Youth is not an excuse for the Riverhead High School boys track and field team, just a reality.
With a team comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores, the Blue Waves faced an uphill run against more experienced opponents in the Suffolk County Division Championships this week. Not that the Blue Waves complained.
Kevin Williams, a junior, wasn’t buying the theory that underclassmen were at a disadvantage competing against upperclassmen?
“Grade means nothing,” he said. “It’s all about the talent, how hard you want to work on that track.”
When it comes to talent and work ethic, Riverhead seems to have a gem in the making in Jeff Pittman, a sophomore who is the team’s top sprinter and one of its best jumpers.
Pittman did well in the two-day meet that concluded on Wednesday at Connetquot High School in Bohemia.
After fouling on a long jump attempt that a Riverhead assistant coach, Sal Loverde, said would have put Pittman close to 22 feet, the Riverheader came back and hit 20-8 3/4 on his final attempt on Wednesday, which was good enough for fifth place in Division II. “I think I can get a lot further than that,” he said.
Tyriek Johnson of Huntington won at 21-10.
Earlier in the day, Pittman, the only sophomore who qualified for the 200-meter final, turned in a personal-best time of 23.16 seconds to finish fifth. He was the only non-senior to make it to the final.
“I think I can get faster, but it was alright for today,” he said.
On Monday, the first day of the meet, Pittman finished third in the triple jump at 41-3 1/4. His senior teammate, Treval, Hatcher, came in first place at 46-4.
Pittman shows impressive maturity for his age and is already recognized as one of the team leaders. He didn’t agonize over the foul that might have cost him a victory in the long jump. “That’s one” jump, he reasoned, “but I have plenty more to go in my life.”
Pittman first entered the track and field world as a seventh-grader, who soon grew accustomed to winning in middle school. But high school track is another level, and Pittman is making his way in his second varsity season.
“Then to come here, you have competition, and it shows you where you are and where you can be,” he said. “Now the competition’s here, and this is real life.”
Riverhead Coach Steve Gevinski recognizes Pittman as someone with ears to go with his talent. “It looks like he’s willing to put the work in,” Gevinski said. “You can have all the talent in the world. You got to be willing to listen.”
Pittman said he has the heart and passion for the sport.
“I’m just going to keep trying harder and get better at what I do,” he said. “I’m not the type of kid to give up on a race. Even if I’m in last [place], I’m trying my best and I’m going to work as hard as I can.”
And Pittman isn’t willing to settle for excuses, such as saying he is only a sophomore.
“I don’t want to use that as an excuse,” he said. “I just want people to know, I’m Jeffrey Pittman. I’m good in the 200 and the long jump.”
Williams was a fifth-place finisher in the 400 at 51.37.
Riverhead’s 4×100 relay team also took fifth with a time of 45.89.
Riverhead was sitting in second place in the team rankings on Monday when five finals were contested. But the Blue Waves took a fall on Wednesday, dropping six places over the final 14 events to finish eighth with 29 1/2 points. The Half Hollow Hills West Colts were first with 98.
“All the young kids exceeded our expectations,” Gevinski said. “It’s more [a case of] of getting beaten by experience right now.”
Two first-place performances in field events on Wednesday helped the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats end up fourth in the Division III team rankings with 55 points. The Port Jefferson Royals had easily cruised to the division championship with 126 1/2 points, 35 more than the second-place Amityville Warriors.
Shoreham-Wading River senior Mike Clancy threw the discus 141-2 for a winner’s medal in that event. His teammate, Mike Henriques, was fifth at 122-2.
Another Shoreham-Wading River senior, Erik Anderson, cleared 6-2 to win the high jump.
John Lee, a junior, came in second place for Shoreham-Wading River in the 3,200 and fourth in the 1,600. His respective times were 9:40.51 and 4:34.04. Tyler Keys also scored for the Wildcats in the 1,600, coming in sixth in 4:42.17.
Shoreham-Wading River also received a third-place finish from Kevin Sanders in the 400 (51.29) and a fifth-place showing by Daniel Purschke in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (11:02.11).
In the 4×800 relay, Shoreham-Wading River was fifth in 8:48.95.
The Bishop McGann-Mercy 4×800 relay team was fourth in 8:47.32.
Mattituck junior Corey Zlatniski finished eighth in the 1,600, two places out of the scoring, but his time of 4:42.79 nipped one second off his previous personal record. He has raised his personal-best time on several occasions this season.
“Faster races always help you get better, but I think the heat is the only thing that messed me up,” he said. “I think I could easily be running a 4:30 in great weather.”