The Riverhead girls sprint-medley relay team sensed it had an opportunity to do something special Friday night in the North Shore High School Pre-National Invitational at The Armory Track and Field Center in New York City.
“We knew we would get a school record if everything went right,” said coach Justin Cobis.
The thing is, everything didn’t go right.
For one thing, Riverhead was assigned to Lane 6.
“We ended up with a very tough lane assignment,” Cobis said. “On an indoor track you want to be in Lane 3 or 4. We ended up on Lane 6, on the outside … It’s a very tough spot to be in. It’s a bad draw, basically.”
If that wasn’t enough, there was a hiccup during the race. While receiving the baton on an exchange with leadoff runner Ava Sumwalt in tight space on a curve on the banked track, Kristina Deraveniere hit a rail.
“At that point I was a little nervous … and I wasn’t really confident that we were going to be able to bounce back,” he said, “but between all four of them, they pretty much met or exceeded their [best] time.”
In the process, the Blue Waves came in sixth place among 15 teams, qualified for a national meet and shattered a 14-year-old school record.
“We were very, very happy,” Cobis said. “The girls were ecstatic.”
Sumwalt, a freshman, joined her three junior teammates — Deraveniere, Miasha Pittman and Christina Yakaboski — in posting a time of 4 minutes, 16.01 seconds. That bettered the previous Riverhead record of 4:25.94, set by Klurissa Williams, Angela Smith, Tavina Hubbard and Ellen Dougherty in 2005.
“That’s a record that’s been standing for years with some really big names on it,” said Cobis.
Valley Stream South was first in 4:05.58. Riverhead was the third Suffolk County team, behind third-place Brentwood (4:08.57) and fifth-place West Babylon (4:10.51).
“As a freshman, I was so excited to run with these three girls that have already accomplished a lot,” said Sumwalt who, like her teammates, commented via text message. “Having the opportunity to run with them was truly special. We all individually had to do our part, and we all delivered. I am so proud of us. We proved that if we work together and try our hardest we can accomplish great things!”
The way the sprint-medley relay is structured, the first two runners sprint 200 meters each.
“I’ve never ran the 200 indoors,” Deraveniere said. “I didn’t know how fast the other girls would be for the second leg. But I did know that if I didn’t give it my all, then that would be it. I had to run fast for my team no matter what.”
Pittman then handled the next 400 meters.
“Miasha Pittman ran a phenomenal 400 leg,” Cobis said. “She probably passed three or four teams.”
Pittman said: “Running the 400 is really a scary feeling, but knowing that such an amazing team has your back, it makes it easier. What was I thinking? We had that record and the team made it a little too easy!”
Then Yakaboski closed out the final 800 meters in 2:19. “She probably ran the best 800 of her life at the right time,” said Cobis.
Records are nothing new to any of the four Riverheaders. All of them have been involved in multiple school records this season. That includes Pittman, who set school records in both the 200 (26.53) and 400 (1:02.50) in December. Yakaboski was part of a distance-medley relay team that set a school record of 12:57.99 at the Marine Corps Holiday Classic on Dec. 28.
“They’ve been phenomenal,” said Cobis.
Riverhead qualified for the New Balance Nationals Indoor meet, and will run on the first day of the three-day meet, March 8, at The Armory.
On Friday, the magic number for Riverhead was anything under 4:19, to qualify for the emerging elite sprint-medley relay in the nationals.
“I was so excited to run with a team,” Yakaboski texted. “I knew we would all run our hardest for each other. It’s a lot easier to run our hardest for each other. It’s a lot easier to race when you know your teammates are on the line, too. I’m so proud of us and can’t wait to run the relay again.”
The four Blue Waves have not only extended their indoor season but, as a bonus, expect to receive a coveted backpack given to the competitors in the national meet.
“Oh, we get the backpack,” Cobis said. “When you carry around this nationals backpack, it’s like a sign of national stature.”
Photo caption: Ava Sumwalt, Kristina Deraveniere, Miasha Pittman and Christina Yakaboski, from left, broke a 14-year-old Riverhead record in the sprint-medley relay and qualified for next month’s New Balance Nationals Indoor meet. (Credit: Courtesy of Justin Cobis)