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Hurdles

Senior duo of Allyson Gaedje, Sam Rrutt one-two in 800-meter run; 4x800 relay places third

Kiera Hughes flies over the hurdles. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

Kiera Hughes couldn’t contain her excitement as she rushed off the track toward her family and friends. It was a moment she’d worked day and night for — ensuring she could race just one more time.

The Ward Melville senior crossed the 100-meter hurdle finish line in 14.76 seconds for first place at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School.

Kiera Hughes shows off her new hardware alongside head coach J.P. Dion following her state-qualifying win. Photo from Kiera Hughes

“Really, I took it even slower than that,” Hughes said. “I just wanted to live another day past the preliminary round. I wanted to do as best I could to make sure that I’d qualify to race in the finals.”

She got that and so much more.

“Running — it was so much fun,” Hughes said. “I felt so fast going over the hurdles, I felt so powerful. I was so determined because I really, really wanted to win. And to cross that finish line and see my name at the top of the leaderboard I was ecstatic. I was beyond happy.”

Head coach J.P. Dion and her teammates were cheering her on as she flew down the track. They were on the sideline to congratulate her with hugs and praise following her finish.

“Kiera Hughes has amazed me all year long,” Dion said. “When the pressure is on her she seems to rise to the top — just an amazing competitor.”

Some of the hurdler’s teammates will be taking the trip with her to the state championship at Cicero-North Syracuse High School June 8 and 9.

Seniors Allyson Gaedje (2:14.82) and Sam Rutt (2:14.93) pulled off a one-two finish in the 800 run and were a part of the 4×800 relay team that finished third.

“We planned on trying to run the race together,” said Rutt, who also came in second (4:38.02) in the 1,500 just a few seconds behind Shoreham-Wading River phenom Katherine Lee. “We do most of our workouts together, so it was relaxing to be by each other’s side in such a big race like that.”

Gaedje didn’t have the state standard in the 800, or time needed during the regular season at a sanctioned qualifying meet, to compete at states, so she needed a higher placement. Because Rutt already did, having to finish in at least second, so she eased off.

Allyson Gaedje races down the track. File photo by Bill Landon

“When you’re running with your teammate, there’s a little extra motivation to push yourself,” Gaedje said. “We’re all more focused this year, and it’s shown making our times — we’ve seen we can and have run some strong times, so we’re confident. We’re running faster than ever.”

Senior Sam Sturgess and sophomore Elizabeth Radke rounded out the relay quartet that crossed the finish line in 9:35.88. The same girls have been competing together the last couple years, placing third in the state this past indoor season and at New Balance Outdoor Nationals last June.

Dion said he’s continuously tried to get his student-athletes to believe in the process, and more importantly, in themselves. Over the years, as Gaedje pointed out, it’s led to results.

“These kids competing this weekend have been the heartbeat of Ward Melville girls track over the past four years,” he said. “This has been a very special group for us.”

And a group of seniors that, although close to graduating, are still anxious to get back on the track.

“I’m hoping that I’ll be able to race as fast as I can, and I’m hoping for a new personal record and to stay up there with all of the other girls that are competing,” Hughes said. “I’m a pretty determined person — I always was to improve myself and push myself. I’m looking to be a role model for the younger girls and race another day.”

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Shot put throwers Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse finished second and third, respectively, at a meet at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Jan. 29, both tossing over 50 feet. Photos by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue has never had a thrower capable of hurling a shot put over 50 feet, that is, until this winter boys’ track and field season. In fact, there are two Warriors —Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse — who have been breaking the school record meet after meet this year, and Jan. 29 was no different.

Reno Molina finished third in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.87 seconds. Photo by Bill Landon

The seniors placed second and third at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Grosse had set a new school record with his toss of 50 feet, 11 inches, but it was short lived. Suarez sent his first shot put 50 feet, 8 inches, but came up moments after Grosse, and set a new record with his second toss of 50 feet, 11.25 inches.

After the last meet before the Suffolk County finals, the two remain ranked in the Top 15 throwers in the state.. Both will have their work cut out for them come then, because Kings Park’s Dan Byrne ruled the day with a toss that measured 56 feet, 9 inches.

“If I’m not throwing as well as I know I can, I’ll go off to the side and practice my form,” Suarez said. “I listen to what my coach is saying because I can’t look at myself, but he watches very closely.”

Comsewogue head coach Brad Posnanski said he knew the duo had the potential to throw as well as they have been, and said all season long the two have only pushed each other to work harder.

“Last year Billy Grosse threw 48 feet, 10 inches, and Andy Suarez had thrown 47 feet,” he recalled. “Earlier this season they both got better and better. Andy was the first to throw 50 feet, and then Billy threw 50 feet and we’ve never had that. They’re both great friends so to have two throwers over 50 feet is something pretty special.”

Travis Colon finished the 55-meter hurdles in 8.55 seconds for sixth place. Photo by Bill Landon

The meet, titled “Last Chance,” was an opportunity for the athletes to better their performance to gain a higher seed before the county championship, and other Warriors also made their presence known.

Coming back from a minor injury, sophomore Reno Molina clocked in a 6.87 seconds in the 55-meter dash to finish third behind Miller Place senior Bick Niemcyzk (6.85) and East Islip senior Andrew Moschetto (6.83). Sophomore Travis Colon took advantage of that opportunity, placing sixth overall in the 55 hurdles with a time of 8.55. He’s already an All-League competitor after placing sixth in the League IV championship last year.

“Reno Molina is a pleasant surprise,” Posnanski said. “Where he is in the county speed-wise, and he has the best chance to make a statement in the counties next week. My hurdler [Travis Colon] has made tremendous improvements with his technique with hard work and just sticking with it.”

Posnanski said he has been impressed with his younger runners on the team, who’ve bettered their times all season long.

“I have such a young team, so I didn’t have any expectations,” the coach said.

But Matt Krieg, who placed ninth in the 1,000 in 2:56.55, caught his eye.

Matt Krieg finished ninth in the 1,000-meter in 2:56.55. Photo by Bill Landon

“He’s tough when he runs and he’s a competitor,” the head coach said of his Warrior. “He won the freshman championship meet this year.”

Sophomore Brandon Bailey clocked in at 1:39.96 in the 600, for 22nd overall.

The county championships are will be Feb. 4 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood at 10 a.m.

Grosse said he and his teammate will be ready.

“It’s all about repetition — we’ll get as many throws in as possible, lift some weights and then rest a day or two before the counties,” he said. “Andy was running and only began throwing this season, and having him around has been more important than anything, because without him, I wouldn’t be pushing myself the way I am.”

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Tori Reid in stride during a previous meet. Photo from Reid

By Joseph Wolkin

Comsewogue senior Tori Reid headed to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association girls’ track and field championship looking to make history.

Reid set her sights on the prize, focused on winning as the lone member of the Warriors to head to Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Finishing runner-up in the Section XI division championship in the triple jump with a leap of 36 feet, 8 inches, and in the 100-meter hurdles in 15.43 seconds, the athlete advanced to states, attempting to become the third pentathlon champion in the school’s history. Previously, her best finish in any event during the tournament was fifth, which came in the hurdles last year. Although she didn’t become a champion, she placed ninth overall, and is happy with how far she’s come.

“I was proud of myself because I was seeded 13th going into the competition,” Reid said.

She placed fourth in hurdles in 15.36, 19th in 100-meter run in 2 minutes 2:44.07, and fifth in shot put with a throw of 27 feet, 2 inches.

“I definitely could have run better. I definitely could have thrown better,” she said. “It wasn’t my best, but I did the best I could in the two days, especially since it was raining on the second day. I think I did pretty well overall.”

With two 100 hurdles victories in the spring — one on April 30 during the Westhampton Beach Invitational and the other at the St. Anthony’s Invitational on May 6 — Reid emerged as a leader entering her final months with the Warriors.

Tori Reid leaps over a hurdle during the St. Anthony’s Invitational. Photo from Reid
Tori Reid leaps over a hurdle during the St. Anthony’s Invitational. Photo from Reid

She earned six wins during the winter, with four of them coming in the 55 hurdles, and a pair in the triple jump. Her work ethic propelled her to break the school record for the triple jump, reaching 37 feet, 7.75 inches on Jan. 31 during the Section XI Small School Championships at Suffolk County Community College.

According to head coach J.P. Dion, who joined the team at the start of this season, Reid’s emergence as a team leader is spreading positivity among her peers. She helps get everything organized, and showed up to all but two of the approximately 80 practices this season.

“She’s definitely the captain of the team,” Dion said. “She comes to practice every day and is a leader. I think when the kids see her doing really well — see her at practice everyday, putting the time and effort in to become better — I think her dedication rubs off on kids.”

And he said she took that role on herself.

“I didn’t have to designate her as that person,” he said. “She is very good with communication. It’s through her dedication that something like that came about.”

Dion took over for longtime coach Matt Brown, who worked with Reid during her first three years at Comsewogue.

“Matt Brown would kid a lot and joke around, but Dion is kind of hands-on,” Reid said. “Usually, there was no captain and the seniors just took control, but I knew that with a new coach coming in, I didn’t want my girls thinking anything was going to be different. I stepped up to make them feel comfortable.”

This year, Reid set a personal record of 15.23 in the 100 hurdles en route to her St. Anthony’s Invitational victory. The 2015-16 season was her strongest since joining the Warriors, earning eight wins in 30 contests, compared to four in her previous seasons with the team.

Reid will be attending Winthrop University in South Carolina in the fall, joining her sister Sabrena, who will be a junior. Although she only worked with her new coach for a short period of time, she will take with her some invaluable lessons she’s learned along the way.

“[Dion] taught me that in the end, he can’t do anything for me,” she said. “I’ve learned to be more independent while competing. It comes down to me.”

Huntington's Infinite Tucker leaps over the hurdles. File photo by Darin Reed
Huntington’s Infinite Tucker leaps over the hurdles. File photo by Darin Reed

It was the Infinite Tucker show last weekend at the Taco Bell Classic at Spring Valley High School’s Harry Parone Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. The Huntington senior walked away with four medals, following a classic finish in the premier relay race.

Tucker won the 400-meter high hurdles, came in a close second in the 110 high hurdles, anchored the Blue Devils’ winning 4×400 relay and finished fourth in long jump. His performance helped Huntington finish in a tie for second place in the team standings with 41 points. The competition drew more than 2,500 competitors from nearly 300 high schools across more than a dozen states.

Perhaps the highlight of the entire two-day competition was the 4×400 relay finals that pitted Huntington against longtime rival Archbishop Carroll of Washington, DC and Newton, in New Jersey, which won the team championship.

Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake and Shane McGuire handled the first three legs of the race before Tucker took over.

“Infinite gave it everything he had,” Huntington head coach Ron Wilson said.

The senior sprinted the final 400 meters and dove across the finish line while the Blue Devils held their collective breath. It was a photo finish with Archbishop Carroll, and officials took their time trying to determine the winner. About five minutes passed before it was announced that Huntington had won by 1/100th of a second in a time of three minutes, 22.13 seconds. The event drew 59 relay teams. Newton took third place in the race.

“It was an incredible finish to a weekend filled with great competition,” Wilson said. “We had some nice performances.”

Huntington’s 4×800 relay shined in a race that drew 52 entries. McGuire, Mitch Rudish, Tom Kopstein and Kyle O’Brien finished second in a time of 8:07.81.

“They were magnificent,” Wilson said.

The Blue Devil star finished in a time of 53.72 seconds. He was second in the 110 high hurdles after running 14:56 in the finals, nearly a half second off his qualifying heat time. Tucker clipped the last hurdle in the finals, which slowed him down.

Although Tucker was slightly off his game in long jump, a week earlier, he tied a 34-year-old Huntington record in the event with a leap of 24’6. He placed fourth last weekend at 22’3.

Leake was 13th in a field of 99 in the 400 run in a time of 50.52 seconds, Johnson was 18th in a field of 160 in the 200 dash in a time of 22.28 seconds, Kopstein was 30th in a field of 175 in the 800 run in a time of 2:03.15, McGuire was 54th in a field of 180 in the mile run in a time of 4:43.40, and Vernon Alexander was 15th in a field of 94 in shot put with a throw of 46’1 feet.

Huntington’s second-place team finish is an improvement over last year’s performance, when the Blue Devils placed eighth with 18 points.

— Huntington athletics

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