wasted no time setting school records for the indoor season in the 1,600 and 1,000 back in December at the beginning of the season. He’s only gotten better as the team approaches the first round of championship events this weekend with the League Championships at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood Saturday.
Loverde said Coulter’s time in the 1,000 was all the more impressive because he ended up racing in the second heat, which featured slower runners. That meant he was mostly unchallenged throughout the race.
“He was considerably ahead of the entire pack of kids,” Loverde said. “If he was in the first heat, there’s a good possibility he would have run two seconds faster, maybe even more.”
Coulter has an uncanny ability to finish races strong and turn into another gear down the stretch, Loverde said. Even at the end of a two-mile race, Coulter can turn it on for the final 400 meters.
It’s a combination of a commitment to preparation, training and maintaining the gains he makes along the way that allow him to finish races so strong, Loverde said.
“He has a very, very strong competitive mental composition as well, which you almost can’t coach that,” Loverde said. “You have to have that burning desire. And he does. He doesn’t like to be beat.”
After running at the Stanner Games, Coulter competed in the 600 at the Last Chance Meet at Suffolk West on Sunday. Loverde said the idea was to give Coulter some extra rest so he didn’t run both events on the same day at the Stanner Games.
The move paid off well.
Coulter ran 1:23.06 in the 600, a time that puts him 10th in the state right now, Loverde said.
The Blue Waves got a big day at the Stanner Games from senior Curtis Flippen in the jumps. He finished fourth in the triple with a top mark of 42 feet 4 inches. He also placed eighth in the long jump at 19-11.
Loverde said Flippen is on the verge of bigger jumps once he nails down his steps.
“This is the time of year where we try to iron all that out,” Loverde said.
In the pole vault, Kyle Gevinski cleared 11-04 and finished eighth. Loverde said he came close to topping 12 feet.
On the girls side, McGann-Mercy senior Meg Tuthill set a personal record with a stellar run in the 1,000. Tuthill, who competed at the state championships in the 1,000 last year, won the event in 2:55.22, more than three seconds ahead of the second-place runner, Deirdre Lewin of Kellenberg.
Tuthill’s teammate, junior Kaityln Butterfield finished third in 2:58.64, her best time.
Tuthill had set her personal record a week earlier before surpassing it again this weekend.
At the end of the race, when Tuthill and Butterfield looked up at their times on the scoreboard, they “both looked really shocked,” said Mercy coach Collin Zeffer.
“They started going crazy hugging each other,” he said. “It was pretty awesome.”
In a competitive race, Tuthill wasn’t focused on hitting any specific time beforehand, Zeffer said.
“It worked out well,” he said.
Butterfield’s breakthrough season has only helped push Tuthill to faster times. Each runner has different strengths and the two complement each other well, Zeffer said.
“For as long as I’ve been coaching, Meg’s had good speed and Kait has more strength, so she can go longer where Meg can kind of go a little faster,” he said. “They each have a different edge and can push each other. It makes the both of them better individually.”
Mercy junior Maddie Joinnides also set a personal record in the 600 when she crossed the finish line in 1:40.01. She finished 11th overall. Junior Devyn O’Brien ran the 3,000 in 11:24.79. Her time was short of a PR, but still good enough for ninth place.
The quartet of Tuthill, Butterfield, Joinnides and O’Brien ran the 4 x 800 relay in 9:53.48 for fourth place. It was well short of their best time, but none of them were on fresh legs.
Zeffer said it was good practice for when the girls get in the championship meets.
“If we plan on running at state quals, they’re going to have to get used to running doubles,” he said.
For the Mercy boys, senior Dale Kelly narrowly missed reaching the finals of the 300. He was second in his heat in 35.51, his season’s best. Senior Alex Frabizio ran the 600 in a personal best time of 1:25.37 for ninth place.
Photo Caption: Riverhead senior Luke Coulter, left, races in the 1,000 at the Molloy Stanner Games Saturday. McGann-Mercy senior Meg Tuthill was the winner in the 1,000 on the girls side. (Credit: Courtesy of Justin Cobis)