The Westhampton Beach girls track team is coming off an indoor winter season where it won the League IV title and placed third in the county among small schools. While the spring brings a different set of factors and challenges, the Lady Hurricanes will still strive to at least match that success this season.
Westhampton Beach will be strong in just about every running, or walking, event. Junior Julia Smith, sophomore Oceane Ode and freshman Valerie Finke will all be top sprinters for the Lady Canes this spring. Ode and Smith appear to be early favorites as the top sprinters in League VI this season, according to head coach John Broich. Mid-distance races will be handled by senior Maeve Murphy and freshman Trinity Valenzuela, while the sister duo of freshman Rose Hayes (1,500-meter race) and junior Grace Hayes (3,000-meter race) will be long-distance runners. Finke and senior Grace Kwiatkowski will take care of most of the hurdling events for the Lady Canes this season.
Broich is high on both Finke and Valenzuela as up-and-coming athletes.
“Valerie is one of the best freshman athletes I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “She’s got a very good … attitude. She and Trinity are my top two freshmen right now. Both will do anything I ask. They’ll both be in the relays along with their individual events. They’re competitors.”
Natalie Ehlers, a senior, was an All-American this past winter in the race walk, and she’ll continue to be one of the top walkers in the county this spring. Kiera Falvey, a freshman, is one of just a half-dozen or so athletes who have shown an interest in continuing the success of the walking program at Westhampton Beach.
Ehlers was one of two athletes representing the Lady Canes at the indoor state meet. The other being junior Kathleen Kelly, who competes in all three jumping events. She went to states for the high jump but is certainly capable in the long and triple jumps as well.
Sydney Mason underwent knee surgery this past winter and therefore didn’t compete in the pole vault but she is back healthy and ready to go this spring. She’ll score some much needed points for the Lady Canes in what is usually a limited event for most schools. Mia Nguyen placed sixth in the division in the discus last season as a junior. Now, in her senior season, she’ll be looking to improve upon that success in both throwing events this season.
Westhampton Beach will continue to compete in League VI this season, along with reigning champion Miller Place, an improved East Hampton squad, an always competitive Sayville team to go along with Amityville and Wyandanch, the latter of which is new to the league. Shoreham/Wading River moved down to League VII for the season.
Broich pointed out that the dual-meet season starts and finishes earlier than it has in the past. The Lady Canes had their first dual meet this past Wednesday at East Hampton and will host Miller Place April 3 at 4 p.m. The dual-meet season wraps up by May 6 for Westhampton Beach, at which point the invitational schedule will ramp up. Westhampton Beach hosts its invitational this season on April 27 and the St. Anthony’s Invitational is May 3 and 4.
The Hurricanes will be led by a new head coach this spring, Connor Christian, who was hired by the district about a month ago to take over the team from longtime coach Jim Ford and is following in his father’s footsteps. James Christian has been a track coach for more than 30 years at Half Hollow Hills West High School and Connor, 23, hopes to start his own legacy with Westhampton Beach.
“I feel like I am following in his footsteps, but bringing my own approach to coaching,” he said. “I’ll have that same spirit of competitiveness and flexibility that I’m definitely taking from him.”
Connor Christian, who is currently attending graduate school to earn a school counselor’s degree, ran track for Ward Melville High School, then went on to SUNY Geneseo, where he mostly ran the 400-meter dash.
It’s in the mid to long distance events that Christian’s new team is strongest, thanks to a bevy of strong runners who helped lead the cross country team to the program’s first ever county title and state meet appearance this past fall.
Senior Juan Lasso missed this past indoor winter season with an injury and is slowly making his way back, Christian said, but juniors Ermel Bautista and Sean Jordan and freshman Gavin Ehlers are in prime shape and ready for the start of the season. Ehlers took a big leap forward this winter becoming one of the few freshman in the county to earn All-County honors.
Jack Meigel, a junior, will continue to compete in the jumps for Westhampton Beach. He consistently reached over 6 feet indoors this winter and will try to do the same this spring. Meigel will also compete in the 110-meter high hurdles, while senior Comeragh Sheehan is taking on the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, a new event for him after running mid to long distances the past few seasons.
Junior Quinn Urban will take the reigns on the pole vault, after Laurence Barr-Forget graduated last season. A handful of freshmen have also begun to work in the event.
Westhampton Beach hopes to improve its 1-4 record from last season, in which it placed fourth out of five teams in League VI. Shoreham, which won the league at 5-0, has moved down to League VII, leaving Amityville, East Hampton, Miller Place, Sayville, and Wyandanch is new to the league.
“So far it’s been more than I can imagine. The kids are motivated, the team is so well-rounded, and the staff is just as motivated as I am,” Christian said.
Westhampton Beach hosted East Hampton in its first dual meet of the season on Tuesday and will be at Miller Place on April 3 at 4 p.m.