Talk about hitting the ground running. Eric Cunha ran and ran and ran — and then he ran some more.
Cunha wasn’t allowed the luxury of easing gently into the spring season. In his first track and field meet since competing in a national indoor meet in March, the Riverhead High School senior ran in four events — totaling four miles — and walked away a winner in each of them Wednesday.
Altogether, Cunha contributed directly or indirectly to 25 points in Riverhead’s 80-61 victory over visiting Copiague in a Suffolk County League III dual meet. No wonder he might have been more than a little tired afterward.
“My legs are shot,” he said. “I’m definitely going home and I’m going to get [an] ice bath for sure because running four events, it’s not something [that is] easy.”
Cunha won three individual events, starting with the 1,600 meters. He led the whole way with teammate Ryan Carrick on his heels. The pair passed lapped traffic down the final stretch, with Cunha triumphing in 4 minutes, 40.9 seconds. Carrick was second in 4:41.4.
Shortly after that, Cunha turned on the jets just after the halfway mark of the 800, bolting to the finish in 2:05.6.
Cunha didn’t get much of a breather. Two events later he was on the track again, this time for the 3,200. Once again, he was in front the whole time with Carrick close behind. Cunha’s time was 10:49.5. Carrick was second in 10:50.0.
As if that wasn’t enough, Cunha didn’t have much time before running the anchor leg for the winning 4×800 relay team. Carrick, Ryan Keane and Sean Allen also ran for that team, which was clocked in 5:14.5.
Now that’s a full day for any runner.
“It was kind of a little bit shaking the rust off, seeing what I can produce on the track,” Cunha said. “I tried my best today. I gave it everything that I had.”
Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski appreciated it. “Eric Cunha dominated the meet,” Gevinski said. “He’s unbelievable. He’s just a great kid. He don’t quit. There’s no excuses. It’s just, ‘Whatever you need, Coach, I’ll get it done.’ ”
The early-season results are a testament to Cunha’s value to the team. He had missed Riverhead’s opening dual meet — a 74-58 loss to Walt Whitman on March 29 — to undergo some minor dental surgery.
“That was the difference,” Gevinski said. “He’s a difference-maker in a meet. He’s a difference-maker on the team.”
Talking about Cunha’s performance, teammate Alec Buczynski said: “Eric just crushed it. He just came right off the winter season and he just went full throttle.”
Riverhead (1-1) swept all 18 points available in the throwing events. Bryan Cakir threw the discus a personal-record 108 feet, 11 inches, good for first place. Patrick Marchetti (99-7 1/2) and Eric Behr (98-9) were second and third. Marchetti was first in the shot put at 39-11 1/2, followed by Behr (39-5 1/2) and Thomas Penna (35-11).
Buczynski was hurting and moving slowly by the time the meet had ended. During warmups, the senior had struck a hurdle and landed awkwardly, spraining his right ankle. That didn’t prevent him from taking first in the 110-meter high hurdles in 17.8, but he had to be scratched from the 400 intermediate hurdles. “I could barely walk,” he said.
Kian Martelli brought Riverhead first in the triple jump with a distance of 40-8.
In the final event of the day, the 4×100 relay, Riverhead’s Matt Pittman, Trey Miles-Ross, Darelle Spruill and Nykel Jennings won in 47.2.
Cunha is headed to Stony Brook University, where he will run with his former Riverhead teammate Luke Coulter again. In the meantime, Cunha said he wants to take care of some business.
“No offense to Luke, but I kind of want to wipe him off the board a little bit,” he said.
Cunha was referring to Coulter’s Riverhead records of 4:16 in the 1,600 and 1:54.8 in the 800. Cunha’s best times in those events are 4:20.49 and 1:56.8.
But Cunha still has plenty of time for that. Following Wednesday’s meet he was looking forward to a good night’s rest. He said, “I’m going to sleep phenomenal tonight.”
Photo caption: Eric Cunha ran four miles altogether and was a four-time winner in Riverhead’s victory over Copiague. (Credit: Garret Meade)