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Boys Winter Track: Carrick fills some big running shoes

Ryan Carrick is following in some big footsteps, literally and figuratively.

Those would be the footsteps left by Luke Coulter and Eric Cunha, both impressive long-distance runners who are now competing in cross country and track and field for Stony Brook University. Coulter, a sophomore for the Seawolves, was the Riverhead News-Review’s selection for its Riverhead Male Athlete of the Year award for 2015-16. Cunha, a freshman, received the same honor from the newspaper for 2016-17.

Now the mantle of being the top long-distance runner for Riverhead High School has been passed to Carrick. It’s an honor the junior doesn’t take lightly.

“Following in the footsteps of Eric and Luke, it kind of pushes me,” said Carrick, a year-round runner in cross country and track for the Blue Waves who would like to continue running in college. He said the example Coulter and Cunha set “definitely motivates me to keep going for that.”

Time will tell if Carrick has what it takes to be considered in the same class as his former teammates, but Sal Loverde believes Carrick has the potential. “He’s on their heels,” the Riverhead’s boys winter track coach said. “I think the next six months, the next eight months, they’re going to really catapult him into that next plateau because he is developing physically, he’s growing. I think the next six months, with the work ethic and the natural maturation of his body, I think that you’re going to start to see some very competitive times come out of him.”

Carrick was an All-League runner and Riverhead’s team MVP this past cross-country season. Indoors, he routinely runs the 1,000 and 1,600 meters as well as the 4×800 relay. Periodically, he runs the 3,200. Some of Carrick’s best indoor times are 10 minutes, 6 seconds in the 3,200, 4:40 in the 1,600 and 2:07 in the 800, he said.

At 6-2, Carrick has long arms and legs to match his height. His tall, slender frame produces a stride that’s ideal for running long distances.

“I think it’s an advantage to me for sure, just being tall and skinny,” he said. “The long legs, they may not be good for sprinting, but for long distances they work out pretty good.”

Four hundred meters is definitely on the short side for Carrick. But that is what he was asked to run Sunday as the leadoff runner for a 4×400 relay team in a crossover meet at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Loverde used the meet as a glorified speed workout, thus the unusual 4×400 team of Carrick, Sean Allen, Manolo Espana and Ryan Keane. The four juniors won their heat and finished 12th overall in 4:02.88.

Carrick also ran the 1,000. He was 13th in 2:52.90, one notch ahead of Keane (2:53.58).

So, how has this season been going for Carrick?

“It’s been a little slow,” he said. “I definitely think that the past couple of races definitely have put me in the mindset that I definitely have to work a lot harder to get to where I want to be so I just think I have to turn a new page. I’m working harder now.”

Aside from physical maturity, the key to Carrick’s improvement will come in training. “When you’re in the [long-]distance field, there [are] no shortcuts,” said Loverde.

“He’s just an all-around great kid,” the coach continued. “He’s an academic kid. He’s a got a great personality, a fun sense of humor. He definitely brings a very contagious personality to the team, which is a positive thing.”

Running became a way of life for Carrick when he was an eighth-grader. His first season of running came with the middle school cross-country team. For his second running season, he was pulled up to the varsity spring track team.

“It came quick, I guess,” he said.

Carrick said he still keeps in touch with Coulter and Cunha, who he credits with helping him become better.

“If I did not have Luke and Eric as captains, there would be not a chance I’d be close to where I was,” Carrick said. “You always looked up to them.”

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Photo caption: From left, Riverhead’s Ryan Carrick was joined by fellow juniors Sean Allen, Manolo Espana and Ryan Keane in running the 4×400-meter relay Sunday at Suffolk County Community College. (Credit: Bob Liepa)