For the first time in head coach Eddie Arnold’s 12-year tenure, the Southampton girls indoor track team brought home titles from the Small Schools Championships, held at Suffolk County Community College at Brentwood on Sunday.
Isabella Franz won the 600-meter race, in 1:41.40, while Meggie Gallo, Emily Wesnofske, Jessa Laspesa and Erika Gulija teamed up to win the 4x200-meter relay, in 1:52.79. It was the 4x200 team’s fastest time this season on the Suffolk West track, where most of its meets are held, but not its best overall time; the team broke the school record in a meet held at the Armory in Manhattan. Because the latter track is banked and the runners wear spikes, it typically yields faster times, according to Arnold.
Arnold said he was “ecstatic” that the girls brought home small schools championships, explaining that winning a small schools title in indoor track is a difficult feat. Some of the girls they were competing against hail from schools that are double or even triple the size of Southampton. For instance, the 4x200 team beat out Hauppauge (second, in 1:53.16), the number-one seed, and thus the favorite to win the title: Hauppauge has a student body enrollment of 1,070 students, according to the Section XI handbook, while Southampton’s enrollment is 438.
There were 21 schools competing for titles at Suffolk West that day. In spring track, by comparison, schools are split into Division I and II, with Division II featuring schools with enrollments of 601 or less competing against each other, and larger schools competing in Division I. “This was huge for us,” Arnold said.
Franz has a very good chance to qualify for the indoor state championships, set for March 2 at Cornell University in Ithaca. If she can finish in the top three runners from Suffolk County in the 600-meter race at the state qualifier meet this Sunday at Suffolk West, she’ll get a spot. Franz is currently ranked third among all 600-meter runners in the county. The top two finishers in the 600 at the state qualifier will compete in that event at states; the third-place finisher is given a spot on an intersectional (county) distance medley relay team that also will compete at states.
Southampton’s 4x200 team’s chances to make states are slim—it would have to beat all other schools in the county—but Arnold said he couldn’t be prouder of the relay team for what it has accomplished thus far this year.
“I was very satisfied,” he said. “Our goal was to win the small schools county championship. We were underdogs to Hauppauge. We executed perfect hand-offs, and the girls had a great warm-up. When you see kids perform at their best level and get what they wanted—it was good.”
In another strong showing, Gulija made the finals in the long jump and finished seventh overall with a mark of 15 feet 2 inches.