On the first day of girls track and field practice at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School, recent all-New York State athlete Meg Tuthill reminded her teammates about the Monarchs’ winning tradition.
“I’ve been on this team for six years and I’ve lost only once,” the standout senior said, according to coach Colin Zeffer.
The Monarchs don’t like to lose. They won the Suffolk County League VIII title with a 5-0 mark and they are expected to do well again this season.
“We’re hoping to do that again,” Zeffer said. “This year’s team is a little younger. They understand what we have to do to have a successful season and want to work hard.”
Tuthill has set the pace. A middle-distance runner, she was an all-state selection at 1,000 meters indoors earlier this month.
McGann-Mercy, however, is far from a one-young woman show.
Junior Kaitlyn Butterfield is another middle-distance runner who “consistently has been one of our top finishers,” Zeffer said. Sophomore Olivia Kneski will run the 200- and 400-meter races.
Senior Juliana Cintron-Leonardo gives the Monarchs a unique double threat in the 100 and as a shot putter. Junior Devyn O’Brien, who won the state qualifier last year, runs the 3,000.
The Monarchs could face their stiffest competition in their first league meet against runner-up Mattituck at home on April 4.
“That will be one of our tightest ones,” Zeffer said. “We’re looking forward to a challenging meet against them again.”
Shoreham-Wading River (5-1) is led by a talented quartet that earned all-American status with the sixth-fastest time in the nation (20 minutes 53.25 seconds) in the 4 x one-mile relay at the New Balance indoor nationals at the Armory in New York City this past weekend.
Senior Kaitlyn Ohrtman (5:09), who will attend Iona College next year, juniors Alexandra Hays (5:20) and Amanda Dwyer (5:26) and sophomore and anchor Katherine Lee (4:46) formed that impressive quartet. Coach Paul Koretzki said it was the first time in eight or nine years that he had runners obtain all-America status.
They are expected to accomplish big things again collectively and individually.
“They’re good distance runners,” Koretzki said.
That foursome will be aided by junior Maria Smith, an all-state honorable mention in cross country, in the 800 and 1,500 and senior Gabby Massa, a race walker.
Juniors Haley Lindell and Payton Capes-Davis are keys to the Wildcats’ success in the pole vault and sophomore Grace Ficken will do double duty in the shot put and discus.
The Wildcats will move up from League VII to VI, but that hasn’t deterred Koretzki. “We’ve always done that,” he said about moving up leagues. “It doesn’t matter.”
That’s because Koretzki has liked what he has seen.
“We’ve got a nice team coming back,” he said.
More than half of Riverhead (1-4-1) is comprised of 33 freshmen. That might not necessarily change the Blue Waves’ fortunes this year. “We see a good future,” coach Maria Dounelis said.
Four middle-distance runners who form the core of the 4 x 800-meter relay team could be the key to Riverhead’s success. They include senior Megan Carrick (800 and 1,500), who is coming off a hip injury, junior Gaby Marcucci (1,500 and 3,000) and sophomores Aimee Drexel (800) and Olivia Pizzuto (800 and 1,500). And that doesn’t include freshman Eve Pittman (400 and 800), who has been with the team since she was in seventh grade.
Versatile sophomore Madelyn Batista does the high jump and triple jump, the 200, 400 and 4 x 400. “The high jump was where she started to shine,” Dounelis said. “She wants the school record.”
Junior pole vaulters Julia Pizzuto and Kayla Johanson are coming off winter track shoulder injuries. Ashley Graziano, a former softball player who participated in track for the first time last year, reached the state qualifiers in the shot put.
Junior Amber Padden, a Comsewogue transfer, excels in the high hurdles while freshman Lilly Whitehead, a cheerleader, can hurdle and triple jump. “I just think in the next couple of years we’re going to see some great things out of her,” Dounelis said.
Other returnees include senior Shania Daniel (triple jump, 400) and sophomores Nia Johnson (long jump, 100, 200) and Josie Manucha (race walk).
Two freshmen, Jaquasia Brandon (triple jump, long jump) and Julia DiVan (high jump, triple), showed potential during the indoor season.
Photo caption: Standout middle-distance runner Meg Tuthill leads a Bishop McGann-Mercy team that won the League VIII title last year with a 5-0 record. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)