Coach Joe Mordarski isn’t certain whether Shoreham Wading-River can duplicate last year’s success when it won its first Suffolk County league boys track and field championship in four years.
Repeating in any sport is difficult, but the Wildcats (5-0 last year) will be competitive as they move from League V to League VII.
“We’re in the running,” he said. “We have a lot of talent spread out in a lot of different events.”
Mordarski’s optimism is fueled by the fact that he has 60 athletes on the squad. “It’s like 20 percent of the male student body is on the track team” he said. “That’s very much our school right there.”
He will rely on four athletes to handle the shot put and discus — sophomore Mike Cassazza, juniors Paul Reilly and Mark Costas and senior Ryan Grant.
“All those athletes are looking to be in the 40s [in the 400 meters] or close to it,” Mordarski said.
He is expecting big things from sophomore high jumper Blake Wehr, who has improved his personal best from 5 feet, 9 inches to 6-2.
“We’ve been working on a number of techniques and a number of approaches, tweaking his power and speed,” Mordarski said. “I would love to see him PR by another two inches by the end of spring as well. He also grew quite a bit. His dad is pretty tall. He’s like 6-3, 6-4 and 150 pounds. He’s tall, lean, has the perfect ergonomics for high jumping.
“Although he’s a sophomore, he’s shaping up to be a fantastic leader and role model on the track team and his character, he’s absolutely the kind that coaches look for. Very coachable.”
Mordarski also is excited about two freshmen high jumpers — Brian Baumeister, who also could help with the long and triple jump events, and Ethan Hunt. Baumeister also wants to compete in the pentathlon.
“We’re training him in a number of different areas,” Mordarski said. “He’s quite the athlete.”
As is Hunt. “Ethan has a fantastic approach, very flexible,” Mordarski said. “He’s really able to get that mark in his Fosbury flop. He’s naturally talented.”
Junior Dylan Jung (21-6 1/2 in the long jump last year) also will be a key performer in the triple jump.
Sophomore Tyler Hawks, who broke into “The best of” in the event in winter track, is heading the hurdle crew. “He’s got a lot of heart,” Mordarski said. “I’m looking forward to see his dedication translate into the 400 hurdles and the 110 hurdles times.”
Junior Adam Zelin will anchor the 1,600 and 3,200 while senior Joey Krause, whose father set some Suffolk record times, is slated for middle distances and longer.
James Rose, a soccer player competing in track for the first time, will run the 800 and 1,600. Freshmen brothers Daniel and James Dacos also are slated to run those distances. Ben Carrier is the Wildcats’ best pole vaulter.
The Wildcats’ first dual meet will be March 27 at Mount Sinai, against whom they clinched the league crown last year.
“Mount Sinai definitely will be a big hurdle,” Mordarski said. “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to be competing against the best of the best.”
They might need a traffic cop to direct traffic at Riverhead practice this year. The Blue Waves (0-6) have 90 athletes. Add another 80-plus on the girls side and an estimated 150 from the middle school and the school’s track will be quite busy weekday afternoons.
Coach Sal Loverde would have it no other way. “It’s a really healthy roster,” he said. “A lot of young people involved, too, which is exciting for us. It’s been a long time since I had this many kids on the team.”
The key word to Riverhead’s success this season is versatility because so many athletes can compete in multiple events.
Start with senior Sean Allen, whom Loverde described as a “pentathlon-type athlete,” who will run the hurdles, be part of the 4×800 relay team, can run the 800 and throw the shot put.
Then go to Ryan Carrick, who specializes in the 1,600 but can run the 800 and 3,200, “depending on what the meet looks like,” said Loverde.
And add Michael Cunningham, who is “going to be significant to us” because he is an intermediate hurdles runner and can compete in long-distance races.
Senior Ryan Keane is another core member of the distance group, who can run from the 400 to the 1,600.
Another senior, Kian Martelli, is a triple jumper who has leaped 44 feet with hope of improving to 46.
“He has shown great leadership with all the jumpers,” said Loverde.
Martelli, named by Newsday as one of the top 25 athletes to watch during this past winter season, also does the long and high jumps and can fill in at the 200 and some other running events.
Loverde said the coaches are trying to develop junior Aaron Walker into a high jump specialist.
Five athletes from freshmen to juniors will make the core of the sprinting group: Dennis Lowe, Ethan Martin, Jarrett Crump, Jah’keem Young and Curtis Sprolle.
“It’s a young contingent that we’re looking to build up in our sprint area to be more competitive than we have been in recent years,” Loverde said. “We’re pretty solid there.”
Eduardo Duran and Cesar Garcia, a pair of 400-meter runners, also can run in the 800 and 4×400 relay.
If the weather cooperates, Riverhead will hold its annual Blue-White scrimmage this Wednesday, which includes so coed relays “to have some fun,” Loverde said.
The Blue Waves will host Smithtown East in their first dual meet March 29. Riverhead it will compete in League I, which houses the largest county school populations. Riverhead has 1,421 students.
“We are looking for the total team continued progression and improvement,” Loverde said. “What will that look like in terms of a dual meet win-loss schedule, we don’t know yet. We’re at the bottom. We’re going against schools that are 2,000, 4,000. They certainly have a bigger base to pull from. We’re going to be competitive. One thing about Riverhead, and it’s been consistent since I’ve been involved with it: Riverhead comes to compete and compete we will.”
Photo caption: Sean Allen can handle a variety of events for Riverhead, from the hurdles to the 4×800 relay to the 800 to the shot put. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)