Depite garnering individual conference champions last year in the 800-meters and high jump, the Mineola Mustangs fell victim to the Valley Stream North Spartans in the quest for a conference championship. Mineola will not be satisfied until a team championship is earned. Coach Mike Santa Maria is determined to make a run at the upper half of the conference and qualify a number of student-athletes for the state meet in Syracuse.
Captain Joe Wellbrock will once again anchor the squad and challenge the school record in the 800-meters and 4X800-meter relay.
Fellow seniors Nick Gallina and Greg Lapin will compete in the 400-meter flats and hurdles, respectively, as well as the associated relays. Between the two, school records in the individual and relays are in jeopardy. Classmate Brian Langone's ability in the shot put will also contribute to the 4X100-meter relay team.
Juniors will be critical to the success in the field events. Jobin Abraham will concentrate on the pole vault and triple jump while D'Andre Ellerbe focuses on the discus. Both are also relay participants. Juan Lopez will specialize in the short high hurdles and Sal Massa goes the long route for the distance races. The four will have to fill the gaps created by two graduating seniors who had considerable success.
Youngsters form the nucleus for Santa Maria's future. Sophomores Marco Oliviera and Tom Satalino are 100 and 200-meter specialists with Satalino adding the long jump to his repertoire. Eric Park is a middle distance runner with relay capacity and Renjith Maracheril will back up Abraham in the triple jump. Nuno Tinoco is the second option in the distance races and Freshman Josh Hincapie will learn from Wellbrock in the 800-meters and relays.
The team will be traveling to meets at Locust Valley High School and Friends), North Shore and Valley Stream North. The team will provide community service during the Long Island Marathon at the Nassau Coliseum water stop and compete in meets next door at the Mitchel Field complex. If fortunate, select athletes will compete in the Penn Relays in late April and the state meet in early June. More importantly, the newly surfaced Mineola track hopes to host its first home meet in over 25 years on May 14.
Along the way, the Mustangs will face stiff competition. David Knowles of Manhasset, Michael Rossi of Valley Stream North, Dale McDonald of Roosevelt, Luke Kuna of North Shore and Joe Lascher of Seaford will all stand in the way of Mineola's progress.
Santa Maria, in his eighth year as head coach, is confident his team will prevail in their dual meets and surprise some of these talented competitors. Clarke, which moves down into Conference III-B, is an unknown commodity.
At minimum, the Mustangs can finally use their own facilities as a training tool, which should reap benefits throughout the spring season.