The Riverhead Blue Waves knew they would be running with some of the best high school girls cross-country teams in Suffolk County this season when they were bumped up to League II. Now, when talking about the elite teams in the county, they can look in a mirror.
Riverhead completed the League II season in a three-way tie for first place with Ward Melville and Sachem East. All three co-champions have 5-1 records.
It’s the second straight league championship for Riverhead, but unlike last year when the Blue Waves went 6-0 in League III (their first league crown since 1998), this title wasn’t nearly as expected, given the caliber of competition they had to navigate.
“The league is absolutely a monster,” Riverhead coach Justin Cobis said. “It’s full of perennially strong, powerhouse programs.”
Riverhead did its part in its final league meet, beating Sachem North, 19-50, at Sunken Meadow State Park Oct. 15. But then the Blue Waves needed help. They needed Ward Melville to hand Sachem East its only loss a short while later on the same course.
“We had to watch and wait and do some math on the fly,” Cobis said. “On that day, we were absolutely Ward Melville fans for about 15 minutes.”
The desired result came in, and when the Riverhead runners returned from a cooldown, they were greeted with happy news. “They screamed,” said Cobis.
Riverhead’s only loss was a 26-31 setback to Sachem East in its second league meet. The other Riverhead wins came against Commack, Bay Shore, Walt Whitman and Ward Melville.
Two seniors, Megan Kielbasa and Christina Yakaboski, have been the team’s top two runners and, with junior Linda Pomiranceva, Cobis said, “We have the best one-two-three punch in the entire county.”
Kielbasa, in her sixth season on the team, has made All-County the past five years. Cobis said Kielbasa and Pomiranceva have been running the fastest they ever have.
Over the summer, Yakaboski, took some time off for what Cobis described as “preventative rest. She has ended up coming through in a big way.”
The numbers 4 through 7 spots have rotated among freshman Lauren Matyka and seniors Kristina DeRaveniere, Natalia Ruszkowski and Madison Kelly, who never ran cross country before this season, but has had an impact.
Riverhead is ranked 15th in Class A in the state (the highest ranking of any Suffolk team) by the New York State Sportswriters Association in rankings released Monday.
An indication of how strong Riverhead is was seen at the Brown Northeast Invitational in Warwick, R.I., Saturday. Riverhead finished first among 16 teams in the Division II race with 93 points and an average time of 19 minutes and 34 seconds on the 5,000-meter course. Eastport-South Manor was second with 107 points.
— Riverhead Track & XC (@RiverheadTrack) October 19, 2019
Kielbasa (fifth in 18:53) and Yakaboski (seventh in 18:59) were followed by Pomiranceva (19th in 19:41), Matyka (35th in 20:10), DeRaveniere (20:11), Kelly (20:54) and Ruszkowski (89th in 22:38).
The next question: Will Riverhead send any runners, or even a team, to the state meet, which will be run Nov. 16 in Plattsburgh?
That depends on how the Blue Waves do in the Section XI Championships Nov. 8 at Sunken Meadow. In order to qualify for the state meet as a team, Riverhead has to finish first in Class A in that sectional meet.
The last Riverhead runner to compete in the state meet was Katie Skinner, who was 11th in Class A in 2009.
“How great would it be to be in the mix to go upstate as a team?” Cobis said. “We need to have five girls on the same day perform at an outstanding level.”
Garcia sixth at Brown. Shoreham-Wading River senior Nicole Garcia came in sixth in the Division I girls varsity race at the Brown Northeast Invitational Saturday. Her time was 18:41.21.
In the Division I boys race, SWR senior Adam Zelin was 14th in 16:14.29.
Mike Burns, a junior, was the top Riverhead finisher in the Division II boys race in 17:15.35.
Photo caption: Riverhead won its second straight league championship, finishing in a three-way tie for first place in League II with Ward Melville and Sachem East. (Credit: Justin Cobis courtesy photo)