A merry Melodee was on display in Port Jefferson High School’s triple-jump pit on Saturday, and for good reason.
Melodee Riley was beaming in the mid-afternoon sun. The Riverhead High School junior had barely started to rise to her feet following her final triple jump of the day when a smile creased her face. She undoubtedly knew the jump was a good one. It was only several seconds later when the distance was announced that her sense was confirmed: 41 feet 3 1/2 inches.
Riley’s jump was not only a school record and an effort worthy of first place in the Section XI Individual Championships/State Qualifier, but it is the best triple jump in New York State and one of the best in the nation this season, coaches said.
“I was amped,” Riley said. “I feel great. This is what I wanted to do, and I did it.”
The triple jump capped a wonderful meet for Riley. Just the day before she turned in a personal record in the long jump, 19-1/4, which was good enough for first place. She will compete in both events in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships that will be held Friday and Saturday at Caledonia-Mumford High School in Caledonia.
But it was the triple jump, which Riley describes as her favorite and best event, that produced the greatest satisfaction for her. She broke the previous school record of a little over 40 feet that she set earlier this year.
“We’ve been waiting for this because she’s been hitting 40 feet consistently,” Riverhead Coach Maria Dounelis said. “Oh, it’s impressive. She’s probably got to be top five in the nation.”
Riley’s nearest competitor in the triple jump was Kings Park senior Tara Greco, who took second place with a distance of 38-3. Another Riverheader, freshman Kyra Braunskill, was sixth at 36-8.
Riley, who was a fifth-place finisher in the triple jump in last year’s state meet, will be making her third appearance in New York’s biggest high school meet.
“I think her expectations are big, and that’s good,” Dounelis said. “She’s very athletic, but it’s just that jumping ability. That’s why she’s able to do what she can do.”
Riley said she surprised herself on Friday by winning the long jump with a leap that bettered her personal record by 6 1/4 inches. Northport junior Sara Ronde was second at 18-9 1/2. It was during that competition when Dounelis encouraged Riley to smile and be happy.
“When she’s relaxed and she’s coming down the runway, that’s when she jumps her best, and that’s why she won yesterday,” said the coach.
Riley was certainly happy on Saturday. In fact, she said it was the happiest she has ever been in connection with the triple jump.
“Once I hit 40, I felt I could go farther, but I had to work at it. It doesn’t come easy,” she said. “Jumping 41 feet, that’s crazy.”
Shannon McDonnell of Shoreham-Wading River had a productive meet. The junior finished second in the 800 meters and fifth in the 1,500.
Sachem East junior Rachel Paul (2 minutes 11.59 seconds) edged out McDonnell (2:13.53) in the 800. McDonnell’s time in the 1,500 was 4:44.10.
Two Shoreham sophomores did well. Laura Lee was fifth in the 400 in 58.87, and Kylie Trettner came in sixth in the 1,500-meter race walk in 7:24.33.
Olivia Schumann will compete in the state meet for the fourth year in a row. This time, though, she will run in both the 400-meter intermediate hurdles and as a member of Bishop McGann-Mercy’s 4×400-meter relay team.
Schumann, a senior, clocked a personal-best time of 1:05.13 that brought her fourth place in the 400 hurdles. She also anchored the 4×400 relay team that was fifth in 4:00.53. That was three seconds off their season-best time. Sasa Vann, Kayleigh Macchirole and Lauren Woodhull ran the first three legs.
“It was the perfect day for running,” Schumann said. “You can’t really get any better than this.”