The early part of the winter track season doesn’t present the kind of typical competition that athletes can expect in most sports. There are no head-to-head competitions where an opponent travels to another school. Instead, teams compete at larger meets, typically at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, where the results are more about individual performances rather than team wins or losses.
With that in mind, the Riverhead girls coaches wanted to do something to pique the interest of the younger athletes on the team.
On Friday, the team traveled to New York City to compete in the North Shore High School Season Opener at The Armory Track & Field Center. It was the earliest in the season the coaches had brought the team into the city for a meet, coach Justin Cobis said.
“We wanted to show a lot of the younger kids, this is a pretty big deal,” he said. “This is a really cool venue and this is a cool sport to get them excited. And they really bought into it.”
The Blue Waves, who featured about 50 kids on the winter team, have reason to be excited starting this season. They’re coming off a division championship in the cross country season this past fall, and many of those top distance runners will continue over onto the track. The girls from cross country took some brief time off after the fall to recharge their batteries and now are back in full swing for winter.
The Blue Waves had only a few seniors last year and featured a large core of sophomores who are now juniors.
“We have a nice balance this year,” Cobis said. “We were very young last year but now we’re kind of hopefully maturing a bit and getting some younger talent into the pool as well.”
Junior Christina Yakaboski, who was the top runner from cross country, returns in the 3,000. In the team’s crossover meet Sunday she won that event in 11 minutes, 10.22 seconds. Juniors Megan Kielbasa, Emma Conroy and Kristina DeRaveniere are all runners who are transitioning from cross country into the distance and relay events.
The Blue Waves have skill beyond distance events. Junior Ashli Bell is a newcomer to the team who has the coaches excited. She came out for the team without much prior experience and has been an unexpected surprise. She’ll be competing alongside a familiar face in junior Miasha Pittman, who’s a leader in the sprints and jumps. Pittman took third in the 300-meter dash Sunday (45.23) and eighth in the long jump (14 feet 8 inches).
Senior Julia Divan returns in the high jump. Cobis said she’s like another assistant coach with the way she helps lead her teammates. Between her and sophomore Stephanie Berkeley, the Blue Waves have two high jumpers who will have a chance to compete among some of the best in the county. Berkeley cleared 4-11 at Sunday’s crossover meet.
Freshmen Emani Womack and Enaria Suazo will compete in sprints and jumps.
“Those are two real instant contributors for us,” Cobis said. “We’re going to get them experience so that come spring, they’re going to be ready to go out of the blocks.”
Sophomore Shannon O’Brien returns in the race walk. She was third (9:16.75) in Friday’s event at The Armory.
Senior Morgan Fritscher and junior Jenna Smith are both pole vaulters.
Shoreham-Wading River won’t have the same star power after the graduation of standout Katherine Lee, whom the Wildcats could pencil in to win just about any event she competed in. But there’s enough talent left over for the Wildcats to be one of the top teams in their league. That starts with senior Alexandra Smith, who recently accepted a scholarship for Wagner College where she’ll continue her athletic career. Smith is a standout distance runner.
Junior Nicole Garcia is another top distance runner who was 16th overall in the county at the cross country division championship meet in the fall. She started off the winter season with a second-place finish in the 600 (1:43.43) Sunday at a crossover meet.
“Those are the big two,” said Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki.
The Wildcats will have talent in the race walk with sophomore Torre Parrinello, who was third in the 800 race walk Sunday in 3:57.94. Koretzki said she’s already “improved dramatically.”
Senior Alicia Lopez is a sprinter who ran 7.93 in the 55-meter dash Sunday for seventh overall. She also ran the 300. Sophomore India McKay ran the 1,000 and finished seventh in 3:33.96.
Koretzki said he hopes to find some good combinations in the relay events and is also encouraged by the weight throwers.
Photo caption: Kristina Deraveniere hands off to Emma Conroy in the 4 x 800 relay at last year’s county championship meet. (Credit: Riverhead track courtesy)