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Jan 9, 2018 2:54 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Southampton Girls Track Seniors Helping Young Athletes Acclimate To Varsity

Southampton eighth graders, from left, Gabriella Arnold, Charlotte Cardel, Lily Middlekauff, Lucy Wesnofske and Hallie Beeker, at the Hispanic Games this past Saturday. DREW BUDD
Jan 9, 2018 3:01 PM

It’s not every day that an older, senior group is welcoming to an incoming group of eighth-graders eager to prove they can handle the rigors of a varsity sport. But that’s the case with this season’s girls winter track team at Southampton.

With about 10 eighth-graders helping make one of the largest teams head coach Eddie Arnold has had in his 15-year tenure, the seniors have taken it upon themselves, Arnold said, to welcome the new athletes and show them the ropes. This season’s captains include Riplee Mercer, Keilyn Castillo, Stephanie Schiavoni, Margaret Hattrick and Isabel Cuffee.

“It’s a maturation process,” he said. “I have a great group of seniors. They lead by example. The senior captains don’t follow that old style of intimidation, it doesn’t apply to my team. They’re very welcoming and it makes the transition for the younger girls easier since no one feels threatened.”

Since the group of eighth-graders is getting its first taste of varsity competition this winter, Arnold is tempering expectations for the time being and said the goal is to qualify as many athletes as he can for the Small Schools Championships on February 3. He said that may not be a lofty goal, but as young as the team is, it’s a good jumping off point.

Arnold also said that winter track is different from spring track in that every school is lumped together, there are no classifications, so his athletes are competing against the largest schools in the county. That makes it extremely difficult, he said, for his athletes to make it to the county and state level. Southampton hasn’t had a state-level athlete since Isabella Franz, who graduated in 2013.

“However, with this crew here, if they stay together, with the sophomores and juniors, something good can come out of this. They’re taking their lumps now, but I can honestly tell you, someone out of the 10 [eighth-grade] girls will go to states and break that drought,” Arnold said.

Arnold is also high on his hurdlers this year, a group he said that may be the strongest in program history. It includes Schiavoni, Castillo, Caroline Palumbo, Christina Szafranski, Caitlyn Kirshy, Caitlyn Kreymborg and Esteylen Montero.

“Their chemistry and training is far beyond anything that we’ve ever had here,” Arnold said.

Information on the boys team was not provided.

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