The push to form a new high school boys track and field team just been talk until this past summer, when that talk turned into reality and a combined Greenport/Southold team was formed.
“We had a lot of help from parents and community members donating their time, donating their materials,” coach Maria Troise said. “It’s amazing what we were able to put together.”
The purple and white uniforms have been distributed, and the Clippers are getting ready to run. All seven of the team’s meets will be off the North Fork, but the excitement is still there.
“It’s very exciting and I feel honored that they even asked me to be a part of it,” Troise said. “I see so much potential in every athlete and every student that came out.”
Troise has a background in the sport. She was a 400-meter runner and pole vaulter for Center Moriches High School and SUNY/New Paltz. The past two years she coached a junior high school team that included athletes from Mattituck and Greenport.
Nick Wallace, a high jumper and triple jumper, and sprinters Byron Rivas and Chris Sponza, are considered among the team’s key athletes. Sponza is the only senior on the squad.
Two cross-country runners from Southold, Jon Rempe and Owen Klipstein, will run middle- and long-distance events. A seventh-grader, Mateo Arias, is slotted in as a 1,600- and 3,200-meter runner. Brendan Walker, who ran the 1,600 in under five minutes, is running again after taking most of last season off because of injury.
Troise said there are about 17 athletes on the team and she estimated that about 10 of them have prior experience in the sport.
“As of now, my numbers aren’t massive, but I would say I have quality athletes,” Troise said. “They’re dedicated and they’re committed. They’re out here in 20-degree weather, and they’re running and they’re jumping.
“I’m excited to get going, get started and see how the hard work will pay off,” she continued. “I hope every meet the kids can reach a personal best, and that’s all I can ask for. If they’re running faster, jumping further, throwing further, that means more to me than anything else.”
Mattituck (3-4) as its share of new, too. The Tuckers have a new coach, Mike Miller, and expect to have a brand new all-weather track laid down sometime this summer, replacing their old cinder track.
“It will be nice to have a track,” Miller said. “I think that will be a big draw to our track program.”
As it is, the Tuckers have over 40 athletes on the team, including senior Sal Loverde and sophomore Darius Brew, who both made their first appearance in the state meet last year. Loverde finished 28th in the discus with a throw of 126 feet. Brew was 23rd in the triple jump at 40-3 1/2.
Jack Dufton, a sophomore who runs the 800 and the 1,600 meters, wants to compete in the pentathlon, said Miller. The Tuckers are also looking for points from junior Mike O’Rourke (400), sophomore Frank Imbriano (400-meter intermediate hurdles) and seniors Chris Hicks (3,200), Matt Berenzy (discus, 100), Adam Hicks (1,600, 3,200), Jacob Branker (hurdles, 100, long jump) and Chris Wahlers (100, 110-meter high hurdles, long jump).
“I got to give the kids a lot of credit,” Miller said. “It hasn’t been the best weather. They keep showing up and working hard.”
This is the first varsity track head coaching position for Miller, who ran the 400-meter for Dolgeville High School in upstate New York. He coached at the junior high school level for two years in Center Moriches.
The Tuckers could be looking at one of the tougher dual-meet schedules they have seen in a while, with contests against traditionally strong teams like Bayport-Blue Point, Shoreham-Wading River and Elwood/John Glenn. All of their meets will be away from home.
“That’s the bigger challenge for us,” Miller said. “As the team gets better, we’re going to face better teams. If you want to be a better athlete, you got to compete against the best ones.”