Every point counted. Literally.
The Huntington girls’ track and field team needed contributions from its sprinters and hurdlers, distance runners and field event specialists to put it in a position to overtake East Islip in the final event and lift the Blue Devils to their first-ever Suffolk County Division II spring championship last Thursday at Northport High School.
Huntington nipped East Islip in the final team standings by a mere two points, 91-89. The outcome wasn’t decided until 4×400-meter relay anchor Katie Nugent’s all-out sprint in the final 100 meters of that race produced a first-place finish and gave the Blue Devils the title they have coveted all spring.
“What a meet!” Huntington head coach Shawn Anderson said. “That was one of the most exciting meets I have ever been a part of, especially since we were in the mix of it. As a coach, I knew that we were prepared, but it was up to the athletes to rise to the occasion and they proved why they were the best team out there today in Division II. [East Islip] pushed us all the way to the end.”
Huntington trailed East Islip heading into the shot put and the relays, 75-66, but Betty Huitt came up big for the team in shot put, shattering her previous personal best with a throw that measured 34-8 1/2, to place fourth and capture four team points, to inch the Blue Devils closer to the top.
In the 4×800 relay, the team of Nugent, Nicole Abbondandelo, Alexandra Koumas and Suzie Petryk turned in a gutty performance. The foursome notched a winning time of 9 minutes, 38.65 seconds, just shy of their best this spring, but notable in light of the fact that most of athletes had run two prior races, including Koumas, who only had about 30 minutes rest after her 400 hurdles final. East Islip took third in the race.
The 4×100 relay was next, and the Blue Devils team of Samantha Glicker, Lexi Mills, Maliyah Davis-Coddington and Marina Ruzic earned Huntington a valuable point with a sixth place finish in 52.47 seconds. East Islip took second in the race.
As Huntington’s 4×400 relay team of Nugent, Anna Gulizio, Latoya Shand and Alexis Pastorelli took the track, Anderson knew that a victory in the race would give the Blue Devils the Suffolk Division II title. A second place finish would give the team a tie in the standings with East Islip and a third place finish would mean letting the county crown slip through their collective fingers.
The team’s splits of 59.6, 58.5, 1:02.9 and 58.6 produced a new school record of 3:59.64.
“We were in second going into the final leg,” Anderson said. Nugent accelerated going into the final turn and caught West Babylon at the top of the stretch. It was an all-out sprint in the final 100 meters, producing a victory by a mere 65/100ths of a second.
“It was one of the most intense races I have seen, and with the win, came the title,” Anderson said. Since East Islip didn’t have a team running in the race, they were unable to score any points, while Huntington’s finish allowed it to overcome its deficit.
In other action, Petryk and Nugent finished first and second, respectively, in the 800. Petryk covered the distance in an efficient time of 2:16.18. Nugent just edged out the third place finisher from Half Hollow Hills West by 4/100ths of a second, with a personal best time of 2:19.22.
In the 400 hurdles, Koumas set a new Huntington record by posting a time of 1:05.06 as she swept across the finish line in second place. In the 3,000, Abbondandelo finished third after a “super-fast start,” Anderson said.
The freshman crossed the line in 10:44.99.
Nina Cartwright threw a personal best distance of 91-2, just missing a top six finish in discus.
Petryk cruised to victory in 7:12.80 in the 2,000 steeplechase, and Pastorelli finished fifth, in 7:43.90, a new personal best time. Petryk raced in the 1,500 soon after, and finished second in 4:52.54, making sure to save some energy for the all-important relay that was contested near the end of the competition. Abbondandelo placed fifth in a new personal best time of 4:58.96.
Shand finished fourth in 58.63 in the 400 dash.
“Latoya was an unsung hero for us as she ran four races on Tuesday and two races on Thursday for us,” Anderson said. “She’s quiet, yet fierce, and always lays it out on the track.”
Kayla Eidle gained the Blue Devils valuable points in the team standings with her fifth place finish in the 1,500 race walk, in 7:55.45. Cartwright cleared 9 feet in the pole vault, to finish in a tie for third place. Nugent notched a personal best 32-3 3/4 in shot put, when she launched three consecutive throws about 10 minutes prior to running in the 4×800 relay.
The Blue Devils are on a roll, winning the league and division titles, and Anderson hopes the good times roll into states.
“Each and every girl laid out their best efforts on the track and had some absolutely stellar performances,” Anderson said. “With such a historic day, it will be fun to see how we do at the state qualifier meet this Friday and Saturday at Port Jefferson.”