East Hampton High’s girls track team numbers 18, and, no, it has not won a meet, nor is it likely to, but the team’s head coach, Diane O’Donnell, hopes to qualify nine or so of her young competitors for the division meet at the end of May.
Leading the list is Ashley West, a hard-working junior long distance runner, who qualified for the divisions in the 400 and 3,000-meter races last spring, and who went on to the state qualifier in the 400. But West has since decided that her chances are better in the 800.
West recently set a school record in the 800, running the distance in 2 minutes and 27 seconds, and to date she’s mostly run away from the competition in that race, but there are a half-dozen other girls in the division who are ahead of her, including, said O’Donnell, “the girl from Harborfields, who’s run a 2:22.”
The state qualifier meet qualifying time, the coach added, is 2:19.7. “So,” said O’Donnell, “Ashley knows what she has to do.”
As for the 3,000, “she hasn’t run it as fast as last year. . . . She could get to the divisions in that too if she gets faster.”
As a junior, West is one of the team’s veterans, there being no seniors this year. “The juniors we had last year didn’t come out,” said O’Donnell, “for whatever reason. Track’s a tough sport. . . .”
Other prospective division meet entrants are Hannah Jacobs, a junior who’s often been winning in the discus, Saiorse McKeon, a junior, the only one of O’Donnell’s charges who’s been competing in four events (the shot-put, the 100, the long jump, and the 4-by-100 relay), Charlotte Wiltshire, a sophomore high-jumper, and the 4-by-100 (McKeon, Morgan German, McKenzie Yusko, and Jennie DiSunno) and 4-by-400 (Cole Brauer, Dana Cucci, German, and West) relay teams.
Cole Brauer and her twin, Dalton, who’s due back this week, having recovered from a hip flexor injury, are juniors; Yusko, Cucci, and DiSunno are sophomores, and German is a ninth grader, as is Caoimhe McKeon, Saiorse’s sister, who was recently sidelined by a nagging soccer knee injury, patellar tendinitis. “Caoimhe has good speed like Saoirse,” said O’Donnell. “Before she was hurt she was working on the jumps. She’s been coming to practice, but I don’t think she’ll be back this season. She needs to strengthen her quadriceps tendon.”
Of German, a strong swimmer who has done triathlons, O’Donnell said, “She’s a good athlete. She’s been doing the open 400 and is working on the 400 hurdles.”
Cucci, who, besides running in the 4x4, pole vaults as well, could qualify for the division meet’s pole vault “if she can clear 7 feet — she went over 6-6 in the Islip meet.”
Wiltshire has already done a 4-8 in the high jump, but appears as if she could go considerably higher when she learns to kick her feet up once over the bar. “Her goal is to go over 5-0, and if she does that she’ll go to the divisions too,” O’Donnell said. “It’s a learning process. She’s working hard at it.”
Among the competitors Diane O’Donnell plans to take to the division meet at the end of May are, right, Saiorse McKeon, who is the sole Bonacker to compete in four events, Charlotte Wiltshire, throwing the discus ,in center, and Ashley West, left, in the 800 and perhaps in the 3,000.
Dalton Brauer had been competing in 4x400, the discus, and in the long jump before she was sidelined, O’Donnell said.
Numbers mean a lot in track, and the Islip meet, in which 14 Bonackers faced off against 68 Buccaneers, was a prime example of East Hampton’s plight, said O’Donnell, who, following the spring break faces “three fast and furious weeks of competition with the rest of our league meets and two invitationals.”
It was encouraging, O’Donnell said, to know that Bill Herzog, who was persuaded by East Hampton’s athletic director, Joe Vas, to come out of retirement to coach this spring’s East Hampton Middle School team, had 40 boys and girls under his wing.
“I’m hoping they love track so much that they keep doing it,” said O’Donnell, who added that “track requires a large roster — there’s a physical limit as to what you can do. You can enter as many as four events, but you get tired. Most of our girls are in two, some are in three, Saoirse, as I said, is in four, and she usually scores in all of them.”
“Saoirse, Ashley, Hannah, Cole, and Morgan are guaranteed scorers. If we had another 10 kids we’d be in good shape!”