Girls Track and Field Preview: Expect big things from SWR’s Big Five

Shoreham-Wading River High School may have had better girls track and field teams, but the top end of the roster is as good as it has ever been.

That’s what Paul Koretzki says, and he should know better than anyone, having coached the team since its inception in 1980.

The names speak for themselves: Katherine Lee. Allie Hays. Payton Capes-Davis. Amanda Dwyer. Maria Smith.

The Big Five is as good a fivesome as one will find in New York, if not the nation.

“We’re pretty good,” said Koretzki.

Shoreham (5-1) tied Miller Place for the League VI title last year. Koretzki said Miller Place is a little stronger in the league this year “because they have more powerful sprinters, but in the county [meet], we will do our thing because we score.”

The biggest scorer of them all is Lee, whose indoor season was shut down after she injured her left ankle in the Millrose Games in February. While she was out, the junior had a hernia operation, but has since eased back into training.

“I expect her to dominate in the distance events,” said Koretzki.

That is taken for granted, really. Lee competed in last year’s state meet in three events. She was part of a 4×800-meter relay team, along with Hays and Capes-Davis, that finished fourth in 9 minutes, 7.58 seconds. In addition, Lee was fifth in both the 3,000 in a personal-best 9:39.88 and the 1,500 in 4:28.96.

Last year Shoreham’s 4×800 relay ream took third in the Penn Relays.

Hays (Columbia), Capes-Davis (Bucknell), Dwyer (Monmouth) and Smith (Marist) are all seniors who will run at the NCAA Division I level next year. They can run intermediate and long distances, although Capes-Davis may also run the 2,000-meter steeplechase as well as the hurdles.

The Wildcats also have seniors Hayley Lindell (hurdles, pole vault, long jump) and Courtney Wrigley (high jump, triple jump, discus), not to mention junior throwers Grace Ficken and Joanna Costas. Good things are expected from sisters Emma and Kaleigh Kirkpatrick, who are working on the 100-meter high hurdles.

Koretzki is anticipating close dual meets. He said, “All our meets will come down to the relays, I know it.”

April 4 is a big date on Bishop McGann-Mercy’s calendar. That is when the Monarchs will host Mattituck in a dual meet that could have huge implications for a league championship. It did last year when the teams tied each other, 73-73, and wound up sharing the League VII title with 4-0-1 records.

Mercy’s new coach, Zach Zieniewicz, hopes there is a positive carryover affect for his team, which has won five league crowns in the past six years. Zieniewicz, who was a hurdler for SUNY/Cortland, said, “It definitely gives you that, ‘OK, we need to go out there and repeat what we did last year.’ ”

Three of the four girls who ran on Mercy’s 4×800 relay team that took ninth in a national meet last year are back: senior Kait Butterfield, senior Maddie Joinnides and junior Olivia Kneski. Seniors Toni Barlow and Devyn O’Brien run the 3,000. Sophomores Karina Ellis (100, 200, 4×100), Madison Leslie (400, 800) and Hanna Schlosberg (sprints) also return.

Zieniewicz said the Monarchs are strong at long distance, but will be challenged in the field events.

“I like their work ethic,” he said of his athletes. “They come out, even in this weather, and they put the work in. That’s what I like.”

There is no way around it. Last season was a rough one for Riverhead (0-6). Although Blue Waves are still young, young teams can bring surprises.

Coach Maria Dounelis said she feels as if she is venturing into the “unknown because we have a lot of freshmen that came out. We have a lot of kids who are athletic. Now it’s a matter of finding the right event for them.”

Most of the returning athletes are long-distance runners like Amy Drexel, Olivia Pizzuto and Gabby Marcucci. But Riverhead has other areas covered, too. In the 1,500-meter race walk, there is Josie Manucha and Annette Galante. Julia Divan handles the triple jump, high jump and pole vault. Jaquasia Brandon and sprinter Nia Johnson also jump. Kayla Johanson, who missed most of last season with an injury, is back for the pole vault along with Morgan Fritsher. In the throwing events, Cailyn Wallace, Janelle Carey, Hannah Crump and Morgan McLean will do their thing. Sprinter Kat Borner and hurdler Lily Whitehead also return.

Throwers Gabraiyle Blom, Aleeyah George, hurdler Taylor Albinski, middle- and long-distance runner Christina Yakaboski and sprinters Miasha Pittman and Natalie Scura are newcomers looking to make their mark.

The League III dual-meet season will not be easy for Riverhead.

“We’re in a rough league,” said Dounelis, noting defending league champion North Babylon and tough teams like Smithtown East and Smithtown West. “We have some of the best teams in Suffolk County [that] we go against.”

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Photo caption: Junior standout Katherine Lee is expected to lead Shoreham-Wading River’s Big Five this season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)