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Runners

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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Huntington’s 4x400 relay state championship team. Photo from Huntington athletics

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.”

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North Shore residents burned off calories to make some room for turkey early on Thanksgiving morning, running the 1-mile and 5-mile paths at Shoreham’s 35th annual Turkey Trot.

Three Shoreham and Wading River residents earned top finishes, including 2014 Shoreham-Wading River graduate Ryan Udvadia, who earned first place in the 5K for men with a time of 17 minutes, .01 seconds.

A portion of the proceeds from the charity event will fund community programs.

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