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Huntington’s 4x400 relay state championship team of Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake, Infinite Tucker and Exzayvian Crowell continue to reach new heights. Photo by Darin Reed

Huntington boys’ track and field head coach Ron Wilson had an idea that he could have a strong team for the 2015-16 winter season, but the success they’ve enjoyed was beyond even his expectations.

“We knew that we had quite a few kids returning this season, which would put us at the forefront in Suffolk County,” Wilson said. “We didn’t know that we would be one of the top teams in the state of New York.”

That’s exactly what the Blue Devils were this winter: one of the most electrifying track and field squads in the state. The team is led by their “Fantastic Four,” the nickname given to Huntington’s state champion 4×400-meter relay team from last winter. All four members returned this year. Infinite Tucker, Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake and Exzayvian Crowell captured numerous state, county, league and Long Island accolades as a team and individually last year, and this year hasn’t been much different.

The team took the gold in the 4×400 relay at the Suffolk County Championships on Jan. 31 at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Brentwood. They also qualified for Nationals, which will take place on March 11 in New York City. Huntington’s 4×200 relay team also qualified, as did Tucker and Johnson in numerous individual events.

Wilson said it hit him how special this team was at a meet on Jan. 16 at the Molloy Stanner Games at the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory in Manhattan.

“We were grooving,” Wilson said with a hearty laugh. On that Saturday in Manhattan, Tucker ran the best time in the country for the winter season in the 600 dash, and Johnson set the mark nationally for the 300 dash, while Leake posted the fourth-best time of the year in the 300. The times were announced to a standing ovation, according to Wilson.

Wilson said one of the biggest surprises of the season was Leake’s performance.

“My time in the 300, I was very proud of,” Leake said.

Johnson indicated that he could tell fairly early on how special the Blue Devils might be.

“Around the first couple of meets, everybody started to show how good they are and the ability they had,” Johnson said.

Johnson credited advice from his older brother Tyreke, who also ran track at Huntington, as being helpful in keeping his competitive edge, despite enormous success.

“The number one thing is to remain humble and don’t look at anybody like they’re not as good as you,” Johnson said. “I have to work my hardest.”

Wilson has been a part of some special teams at Huntington in his nine years leading the high school squad. He coached in the district on the junior high level from 1998 to 2007, when he became an assistant for the high school team under Dennis Walker. Wilson was also a member of the team in 1993 and 1994, when he attended Huntington.

“I didn’t run; I was a thrower,” Wilson said. “I was too big to run.”

The head coach didn’t hesitate for a second when trying to compare this Blue Devils’ team to the numerous versions that he’d had a hand in previously.

“This is by far the best team that I’ve coached,” he said.

Assistant coach Eli Acosta, who said this is his 49th year in the Long Island track and field world, reiterated Wilson’s assessment of the team.

“I can say that this is the best track and field that I’ve ever coached in terms of talent,” Acosta said. “We have very talented athletes, that goes without saying. They also work quite hard.”

Wilson said his team is focused and driven, without being too uptight.

“It’s a well-rounded team,” he said. “They’re nice boys. They can be silly at times, but once they get on the track, it’s always business.”

Tucker and Johnson are undoubtedly the team’s most talented members, though the role of leadership is a shared duty among the entire roster, according to Wilson.

“It’s kind of fun,” Tucker said of his relationship with Johnson. “It’s like running with your brother.”

Acosta admitted that he and Wilson pit Johnson and Tucker against each other in certain events and in practice as a tactic to motivate the star athletes.

“They pick each other up,” Wilson said. “It’s more of the team that leads us, that drives our success, especially amongst our relay team.”

Despite their success, Wilson said he hasn’t seen any lull in the team’s drive or motivation.

“When these kids are able to stay humble and stay low, they’re always able to seek improvement,” Wilson said. “If the competition is not there, you have to compete against yourself.”

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The indoor facility is expected to play host to various Stony Brook University sports teams. Rendering from Stony Brook Athletics

It’s a perfect match.

A graduate of Stony Brook University has committed to a matching challenge grant to help raise money for the Stony Brook Foundation and Stony Brook Athletics as they work to collect $10 million to fund an indoor training center on campus.

Glenn Dubin, a 1978 grad, teamed up with his wife Eva to announce the $5 million pledge in the form of a 1:1 matching grant he said would hopefully give a boost to the fundraising campaign. Once completed, Stony Brook Athletics said it planned on breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art indoor practice facility and complex near LaValle Stadium.

“With this challenge pledge, I hope to inspire Seawolves friends, fans and family to support current and future Stony Brook student-athletes,” Glenn Dubin said in a statement. “We wanted to kick-start this campaign and rally the Stony brook community around the athletic department. Stony Brook Athletics has substantial and significant aspirations for the near future, and excellent facilities are a necessary component to realize these aspirations and achieve success.”

In a statement, Stony Brook Athletics said the new facility would include a 100-yard indoor multi-purpose synthetic turf practice field, as well as innovative lighting, film equipment, sound and video systems and a 90-foot ceiling clearance height. The building was also designed for multiple uses, with the intention of hosting all Stony Brook intercollegiate athletic teams’ practices throughout the year.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., president of Stony Brook University, applauded the Dubins for their generosity and said their matching challenge opened the door for more donors to play their part in making the new facility a reality.

“Over the past decade, Glenn and Eva Dubin have shown incredible vision and had a tremendous impact on Stony Brook Athletics,” Stanley said. “This new challenge match gives others the opportunity to play an active role in the success of our student athletes and our athletic program.”

Stony Brook University Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron said the new building was an integral part of the college’s five-year plan through an initiative known as Together We Transform, which was launched in 2015 as an aggressive strategic plan to have Stony Brook recognized as a premier NCAA Division I athletic department.

“Our objective is to positively transform the life of each student-athlete,” he said. “And this project will benefit the more than 435 student-athletes that comprise our teams. I am extremely grateful to the Dubin family for their belief in our program and for their sincere generosity.”

The G. & E. Dubin Family Foundation previously donated $4.3 million to Stony Brook Athletics back in 2010 for the creation of an 8,000-square-foot strength and conditioning facility named the Dubin Family Athletic Performance Center, which already opened in 2012. Glenn Dubin, who played both football and lacrosse at Stony Brook University, has remained a staunch supporter of the Seawolves athletic club as a regular attendee at men’s lacrosse and football games. He also donated $1 million to Stony Brook in 2005 to create the Glenn Dubin Endowed Scholarship Fund, which offers scholarships to students from Washington Heights, particularly students from P.S. 132, where he attended elementary school.

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