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Boys Track and Field: After two-year hiatus, Gambino returned to pole vault

Returning to pole vault after a two-year hiatus isn’t exactly like riding a bike. No, it’s a little more involved than that. Just ask someone who did it.

“I would say it’s a little bit more difficult, you know,” Riverhead senior Dom Gambino said. “You can pick it up and you can learn it, you know. After a year or two you’ll be rusty, but you’ll know the basic stuff.”

Gambino pole vaulted as a freshman for Riverhead, working under the auspice of the late pole vaulting savant, John (Doc) Andresen, who died last fall. Gambino didn’t pole vault the next two years. He played football last fall and wrestled this past winter. Once the wrestling season was over, Gambino figured it was time to return to pole vaulting as a senior for one final high school season.

“Honestly,” he said, “I just love being an athlete for the Riverhead district, and I knew it was my senior year, so I made sure to play sports as much as possible and get as involved in the programs as I can.”

Gambino recalled pole vaulting about 10 feet during one of his first practices this year. That was encouraging because he thinks his best height as a freshman was around 9-0.

Progress has come swiftly. Gambino equaled his personal-best height, 12-3, to finish fifth among Division I pole vaulters in the Section XI state qualifier Friday at Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station. Sayville senior Thomas Cea (13-0), Connetquot sophomore Bishal Das (12-9), Half Hollow Hills West senior Charles Connolly III (12-6) and West Islip junior Troy Belcher (12-6) finished ahead of him. Riverhead sophomore Loudon Krumbiegel was 19th at 10-0.

“It felt good to match the PR [personal record], but I wanted to smash the PR,” Gambino said. “I didn’t want to match it. I was hoping for 13 [feet] today.”

All things considered, it was remarkable that Gambino had even made it as far as the state qualifier.

Riverhead had a volunteer pole vaulting coach for a short period this season, said Gambino. “We only had him for two to three weeks and then he stopped coming to our practices, so we didn’t have a coach,” he said. “You know, there was no one at practice like giving us tips and stuff. We were just researching on our own and trying to figure it out. It’s crazy how I made it all the way here.”

“I wanted first,” he added. “I really did, and I put everything I had into it, and you know, I’m just glad I made it this far without a coach.”

Gambino managed to place second with a height of 11-6 in the Section XI Class AA Championships May 23 at Commack High School.

How would Gambino describe what this season has been like for him?

“Successful, definitely successful,” he answered. “I came in, got it done, and I feel good.

“Don’t let anybody stop you from what you want to achieve. You are you. If you want it, you can get it.”