Tags Posts tagged with "Rod Cawley"

Rod Cawley

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Handful of cross country runners compete at state meet

Port Jefferson's cross country team finished first in Suffolk County's Class C. Photo by Dick Olson

By Jim Ferchland

Coach Rod Cawley called runner Sam Walker a “take-charge kind of guy,” and at the Suffolk County Class C championship Nov. 3, the senior raced his team to its second straight title.

The Port Jefferson cross-country competitor finished first at the 5,000-meter Sunken Meadow State Park course, crossing the finish line in 17 minutes, 48 seconds.

Sam Walker, who placed first at the Suffolk County meet, rounds a corner before punching his state qualifying ticket. Photo by Dick Olson

Walker has claimed gold his junior and senior season and said placing first two years in a row to cap off his final county cross-country meet was icing on the cake. He also was quick to point toward it being more about the team than himself this time around.

“I’m not going to lie, it felt pretty good,” Walker said. “This year didn’t entirely go as I wanted it to, but I was proud of myself because my main concern was if the team was going to qualify.”

The Royals finished 5-1 in League VIII, winning all but the final meet of the season with a loss to Shelter Island by a single point, 27-28. In all other meets, Port Jefferson dominated its opponents by 30 or more points.

“They worked very hard all season,” Cawley said of his athletes. “They did what they had to do.”

The head coach has led the Royals to 13 county crowns in his 25-year tenure. He said he gives all of the credit to his runners, especially Walker, who he said he’s had the privilege of coaching for four of them.

“He leads by example,” Cawley said. “He works hard and does what he has to do. He continued to improve each year.”

Walker said his focus this time around was on the underclassmen because of the fact the team hasn’t had many state qualifiers over his last four years.

“That whole race was trying to get the younger guys to the state meet and get that experience,” he said. “I know those guys have got a lot of talent and a lot of promise. And I know they’ll do the same for their younger guys.”

Grant Samara finished right behind teammate Sam Walker for second place. Photo by Dick Olson

The Port Jefferson team ran an average of 18:48.21, and had three runners place in the Top 5, with freshman Grant Samara placing second in 18:41 and freshman Cooper Schoch rounding out the fifth spot with a 19:05 finish. Right behind Schoch was Mike Ruggiero with a time of 19:06, and three others placed in the Top 15 — Brian Veit finished in eighth, Alex Rebic placed 11th and Owen Okst finished 15th.

“It’s amazing to see,” Walker said of the talented underclassmen. “I know when I go off to college, I’m going to be coming back to watch these guys. I know they have so much promise in this sport, especially since we are such a small school compared to the bigger Class A schools. We got so lucky with these freshmen that have such a future. I wasn’t even that driven when I first participated in the sport.”

Cawley said he too is liking what he’s seeing from his young guys.

“Samara’s an outstanding freshman,” Cawley said. “He came along quite a bit. He was the fourth guy in the beginning of the season and he ended up being the second. He improved considerably over the course of the season. For Schoch, he’s very talented and right there with Grant. Both of them ran as eighth-graders.”

Cawley said there were some challenges this year, but they were primarily a result of mother nature.

“It was a warm season — it was difficult to train sometimes and difficult to compete,” he said. “One meet got canceled because they ran out of ambulances, so I would say the weather was a difficult challenge for us this year. Cross-country is designed for the 50s and maybe the 60s, not the 70s.”

Cooper Schoch placed fifth at the Suffolk County meet. Photo by Dick Olson

With this, the weather once again became a colossal obstacle for Port Jefferson in the state meet at Wayne Central School District in Ontario Center just east of Rochester. The conditions were in the 20s with snow and wind, according to Cawley, a drastic change from what the Royals were getting used to. Port Jefferson finished the meet in ninth place.

“The ground was frozen,” Cawley said. “It wasn’t pleasant, and everyone had the same conditions, but the upstate schools are a little better handling that than us Long Islanders.”

Walker hit a major setback in the state meet as he suffered an injury in the tough conditions, costing him a Top 20 finish.

“I was feeling good,” Walker said of his confidence before his injury. “I tried catching up with the lead pack, but it was so muddy and there were foot tracks from the previous day that had frozen over. There were a bunch of holes and I rolled my ankle, fell, and it took a while to get back up. I knew that race was over. I couldn’t run as well as I wanted to, but it’s something to learn from.”

Despite the rough upstate experience, Cawley continues to remain optimistic about the future with his young, talented team.

“I’m very excited,” Cawley said. “I have very high expectations for the next few years.”

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Sam Walker. File photo by Bill Landon

By Charles Hamma

The Pierson-Bridgehampton team could do nothing but watch the Port Jefferson Royals run away with another cross-country victory Oct. 3 at Sunken Meadow State Park, winning 48-15 to bring the Royals’ record to a perfect 5-0 on the season.

Sam Walkerfinished first for Port Jefferson out of five top-finishing Royals at Sunken Meadow State Park Oct. 3. File photo by Bill Landon

Port Jefferson dominated this 2.8-mile run from start to finish, placing five Royals in the Top 5. As runners from both the Whalers and the Monarchs huffed and puffed, the Royals zoomed by, leaving kicked-up dust and the competition behind them. Senior captain and first-place finisher Sam Walker led the way, finishing with a time of 16 minutes, 12 seconds. Port Jefferson was eager to come out and set the same convincing tone that they’ve been setting throughout this cross-country season.

“Pierson and McGann gave it their all, but we just have a great thing going right now,” Walker said after the race. “Everyone’s staying positive and we’re all working together as a team. There isn’t one person who sticks out more than the other. We’re all doing great.”

While Walker finished first, it was a photo finish, with teammates stepping across the finish line right behind him. Cooper Schoch came in second in 16:13 and Grant Samara was right behind him, finishing in 16:14.

Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley was especially impressed with his team’s powerful performance.

“I can’t ask for anything more as a coach than a performance like the one I saw today,” he said grinning from ear to ear. “Hopefully this momentum will carry over into this weekend when we go to Disney World.”

The Royals are leaving to go to Disney World this weekend, but they are not going there to celebrate a recent Super Bowl victory with Mickey and Minnie. Instead, they will be traveling to compete in the Disney Cross Country Classic. Now in its 21st year, the competition brings together schools of all kinds, from middle schools up to colleges, to compete on the 5K and 8K courses at Disney’s 220-acre Wide World of Sports Complex. The races will take place Oct. 6 and 7. The top three schools and individuals will earn trophies, and those who place fourth through tenth will earn medals.

“I can’t ask for anything more as a coach than a performance like the one I saw today.”

— Rod Cawley

Port Jefferson will travel home for one final regular-season meet against the Shelter Island Indians Oct. 10. It’s a matchup to which Walker is looking forward.

“I think that this will be a great test for us to finish out the regular season,” he said. “They have a really good team, we have a really good team, so it should be interesting.”

After that, the road to the state qualifiers begins, with expectations sure to be high.

But for now, the Royals will celebrate this victory, possibly with a ride on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

This version updates the length of the course and the spelling of Parker Schoch’s name.

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Justin Julich competes for Port Jefferson in the steeplechase in the St. Anthony’s Invitational. Photo from the athlete

The Royals have always risen to the occasion, and the boys’ track and field team hopes their efforts this year on the state stage will be no exception.

Despite missing the entire spring season with an Achilles tendon injury, Port Jefferson standout James Burke — and two of his fellow Royals — placed in the Section XI individual championships and state qualifier on their home track last Friday and Saturday, to advance to the state championship this weekend at the University at Albany.

“It was devastating to lose James this spring season,” Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley said. “He’s the captain of the team and one of the best athletes in the state. But it’s quite an accomplishment to have three athletes competing this weekend.”

Although this season’s squad did not win any of the championships the Royals usually nab, like the league, division and county titles, the boys still finished the dual-meet season with a 5-1 record — dropping only their final matchup against Wyandanch, 79-59 — despite missing Burke, as well as junior Billy Witrock for a portion of the schedule.

Although he did not compete during the regular season, Burke placed second in the 1,600-meter, his signature event, at the qualifying meet with a time of 4 minutes, 18.39 seconds — only five-hundredths of a second behind Ward Melville’s John Ripa.

The Royal has finished that event as fast as 4:08.48, during the New Balance Nationals Indoor at the Armory in Manhattan earlier this year. The time made him the second-fastest miler in the country and earned him a silver medal.

“I give him credit for coming back and coming in second,” Cawley said about the qualifier. “The plan was to go out and try to take it easy to rest his tendon, but being the competitor that he is, there’s no taking it easy. He went from the back of the race all the way to the front in second place there, and then he moved to first for a little while, but he also got stepped on during the race — since [his Achilles] was injured anyway, that didn’t help.”

Burke spent a lot of time trying to heal following his injury, and slowly worked himself up to being able to run again.

“He goes around the neighborhood to people who have pools, and asks if he could swim,” Cawley said, laughing. “He’s been to four or five different pools in Port Jeff. … He likes to run in the water in the deep end to simulate running — not touching the bottom — and then he’ll swim laps to get some cardiovascular aspects of it.”

Port Jefferson's Alden Mohacsi pole vaults in a previous meet. Photo from the athlete
Port Jefferson’s Alden Mohacsi pole vaults in a previous meet. Photo from the athlete

Also heading to states is senior pole-vaulter Alden Mohacsi, whose fourth-place finish at the qualifier was a new personal record, making the state bid that much sweeter.

“I’m definitely looking forward to states,” said Mohacsi, who has been on the team since he was a freshman. “I’m practicing every day and there’s been a lot of personal development. I’m going to do the best that I can this week to improve my form and I’m hoping to hit 13 feet this Friday.”

Junior Justin Julich had several successes of his own, competing in the 3,200 and 3,000 steeplechase.

On Friday, Julich hit a new personal record of his own in the two-mile run with a 9:48 — nine seconds better than his standard 9:57 — to finish eighth. Just hours after competing in the 3,200 the evening before, Julich ran a 10:16 in the steeplechase on Saturday to place seventh and qualify for states.

“It’s awesome to do really good at that high of a level,” Julich said. “Competing against the best guys in the county, it always helps to do your best in those kinds of situations.”

Julich is also looking to reach a new personal best in that event this Saturday, and his head coach said the runner has grown a lot over the years, aiding in his success.

“He’s come a long way,” Cawley said. “He was a little guy back in freshman year and now he’s going to be a team leader next year. He was exhausted Saturday morning. It’s a very difficult [double event] to do in 16 hours, but he didn’t complain; he went out there and did it. He knows he has to step up.”

Julich, Mohacsi, Parker Schoch and Alex Rebic also competed in the 4×800 relay in the state qualifier, finishing 12th in 8:50.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Cawley and his athletes are confident that they can be successful on the big stage.

“I think we have a pretty good chance to do very well,” the head coach said. “James is James; I know he will do well just because of his past. Alden is a tough competitor, and I think Justin has an opportunity to do well, too.”

Mohacsi said the program’s winning tradition has facilitated the athletes’ improvements.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of this team and this program,” he said. “It’s built me up physically and mentally, and I’m really grateful for the super-talented and supportive teammates and coaches I’ve had. It’s inspired me to keep pushing myself beyond the best of my abilities; to work hard and give it 110 percent.”

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Port Jefferson’s Alden Mohacsi leaps over the high jump bar in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Port Jefferson’s Spencer Cona leaps into the sand pit in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Spencer Cona leaps into the sand pit in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

Although the Port Jefferson boys’ track and field team is fielding 13 freshmen on a roster riddled with injuries, the Royals remain atop the League VII leaderboard with an 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday.

According to head coach Rod Cawley, the team found itself filling holes in events that the athletes were not unaccustomed to, and the competitors came through for the team on their own home track to improve to 5-0 and tie with Wyandanch for first place in the standings.

Winner of the 800-meter event was Port Jefferson junior Billy Witrock with a time of 2 minutes, 12 seconds, despite the shorter hurdle events being his primary focus.

Port Jefferson junior Justin Julich won the 400-hurdle event in 64 seconds flat. He said he rarely runs the event, and the time became his new personal best. A three-year varsity runner, Julich, who the coach said is a superb athlete and touch competitor, also races in cross country, in the two mile and the 3,000 steeplechase, while also pole vaulting and running in the 400.

The Royals took the longest race of the day, as senior Parker Schoch crossed the finish line first in the 3,200, with a winning time of 12:09. Schoch said the conditions were less than ideal, but that didn’t stop him from also claiming first place in the 1,600 with a time of 5:09.

Port Jefferson’s James Concepcion receives the handoff from Parker Schoch in a relay event during the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s James Concepcion receives the handoff from Parker Schoch in a relay event during the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

“It was windy and it was hot — it was the first warm meet we’ve had this season,” said Schoch, a four-year varsity runner who also competes in the two-mile and high jump.

Cawley said he had to lean on some freshmen to step up and fill the holes left by injured runners, but added he was pleased with their performance.

“We’re a very young team … we had guys who filled rolls today because we have a couple of injuries, and they rose to the occasion,” he said. “We had a couple of sophomores run their personal best today, which was great because our top distance runner in the state, James Burke, is out with a hamstring injury, and our top sprinter couldn’t be here today due to a family obligation.”

Cawley added that his team did well in the relay events, which is something they don’t usually do because of how young his runners are.

Port Jefferson’s Justin Julich and Parker Schoch race around the track in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Justin Julich and Parker Schoch race around the track in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

“We won three relays, which we don’t usually do because of the ages of the group, so that was a pleasant surprise,” the head coach said.

He was also pleased with sophomore James Concepcion, who competes in the 100, 200 and 400, and 100 and 200 relays.

“He’s an excellent young athlete — rises to the occasion when asked and will be very good one day,” Cawley said.

The Royals will take on top-seeded Wyandanch on Tuesday, May 12, at 4:30 p.m., to settle the dispute for first place in League VIII.

“For right now, we’re just focused on Wyandanch,” Cawley said. “I hope we can get healthy. If not, we’ll have to realign and adjust our strategy.”