By Steven Zaitz
The middle of January assuredly brings two things to Suffolk County – unbearably cold temperatures and the Section XI Winter Track League Championships on the Brentwood campus of Suffolk Community College.
From Friday night to Sunday evening, Suffolk Federal Credit Union Arena was packed to the rafters with athletes from over 50 high schools across the county on both the boys and girls sides.
In League II, Commack and Smithtown East both had standout performances in the arts and sciences of running, jumping, and throwing. They competed against the likes of the mighty Connetquot, who finished in the top spot for the boys and second for the girls, Bay Shore, who were among the top five overall for both boys and girls, North Babylon, whose girls team took first place in the league, and of course archenemy to both, the always-dangerous Northport.
The Commack girls finished in fourth place overall with many noteworthy performances. The 4×400 relay was the team’s crowning achievement by winning the event by more than five seconds. With a time of 4:20.75, the Lady Cougar foursome Alexandra Pulcini, Hailey Torres, Nicole Bransfield, and Kate Hearns bested second-place Connetquot, whose quartet ran a 4:25.82.
Junior Kathryn Vidulich was best in the triple jump, reaching 35 feet. Senior Sophia Toepfer was second in the long jump with a leap of 16”10’, besting her teammate Vidulich, who came in third, by only a quarter of an inch. Toepfer was third in the 300-meter dash and senior Nicole Bransfield was third in the 55-meter hurdles.
The Bulls of Smithtown East were led by freshmen Rayshelle Brown, who was second, ahead of Bransfield, in the 55-meter hurdles at 8.84 seconds and senior Sarah Wisnieski, who was second in the 1000-meters and fifth in the 1500. Brown broke the school record by .003, a record that stood for six years. Brooke Rosenberg and Annabelle Willie crossed the finish line almost simultaneously in the 600-meter run. Rosenberg’s time was 1:48.78 and Willie’s was 1:48.90, good for third and fourth respectively.
Competing on Sunday, the Commack Boys achieved second place overall, behind Connetquot. The Cougars saw a well-diversified showing from runners, jumpers, and throwers.
Nicholas Vought, a senior, won the 300-meter dash with a blazing time of 36.51. Vought finished second to Northport star sprinter Vito LaRosa in the 55-meter dash with a 6.62. LaRosa clocked in at 6.50. Commack’s 4×800 relay team bested Northport with a time of 8:30.24, capturing first place. The quartet was made up of Alex Walsh, Dylan Manning, Aidan Piracci, and Sam Byrd. The anchorman Byrd, a senior, had a very busy day as he also placed second in the 3200 and fourth in the 1600.
“I have to give credit to my grandmother because she is an amazing cook, and she made a great dinner of pot roast and biscuits last night,” Byrd said. “Also, I took it pretty easy this week knowing that a lot of us were going to be doubling and tripling up, so I was ready to run. I was happy to win the [4×800] but I wish it was enough to catch Connetquot for the league title.”
Andrew Riggs finished in second place in the 55-meter hurdles for Commack, with a time of 8.12.
Kaden Jacques and Daniel Pagan both jumped to a height of 5’8” and were awarded third and fourth respectively, as Pagan snagged second in the long jump with a flight of 20-8. Anthony Pisciotta was fourth in shot put with a throw of 42-4.75.
The Smithtown East Bulls Braden McCormick jumped to glory, capturing first place in the high jump at 6’5”. It was the highest jump of the day by a full five inches and after clearing the bar, McCormick, joined by his teammates, set off a wild, fist-pumping celebration that rocked the arena. With this giant leap, McCormick qualifies for the New Balance Indoor Nationals in Boston later this year.
“It felt great clearing six foot five,” said McCormick. “I never thought I’d be jumping this high since only last spring I was having trouble clearing five feet ten. I’ve been lifting a lot more this season and the coaches on this team have really helped me get to the next level.”
Elsewhere for the Bulls, Kaelen Sue-Kam-Ling was third in the long jump competition with a leap of 20-2.5. Sue-Kam-Ling and his three teammates Josh Bobadilla, Jason Triolo, and Nicholas Piccoli finished fourth in the 4×200-meter relay to round out the activities for the weekend in League II.
The Suffolk County championships are up next for these track stars, and those meets will be held over the first weekend in February at the same venue.