Head coach Ron Wilson knows he has a good squad, but is it good enough to successfully defend the Suffolk Division II title that the Blue Devil boys’ winter track and field team captured last year?
The winter campaign is now underway and knowing that Huntington has one of the top indoor track teams on Long Island brings a smile to the face of the veteran coach.
The Blue Devils feature returning 4×400-meter relay state champions Infinite Tucker, Exzayvian Crowell, Kyree Johnson and Lawrence Leake. The Fantastic Four also won league, county, Long Island and LI Millrose Games titles.
Huntington boasts a roster that has talent and depth in just about every event this winter.
“Our strength in terms of quality and balance, however, lies in that of our sprinters and jumpers,” Wilson said. Juniors Johnson and Leake are two of Suffolk’s best sprinters.
Newcomer Kei Ron Byrams is expected to make an immediate splash with his speed and athleticism. “He should definitely help,” Wilson said of the junior.
“We graduated a great cast of throwers last year in Matteo McNeil and Jimmie Nelson,” Wilson said. “But we have a few throwers that will definitely draw some attention this year. Seniors Michael Lonergan, Amaru Jones, Vernon Alexander and Tasean Betts earned All-League honors during the spring season and should really be competitive this year.”
Sophomore strongmen Clay Jamison and Sam Bergman are two more throwers expected to be competitive this winter. Bergman was runner-up in the Suffolk freshmen shot put championship.
“Our distance program has shown a steady improvement,” Wilson said. Seniors Kyle O’Brien and Tom Kopstein earned All-League honors last spring and should be a factor this year. Joining the distance crew during the indoor season is junior Shane McGuire, who exploded on the scene last spring with a string of sensational performances, including All-League, All-County and All-State honors.
“He just finished an exciting cross country season and should do well this winter,” Wilson said.
Senior Mitch Rudish and junior Mark Rafuse were alternates on last winter’s 4×400 relay team and are set to take a big step forward this season.
The roster includes a bunch of newcomers to the sport and the school.
“With a bit of luck and good health, we should do well,” Wilson said. “We are a fairly balanced team this year, with a pretty solid lineup.”
Seniors Tucker and Crowell will contend in the 55 hurdles, among other events. Joining them will be sophomores Brian Pierre and Luke Eidle. Pierre won the freshman class of the 400 intermediate hurdles and took second place in the 110 high hurdles last spring. Sophomores Nick Sanin and Will Vollack were competitive last winter and should improve this year.
“We will look to advance several of our athletes to the state championship this year,” Wilson said.
Huntington has won two consecutive league titles, but this year’s competition is expected to be especially fierce.
“This year the pressure will be on,” Wilson said. “It’s always difficult to defend your championship title. There are a number of great teams in our league, including Smithtown East, North Babylon, West Islip, Half Hollow Hills West, West Babylon, Deer Park, Bellport, Eastport-South Manor and East Islip. These teams boast some outstanding athletes.”
The Blue Devil have carved out a national reputation during recent winter and spring seasons.
“Our top returning athletes are determined to compete at a high level and those who are joining us this season for the first time will look to make a name for themselves as well,” Wilson said.
Huntington is again set to travel to some of the most prestigious high school meets in the country this winter, including the Dartmouth Relays in New Hampshire, the Rhode Island Classic and to the new facility on Staten Island for a showdown with some of the best athletes from New York City and New Jersey.
“We know and understand that our road to a championship is going to be a difficult one,” Wilson said. “However, our boys have never backed down to a challenge.”