Getting back on track.
That’s the name of the game for the Riverhead High School boys track and field team these days.
For the first time in nearly 14 months, the school hosted a sporting event on its campus Monday. It was the track team’s first competition in two years. Last year’s spring season was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic after the first several practices.
That’s the big picture.
Since Riverhead had lost its winter and fall seasons earlier this restructured sports year to budget cutbacks — and with them the cross-country and winter track seasons for its runners to build on — the Blue Waves really face an uphill hurdle this season.
An idea of how sizable that hurdle is was seen Monday when they lost to a strong Commack team, 105 1/2-34 1/2, in Suffolk County League II.
The overriding theme, though, is Riverhead is back and running again.
“Beyond exciting,” senior Gabe Burns said. “I couldn’t wait.”
The one-sided loss aside, positivity was flowing among the Riverheaders.
“We got heart,” junior Gabe Arruda said. “In the beginning, everyone was so nervous, but as soon as they stepped on the track, they got the adrenaline flowing. They put in their best effort. I think that was the best thing to see.”
Ironically, after such a long wait to compete again, Riverhead was rushed into the season with only six practices under its belt.
One of the real eye-openers of the meet, run under a light drizzle, was Angelo Confort. The Riverhead sophomore, in his first varsity meet, pulled off a remarkable double. He took first place in both the 110-meter high hurdles (17.9 seconds) and 400 intermediate hurdles (1:02.8). He had never competed in either of those events before.
“Unbelievable,” marveled assistant coach Matt Yakaboski.
Confort said he couldn’t imagine beforehand winning a double. “I really couldn’t,” he said. “I was just hoping to at least win one. Coming out here and winning both of them by a good margin really feels good.”
Arruda said Confort “really showed up. I played football with him his freshman year, my sophomore year, so I knew he had talent, and he really showed that in the hurdles.”
And then there was the impressive showing by Arruda, winner of the 200 in 24.1 and second in the 100 at 11.7. Both times were personal records.
“He put on a show today,” said Burns, who himself was second in the 1,600 in 4:48.8.
Also scoring for Riverhead was Jeremy Carey (second in the triple jump at 34 feet, 11 inches), Cruz Mendez (third in the 110 high hurdles in 18.7) and Justin Booker (tied for third in the high jump, height not available).
“Everybody here seems like they got fight,” Burns said. “It was cool to see everybody just take it very seriously, get locked in, and just see that everybody’s excited to get better, run better.”
Confort said, “I learned that there’s a lot of kids out there that really got a lot of spirit and they’re really giving it their all and even if they lose, you know, it’s still great because they all finish strong and they all put their heart into it, and it’s nice to see.”
Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski was encouraged by what he saw. Referring to the impact of the lost cross-country and winter track seasons, he said: “It’s like a house. We’re putting a roof on the house, and there’s no foundation. You can’t build a foundation in a couple of weeks. It takes a long time.”