Two Winter Track Athletes are Conference Champs
Conference champs Erica Duke, left and Michela Rutigliano, right, with teammate Ryann O'Keefe, who led off the 4th place 4 x 200m relay team, and placed in the top 6 in the 300 and 55 meter runs.
Oyster Bay High School juniors Erica Duke and Michela Rutigliano became Conference 6 Winter Track Champions after competing at St. Anthony’s High School, Jan. 29. The championship featured nine teams including Locust Valley, Cold Spring Harbor and Seaford, among others.
Heading into the competition, the Lady Baymen had set their goals on individual achievements, including making All-Conference. This year the strength of the team was in the area of field events, as Michela (High Jump), and Erica (Long Jump, Triple Jump) were competing for their third year in the championship event.
“Erica’s is extremely versatile; she could have earned her way into several other events, but we wanted to focus her energy on two of her favorite jumps and save her running for the relays,” said Coach Kevin Cotter. “Michela had tried the high jump in practice only a couple of times, and she was ranked pretty high in the 1000 meter run so we put her in both events. I was hoping she would be among the top three in one of them, thus earning All-Conference status.”
Locust Valley’s Nia Cialone proved to be a tough opponent for both Lady Baymen athletes. The defending conference champion in the Triple Jump, she was also competing in the High Jump and Long Jump, and was ranked in the top 3 for each event.
The High Jump featured the closest competition of the night, as both Michela and Nia jumped 4 feet 8 inches. Due to a tie-breaker based on earlier misses, Michela was awarded Conference Champion and Nia was the runner up.
Erica, whose season-long goal was to jump 17 feet and break her own winter track long jump record of 16 feet 11 ¼ inches, achieved her school record goal but fell short of 17 feet by only ¼ of an inch. Her jump was only 3 inches better than Nia’s, as the two standouts defeated the rest of the field by over a foot.
“In the Triple Jump, it took everything Erica had to avenge last year’s defeat,” Coach Cotter said. “Down to her last jump, she had to clear 35 feet 2.75 inches in order to win — quite the feat as she had not jumped 35 feet all season long. Reaching back and sprinting at top speed she was able to jump herself to victory by a margin of half an inch, which also set a school record at 35’ 3 ¼ inches.”
“My legs were shaking and I was tired and nervous about the last jump,” Erica said. “I tried to jump as high as I could in the last phase, and it turned out to be my best jump ever.”
Coach Cotter added, “This was sportsmanship at its finest. These girls were going back and forth and having great performances with the mindset of winning a championship. Yet between jumps they were friendly and supportive of one another and had congratulated each other at the end of the night. It was really special to witness, and it’s one of the things that makes this sport so great.”
Ryann O’Keefe earned points in each of her three events in her final conference championship. The senior led off the 4th place 4 x 200m relay team, and placed in the top 6 in the 300 and 55 meter runs. Eve Pace, Greta Flanagan and Mary Syrett earned medals in the 800 meter relay, 1500 meter run and shot put, respectively.
Following this competition, the Boys and Girls Winter Track Teams competed in the Nassau County Class B Championships, Feb. 5, where Erica earned All-County honors in both the Long and Triple Jumps. In other notable achievements, Nick Tardugno finished in fourth place in the 3200 meter run. The 4 by 800 meter relay team of Riley Keffer, Nick Tardugno, Izzy Silver and Brian Casey finished in third place. Additional outstanding performances were turned in by Greta Flanagan, Brandon Decarolis and Michela Rutigliano. Erica and members of the 4 by 800 meter relay team will be competing at the Section 8 State Qualifier Meet next Tuesday, Feb. 12.