It was an eventful two days for Eric Cunha. The senior on the Riverhead High School boys winter track team broke a school record and became a league champion, all within a span of 48 hours.
Cunha broke the school record in the 1,000 meters with a time of 2 minutes, 34.22 seconds in the New Balance Games at The Armory in New York City on Saturday. The previous mark of 2:34.59 was set by Luke Coulter last year.
“He got it done,” said coach Sal Loverde.
“He was obviously very excited and what I like about it, there was a degree of expectation,” Loverde continued. “Speaking to him, he felt very strong physically and he had a very good mental position going into the race. He was extremely confident.”
And there was a sense of urgency as well. Cunha wants to qualify for the state meet that will be held March 4 at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island. By meeting the state standard on Saturday, if he finishes anywhere from first to fourth in the 1,000 in the Section XI Championships at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Feb. 13, he will go to the state meet, said Loverde.
In the Suffolk League II Championships on Sunday in Brentwood, Cunha wasn’t pushed as he claimed first place in the 1,600 in 4:31.45. The next finisher, Smithtown East senior Marius Sidlauskas, was timed in 4:36.47. Riverhead sophomore Ryan Carrick was sixth in 4:45.94.
Speaking of Cunha, Loverde said: “What makes him special, obviously, to be a championship-level athlete, you have to have some natural physical ability inside of you, but coupled with that, he’s eating the right foods, he’s getting the right rest. His preparation is second to none. He steps onto the oval and he takes it to a new level.”
Another Riverheader, sophomore Kian Martelli, took second in the triple jump with a distance of 40 feet, 6 3/4 inches. Connetquot senior Brandon Phan was first at 41-5 1/2.
Riverhead’s 4×800 relay came in third in 8:40.56, and Riverhead senior Trequanne Miles-Rose was sixth in the 55 in 7:12. The 4×800 relay team of Carrick, senior Cole Devereaux, sophomore Ryan Keane and Cunha broke by two seconds a school record that had been set within the last three years, according to Loverde. Cunha ran a 1:59 anchor leg.
As a team, Riverhead finished eighth with 26 points. Smithtown West was first with 84.
In League IV, Shoreham-Wading River’s 4×800 relay was second to Harborfields (8:42.63) with a time of 9:02.37. Sebastian Rodriguez, Anthony Guzzone, Vincent Uzzi and Daniel Montenegro ran for the Wildcats.
Shoreham received third-place finishes from senior Patrick Flannery (1:30.56) in the 600 and junior Calvin Schmalzle (5-2) in the high jump.
More Shoreham points came from: Rodriguez (fourth in the 55 hurdles in 8.49), Montenegero (fourth in the long jump at 20-1/2 and fifth in the triple jump at 38-2 1/4), Matt Rose (fifth in the shot put at 40-2), Joseph Chianese (sixth in the 1,000 in 2:53.92), Guzzone (sixth in the 300 in 38.41) and James Logan (sixth in the shot put at 40-0). Shoreham’s 4×400 relay team of Flannery, Patrick Lane, Gabriel Romano and Joseph Krause was sixth in 4:02.52.
Shoreham ended up fifth in the team rankings with 37 points.
Two Bishop McGann-Mercy sophomores scored in League V. Michael Senica (2:51.64) grabbed fourth in the 1,000 and Ryan Razzano (40.67) was sixth in the 300.
Photo caption: Riverhead senior Eric Cunha, right, with professional runner Drew Hunter at the New Balance Games. (Credit: Patricia Cunha courtesy photo)