By Gavin Menu; photography by Kurt Leggard
Potential. A great start. Lots of work to do.
Yani Cuesta, a Spanish and English as a Second Language teacher at the Pierson-Middle High School, is head coach of the East Hampton girls track team and doesn’t mix words when she talks about what it takes to build a great program.
“This is the first time in a long while that Pierson is combined with East Hampton in spring track,” said Cuesta, a graduate of East Hampton High School and an alumni of the track program. “The more kids participate, the more it will spread and continue to build.
“Even though our numbers these last two yeas have been the highest we’ve had in a long time, we are still building,” she continued. “We have some shining stars, but we need more depth. A small number of top athletes isn’t going to cut it with some of the larger, tougher teams we go up against.”
One of the shining stars Cuesta spoke about is Allura Leggard, a Pierson freshman who specializes in the sprint events, the 100 and 200-meter races, and the 4×100-meter relay. Leggard, a rising stars in the Pierson field hockey program as well, also runs indoor track during the winter months.
“I have been sprinting since I was five years old,” Leggard said this week. “This winter was my first time doing winter track.”
Cuesta said winter track is important for any track athlete looking to excel in the sport. Of the seven Pierson students on the girls spring track team, only four—Leggard, Hannah Jungck, Rose O’Donoghue and Elena Skerys—participated in winter track as well.
“Winter track is very important for any track athlete because the ones that are serious start then, if not in the fall with cross country,” Cuesta said. “The girls that just come out for the spring are at a disadvantage because their biggest competition has already been running since November.”
Cuesta said Leggard has the potential to “go far” as a sprinter.
“Sprinting is very tough to break into the top spots because there are so many older girls in the county with more experience,” Cuesta said. “As long as she listens, takes care of herself and works hard she has the potential to get to some of the later championship meets.”
Athletes in spring track are allowed to compete in four separate events, although Cuesta said many of the current athletes compete in only one or two events, something that would have to change for East Hampton to become truly competitive Suffolk County, where they currently compete in League VI against schools like Comsewogue, Miller Place and Westhampton, among others.
The Lady Bonackers were off to an 0-2 start going into a dual meet yesterday, April 2, at Eastport-South Manor. Next up are three straight invitationals, followed by a home dual meet against Rocky Point on Tuesday, April 22.
“The girls have a chance at winning some of the dual meets this year,” Cuesta said before adding a few closing words for motivation.
“We have a ways to go before we are as strong as I would like us to be,” she said.