Tags Posts tagged with "Mark Rafuse"

Mark Rafuse

The 4x400-relay team of Mark Rafuse, Lawrence Leake, Kyree Johnson and Anthony Joseph (on far right) took gold at the Suffolk County state qualifier meet (Jonathan Smith and Brian Pierre have also competed on the relay team). Photo from Huntington school district

When Huntington head coach Ron Wilson and his winter boys’ track and field team stepped into the Suffolk County state qualifier meet at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, they had one thing on their mind: redemption.

Kyree Johnson crosses the finish line in the 4×400-meter relay. Photo from Huntington school district

And that’s exactly what they felt when they went home.

In the last couple weeks, the Blue Devils had experienced their fair share of shortcomings, notably during its Armory Track Invitational Feb. 3, when senior Shane McGuire, a leg of the team’s 4×400-meter relay, tore his hamstring. The next day, at the large school county championship, the Blue Devils’ top sprinter Kyree Johnson felt a tweak in his own hamstring before competing in the long jump and, at the request of Wilson, sat out of competing altogether.

The team ended up losing the county championship 52-51. Had Johnson jumped that day, they would’ve won, the coach said, but it wasn’t worth the risk.

It was that tight loss that hurt them most, dropping from first to fourth in local published polls — only fueling the fire that would light up the track in Brentwood Feb. 13.

“Before we started, I said to the boys, ‘alright fellas, everyone thinks we’re not as good as we used to be, but we need to go out here and prove them wrong,’” Wilson said. “At the meet, we let everything take care of itself and when we finally started running, I was like ‘redemption at last.’”

That redemption came in the form of collaborative speed and agility.

Smithtown West’s Michael Grabowski with his first-place plaque. Photo by Kevin Redding

Johnson, whose week of resting paid off, placed first in both the 55-meter dash, with a personal best time of 6.41 seconds, and 300 dash, with a meet-record time of 34.8, qualifying him to compete in the state championships March 4 at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island.

“After I won the 55-meter dash and saw my time of 6.41, that made me realize that I’m not hurt anymore,” Johnson said. “I just relaxed and stayed calm, and looked at it like every other meet … because if I didn’t, I’d start making myself nervous, so I just kept thinking ‘it’s just another regular meet.’”

Running the anchor leg, he also helped the Blue Devils take home gold in the 4×400 relay in a time of 3 minutes, 32.15 seconds, along with teammates Lawrence Leake, a senior, Mark Rafuse, an eighth-grader, and Anthony Joseph, a senior. The Huntington teammates will be joining Johnson at the state championship March 4.

Leake, who, according to Wilson, is one of the toughest and hardest working young men he’s ever coached, also placed first in a competition of his own. He took gold in the 600 run and broke the meet record with a time of 1:21.70. The record was previously held by Brentwood’s Greg Santiago, who finished in 1:21.99 in 2000.

Smithtown East’s Daniel Claxton leaps over the bar during a previous competiton. File photo from Daniel Claxton

“During the race, I figured everyone else was going to get out pretty hard the first two laps to make sure I wasn’t going to catch them, so I just stayed close and in striking distance until the last lap and put the pedal to the metal and let it go,” Leake said. “It feels pretty good to have a record beat all by myself.”

Smithtown West senior and state qualifier Michael Grabowski had a similar strategy on his dash to first place in the 3,200 run, which he finished in 9:29.19. Competing against  Jack Ryan of Westhampton Beach and Jonathan Lauer of Sachem North, Grabowski knew he had to play it smart by feeling the race out for the first five laps, and push it for the final sixth.

“I was comfortable with my pace and stuck with Lauer, until Ryan made a move and went past him with about 300 meters to go, and opened the race up,” he said. “As soon as Ryan went past Lauer, I followed Ryan and waited until the last lap and kicked. Once I started my kick, there was no going back and he didn’t really have a chance.”

Marius Sidlauskas of Smithtown East placed third in boys’ 1,600 with a time of 4:29.40; Daniel Claxton of Smithtown East placed first in boys’ high jump with a jump of 6 feet, 10 inches; Elijah Claiborne, Isaiah Claiborne, Tyler Dollhausen and Dan O’Connor of Northport placed first in boys’ 4×800 relay in 8:09.76; and Ryann Gaffney of Huntington placed fourth in girls’ 55 hurdles with a time of 8.75.

Drops Centereach, 4-1, in enemy territory

Huntington junior defender Mark Rafuse heads the ball away from the net. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

We’ll be seeing the Huntington Blue Devils this postseason.

With a 4-1 win over Centereach Tuesday, the Huntington boys’ soccer team sealed its fate as the team moved to 7-1-1 in League II, guaranteeing them a spot in the playoffs.

Huntington senior forward Carlos Rivera stops the ball to change direction. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Huntington senior forward Carlos Rivera stops the ball to change direction. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Clinching playoffs is nice,” Huntington head coach John Pagano said. “The score makes it look as if we won by a big margin, but I still don’t feel we played the way I think we could.”

Huntington senior forward and co-captain Carlos Rivera put the first point on the scoreboard after taking a short pass off a corner kick and up to goal and shooting the ball into the right corner of the net.

With 5:02 remaining in the first half, senior midfielder and co-captain Wilber Parada scored on the inside left corner off a serve into the box from the right side, for the 2-0 point advantage.

Centereach wouldn’t go down quietly though, and with 1:30 left in the half, junior forward Elmer Alfaro scored on a straight shot up the center, to cut Huntington’s lead, 2-1.

“They played hard,” Centereach head coach Jon Galfano said of his Cougars. “There were a couple of mistakes on the field, but you have to give Huntington credit, too. They set up some beautiful plays.”

Centereach opened the second half with several attempts, but it was Huntington’s Rivera who scored the next goal, off another short pass off the corner kick.

“I have to be proud of my guys, because they never give up, they never quit,” Galfano said. “As a coach, especially at the high school level, that’s all you can hope for, because the kids keep fighting.”

The game grew physical between the two teams, and Pagano said he was pleased with how his team handled the situation.

Centereach defender and co-captain Nick Gennardo tries to get the ball out of Cougars territory. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Centereach defender Nick Gennardo tries to get the ball out of Cougars territory. Huntington midfielder Wilber Parada fights him. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“The game got very physical and actually could have gotten out of hand, but my guys were able to keep their composure,” Pagano said. “They realized the importance of all of these games down the stretch and how we can’t afford to have a player thrown out because of a fit of anger, so I liked that, and our finishing was good. We scored four good goals.”

Centereach junior goalkeeper Jared Steiger made several diving saves to keep the score close, but with the net being pounded, seven saves were not enough.

“I felt good,” Steiger said of his work between the pipes. “There were a few I think I could’ve got, though. As a team, I think we played alright, but we could’ve played better. I think we need to control the middle of the field better.”

With 10:35 left to play, Huntington senior midfielder and co-captain Olvin Palma scored after rocketing a shot on net from nearly 30 yards out, which surprised Centereach’s defense, leaving it with little time to react.

On the opposite side of the field, sophomore goalkeeper Nat Amato, who is in his first year with the team, made some key saves. He made a total of five.

“I felt pretty confident,” he said of being in net, adding that the players have been warm and welcoming to the new addition. “This team has great chemistry, since they’ve all been playing together since they were young. It’s a great team.”

While the Blue Devils are excited for another postseason appearance, the team’s main goal is having a home playoff game.

“We haven’t had a home playoff game in a real long time,” Pagano said. “I think we’re on track to do it. This is a really, really good group of kids, and as you continue to win games, you start to think that maybe a county final run isn’t out of the question. So right now, the way we’re playing, I think we have as good a shot as anybody.”

Social

9,201FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,133FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe