‘It’s Been So Long’

The first time an East Hampton girls team could boast of a winning season since 1999
Not since 1999 has East Hampton had a winning girls track team. This year’s edition, as the result of its win over Westhampton Beach on May 6, finished at 3-2-1. The last time an East Hampton girls team won three meets was in 2001. Jack Graves

    Whether by 2 points, as Section XI’s standings had it, or by 7, as Yani Cuesta had it, the East Hampton High School girls track team she coaches defeated Westhampton Beach here on May 6 to finish the regular season at 3-2-1.

    It was the first time an East Hampton girls team could boast of a winning season since 1999, when Taneesha Harris often was a quadruple winner.

    Perhaps the difference in the scoring — Cuesta had East Hampton winning 79-71, Section XI listed the final score as 72-70 — had to do with the fact that Westhampton Beach had three pole vaulters, all of whom cleared the opening height. East Hampton had no competitors in that event.

    At any rate, the meet went down to the relays, beginning with the 4-by-100, which East Hampton, with Gabby Mc­Kay, Amanda Calabrese, Cecilia Blowe, and Allura Leggard, not only won, but broke a 16-year-old school record in doing so, Blowe’s strong third leg giving the team’s anchor, Leggard, the lead she needed to hold off her counterpart by several steps at the finish line.

    The Bonackers were then blown out in the 4-by-4, but Westhampton, in turn, was blown out by East Hampton (Liana Paradiso, Hannah Jungck, Alyssa Bahel, and Dana Cebulski) in the 4-by-8. That team too set a school record, bettering record times it had run last year and earlier this season.

    “It’s been so long!” Cuesta, the team’s first-year head coach, said during a conversation following Friday’s practice. “When you lose, you don’t know any better, but once you win, and feel what it’s like, and gain that confidence, you can, hopefully, turn it around.”

    Cuesta, herself, a 1993 East Hampton High graduate, was a member of winning teams, but since 2001, when East Hampton (with Caitlin Herzog, Jess vanBinsbergen, and Crystal Winter, among others) finished at 3-3, the long dry spell set in.

    According to Cuesta’s count, East Hampton was leading 74-71 going into the 4-by-8. A Westhampton win, worth 5 points, would have tilted the pendulum its way, but it was clear from the get-go that there was no need to worry.

    Paradiso, one of three eighth graders on the team (the others are Aveen Hallissey, who ran for the absent Valentina Sanchez in the 4-by-4, and Maddie Smullen, who took second in the high jump) ran a strong first leg, during which she built up a healthy lead, which Jungck and Bahel (who also ran the 1,500 and 3,000 that afternoon) and Cebulski lengthened and lengthened.

    The win, said Cuesta, was a bit of a surprise given Bill Herzog’s prediction, after comparing performances, that East Hampton might lose by 15.

    Armed with those figures, and the fact of the 14-year drought, Cuesta asked her charges how badly they wanted it.

    Apparently they did. The girls’ 3-2-1 record was good enough for third place in League VI, behind Miller Place (5-0) and Comsewogue (5-1), but ahead of Westhampton Beach (3-3), Eastport-South Manor (2-2-1), Rocky Point (1-5), and Bellport (0-6).

    “We got points in everything but the pole vault and, of course, in the 4-by-4,” said the coach. “It takes a team — sprinters, throwers, long-distance runners, jumpers. . . . Though he [John Broich, Westhampton’s coach, who lives in Sag Harbor] had 85 listed on his roster, I don’t think he had that many girls here. . . . It came down to our depth. You can have firsts, but if the other team picks up the seconds and thirds, you’ll lose.”

    Among East Hampton’s winners, aside from the aforementioned relay teams, were Cebulski, in the 800 and 1,500; Calabrese in the 100-meter hurdles; McKay in the 200; Bahel in the 3,000; Blowe in the long jump, and Christine Malecki in the discus.

    Runners-up included Taliya Hayes in the discus and shot-put; Smullen in the high jump; Jungck in the 3,000; Sadie Ward in the 100 and 400 hurdles; Paradiso in the 800; McKay in the 100, and Bahel in the 1,500.

    Third-place finishers were Veronica Whitney in the discus; Devon Brown in the long jump and triple jump; Blowe in the 100, and Nina Piacentine in the 1,500-meter racewalk.

    Piacentine, who’s only a sophomore, and who, according to Cuesta, has been improving steadily since her freshman year, was up against two of the county’s best in the walk. “She did 11-something in her freshman year and now she can do a 7:57,” said the coach.

    Only five of the 39 on her roster were seniors, said Cuesta, namely Ward, Quincy King, Elena Skerys, Shannon Ryan, and Annie Schuppe.

    “It’s very promising,” Cuesta said with a smile, adding that “I’d love it if we could go back to those days when we won. I’d love to put a banner on the wall.”

    The seeding meeting for the divisional meet is to be held today. “We’ll go Monday and Wednesday, the boys will go Tuesday and Thursday,” said Cuesta. “The top 12 girls will go to the divisions and the top 24 boys. I don’t know why that is, but that’s what they do. The state qualifier will be the following week, on May 30 and 31. Last year, I took Sadie and Amanda — Dana couldn’t go because she was ill. Hopefully this year I’ll take more. Our 4-by-8 should be strong, and Dana and Hannah, though they’ve only done it once before, could do well in the 2,000-meter steeplechase.”