What was Matt Rose’s initial reaction when he realized he would have to deal with rain, wind and 50-degree weather on Saturday?
“This is going to stink,” he said.
The athletes on the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys track and field team were anything but thrilled about the weather conditions they faced for the 68th Suffolk County Relays at Bayport-Blue Point High School.
“This is the worst,” Rose, a junior thrower, explained. “You get muscles tight. It’s cold out. Fingers get cold, toes.”
And so it was, just something all the athletes had to deal with, like it or not.
The wet conditions also prompted caution, in some cases. In fear of injury, Shoreham high jumper Rickie Cassazza was stopped from going further after he cleared 5 feet, 10 inches. That, along with teammate Calvin Schmalzle’s 5-0, brought the Wildcats first place in the small schools high jump relay with a combined height of 10-10.
“For the kind of day it was, I’m very happy,” said Cassazza, a junior who has catapulted himself as high as 6-4 in the first dual meet of the season.
Cassazza said his goal is to reach 6-8 next season in the event, which he cherishes. “I love it,” he said. “It’s the best, just the feeling of soaring over the bar. It’s all about timing. You have to be patient about it to get higher.”
Similarly, another Shoreham pair didn’t allow the weather to prevent them from turning in a winning performance. Teammates Dan Montenegro and Damien Caputo covered a combined distance of 74-2 in the triple jump, with no help from Mother Nature. The triple jumpers ran and jumped into the face of the wind.
“When you jump, the wind, it will blow you back,” Caputo said. “… It literally makes our jumps shorter.”
Montenegro registered over 38 feet on the first of his three attempts. “The other two weren’t the best because [of] the wind,” he said. “I could do better, but with the conditions … I jumped 38 and I’m proud of that today.”
Shoreham’s 4x-1,600-meter relay team had reason to be proud. Eric DiLisio, Joseph Krause, Raymond LaPorte and Adam Zelin clocked a winning time of 21 minutes, 7.85 seconds. All of them are sophomores except for LaPorte, a junior.
Shoreham seniors Patrick Flannery (2:21.11 in the 800) and Joseph Chianese (4:58.42 in the 1,600) were both second-place finishers.
In the team rankings, Shoreham finished sixth among 14 teams with 66 points. Commack was first with 164.
At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Rose doesn’t look like a stereotypical thrower. But as Bill Hiney, the Shoreham assistant coach who works with the Wildcats’ throwers, pointed out, “It really is more than just for thick-necked guys named Olaf.”
Rose is proof positive of that. Technique plays a big role in both the discus and shot put, along with strength.
A diligent trainer, Rose said he practiced by himself last summer and watched videos in an attempt to make himself better. As a result, the junior has surprised Hiney by emerging as Shoreham’s top thrower.
“It’s working out, it’s practice, it’s watching videos,” Rose said. “It’s doing everything he tells you to do.”
Rose has thrown the discus as far as 123 (a 50-foot improvement from last year) and the shot put 41-7. Hiney said Rose has realized about 70 percent of his potential.
“I love throwing,” Rose said. “Personally, it’s my favorite sport. I played football for four years, stopped that to keep training for throwing to get better and better.”
On Saturday Rose ranked third in the discus at 118-4 1/2. He threw the shot put 35-10.
“Obviously, the last couple of years coming up, he was not my scorer, not the guy that I count on,” Hiney said. “All of a sudden now, as a junior, [with] his dedication and his strength work, he’s my lead guy.”
Photo caption: Matt Rose, a junior, has emerged as Shoreham-Wading River’s top thrower in the discus and shot put. (Credit: Bob Liepa)