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Track and Field

D. Bruce Lockerbie and his wife, Lory, pose for an Easter Sunday photo. Photo above from D. Bruce Lockerbie

A familiar face in the Three Village area is receiving a special honor from his college alma mater.

On May 4, East Setauket’s D. Bruce Lockerbie will be inducted into the New York University Department of Athletics, Intramurals and Recreation Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a member of its men’s cross country and track and field teams, during a reception at NYU’s Kimmel Center. Lockerbie majored in English and religion at NYU and graduated in 1956.

Bruce Lockerbie during his days on the New York University track and field and cross country teams. Photo from New York University

“Bruce Lockerbie’s accomplishments as a member of the NYU cross country and track teams have stood the test of time and rank him among the greats to ever don the NYU violet,” said Christopher Bledsoe, NYU assistant vice president for student affairs and director of athletics. “We celebrate Dr. Lockerbie’s achievements and look forward to a special afternoon in May.”

Lockerbie, 83, said he was surprised and humbled when he heard about the induction, especially since the university counts numerous world record holders in track and field.

“I thought it was an April Fools joke in September,” he said, adding he had good teammates with him during his stint in track and field.

Among his college successes were his team being named the Penn Relays Distance Medley Relay and Spring Medley Relay champions and winning the bronze medal at an NCAA cross country event, both in 1955. He was also the Canadian Indoor Track and Field 1,000 yards champion in 1956 and missed qualifying for Canada’s Olympic team the same year due to illness on the day of the trials.

Lockerbie was born in Canada and moved to the U.S. as a junior in high school when his father accepted a position as pastor at Bay Ridge Baptist Church in Brooklyn. He soon found himself running for Fort Hamilton High School’s team.

“This is a key time in my life,” he said.

Lockerbie said he almost didn’t attend NYU after high school. The son of Depression-era parents who dropped out of school to work, the former runner said he had no college expectations and didn’t apply to any schools. It was his high school coach who gave him advice at a New York City championship race that changed his life.

“He said, ‘Run the race of your life kid, and maybe God has a surprise for you,’” Lockerbie said.

It was apparent that the surprise was in store, as an NYU coach discovered him, and he received a four-year scholarship.

“It absolutely changed and shaped my life,” he said.

Lockerbie said he doesn’t believe he would have attended college if it wasn’t for that fateful day. After graduation, he would go on to teach and coach at Wheaton College in Illinois and then at The Stony Brook School for 34 years. He was recruited by the headmaster at the time, Frank E. Gaebelein, who had the same coach as him at NYU.

Jane Taylor, former assistant head of The Stony Brook School, who has known Lockerbie since 1973, described the ex-track star as an Energizer bunny. Through the years, she said, he took on many administration roles at the school including chair of the English department, dean of faculty and being involved in various committees.

“He said, ‘Run the race of your life kid, and maybe God has a surprise for you.'”

— D. Bruce Lockerbie

As head of the international consulting team Paideia, Inc. since 1991, she said Lockerbie is well-respected for his educational consultations and workshops she described as thought-provoking.

Taylor added she also remembered him as the kind of coach who actively engaged and ran with his students, and he would carefully look at the running times he felt each student was capable of running.

“His athletes rose to the occasion,” she said.

As for running, it’s something Lockerbie had to give up after a heart attack in 1982, he said, when his doctor told him he would miss his son’s wedding that was scheduled a few days after but would be around for his grandchildren’s.

Despite the setback, Lockerbie said he kept his competitive edge and took up golfing, even winning a car in the past for getting a hole-in-one.

“I just had to replace it,” he said. “Chinese checkers wouldn’t have been as challenging.”

Lockerbie and his wife Lory, who have been married since 1956, have lived in the Three Village area for 62 years where they raised three children. In addition to his successes in track and field and cross country, Lockerbie is the author, co-author and editor of 40 books, and he and his wife are active parishioners in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven.

When it comes to the May 4 induction ceremony at NYU’s Kimmel Center, Lockerbie said he is looking forward to it, and he is still grateful for his time at the university.

“It’s a case of a university having expressed its faith in me, when I was utterly a nobody, and giving me the opportunity to affect other people’s lives all these years in the profession of education,” he said. “The appropriate sentiment is humbling, and I’m grateful.”

Wei during a long jump at a recent meet. Photo from Eric Giorlando

By Karina Gerry

For the second time this season, Mount Sinai senior Kenneth Wei knows what it’s like to be No. 1 in the country for the long jump.

The Mount Sinai senior jumped 25 feet, the current record in the nation for this year, Feb. 3, at the Section XI Small School County Championship at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Brentwood. Earlier in the season, Wei held the long jump record with 24 feet when he competed at the Molloy Stanner Games at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York City.

“It was really adrenaline pumping,” Wei said about the experience of competing at such a
level. “Your heart’s racing, it’s really exciting.”

Wei leaps the hurdles at a recent meet. Photo from Eric Giorlando

Eric Giorlando, the Mustangs head track & field coach, proudly pointed out Wei’s other accomplishments at the recent meet, including beating the No. 2 athlete in the country during the 55-meter hurdles head to head and was named Male Athlete of the Meet. 

“It’s an experience that you hope to obtain sometime in your career,” Giorlando said. “It was a pretty big day overall, not just achieving the No. 1 spot in the long jump but to have that meet, in general, it was a pretty powerful moment.”

Giorlando, who has been coaching at Mount Sinai since 2002, has been working side by side with Wei since the beginning.

“Kenny has always done everything that we’ve asked him to do,” Giorlando said. “He probably runs more than the traditional long jumper or triple jumper — he’s kind of been easy to coach and understanding of my philosophy of how to get him to that point.”

Wei has been competing at the varsity level since eighth grade when an assistant coach saw him jump for a basketball in gym class. The long jumper got serious about winning titles last year where he started hitting the weight room. Last season Wei began to see the effects of his hard work with his multiple titles, but despite all the success this year, Giorlando doesn’t think the soon-to-graduate senior has come close to reaching his potential.

“I think he has a lot of room to go,” Giorlando said. “It’s about being patient and understanding that it’s a long road ahead of us — we’re not looking for county titles or state titles at this point, we’re looking for a national title.”

Wei’s goal is to place at Nationals in March where he hopes to compete in two events: the 55-meter hurdles and long jump. Despite the pressure of being a nationally recognized athlete, the nerves don’t really get to him anymore.

“Your heart’s racing, it’s really exciting.”

— Kenneth Wei

“Especially since last year I feel like the nerves have kind of calmed down a little bit, and I just really try to enjoy the run, enjoy the meet and enjoy the atmosphere,” Wei said. 

His coach can’t think of a time that he has ever seen Wei frazzled, even under the most immense pressure.

“Always laser focused,” Giorlando said. “Always knows what needs to be done, and I’d say about 99 percent of the time he is able to achieve those things.”

Wei, who is headed to MIT in the fall, plans on competing for their track & field team because of his passion for the sport.

“My big thing is to encourage people to pursue their passions,” the star athlete said. “And this is one of mine. It’s a big part of my life now, and running with the team competing is a lot of fun, and I hope to keep doing it.”

The 4x400 relay team of Maritza Blanchard, Jess Faustin, Lexie Roth and Dana Cerbone took home multiple medals a the state track and field meet. Photo from Middle Country school district

By Desirée Keegan

Middle Country’s seniors have shown the strength, determination and dedication to achieve greatness, and now they have the success to prove it was all worth it.

After undergoing six brain surgeries and having a shunt put into her skull to help her manage an incurable disease, Lexi Roth hit the ground running. She helped Middle Country’s 4×400-meter relay team cross the finish line a fraction of a second behind first at the Division I state championships last weekend. The girls clocked in second among Division I schools in 3 minutes, 52.92 seconds. Rush-Henrietta Senior High School finished in 3:52.52.

Maritza Blanchard, above with Bay Shore’s Nia Singer, finished third among all schools in the 400 dash. Photo from Middle Country school district

The quartet, which also includes seniors Dana Cerbone and Maritza Blanchard and sophomore Jessica Faustin, placed fourth among all schools during the June 8 and 9 meet at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

“That group especially had an immense amount of talent and the work ethic that goes along with that, so I’m not surprised they got where they got to,” said former coach Matt Torres, who worked with the seniors their first two years. “Jessica, being the young one, works incredibly hard. She has some great leaders in front of her.”

Cerbone is about five feet tall, but Torres said you wouldn’t know it. She placed fourth among Division I athletes in the 200 dash (24.94) and fourth overall (25.33).

“Girls tower over her, but she has a bulldog-type mentality,” he said. “It wasn’t just practice, it was after practice that she would want to do more to see if she could get even just a little bit better. She’d push to have that edge, get in the weight room.”

He said none of the athletes would stop between seasons. They showed a desire to remain in shape and continue to try to take their talents to the next level.

“Maritza was always on the brink of being great, and I think coach Cuzzo really helped push her toward that,” he said.

Blanchard also brought home an additional medal with a third-place overall finish in the 400 dash. She crossed the finish line in 56.78. She ranked fifth among Division I schools (57.39) and bounced back to have a better showing in day two.

“Everything is moving in the right direction,” two-year spring track and field coach Charley Cuzzo said. “I’m very proud of how the kids ran. What they’ve been able to do is quite an accomplishment. They were ready to go, and they proved it.”

The quartet came out of nowhere and shot right up to the top. The girls were ranked No. 1 in the state prior to the meet. Cuzzo said they’ve made improvements that are impressive, and ones that the seniors will take with them to the collegiate level.

“They haven’t gotten there by accident,” Torres said. “They got there by how hard they work.

Twin talks the double win, push to best his brother Isaiah, following in footsteps of twins of years past

Elijah Claiborne celebrates after checking the scoreboard to confirm his first-place finish in the 800-meter run. Photo from Section XI

Elijah Claiborne has always come second, but this time, the state meet was his stage to shine on.

Elijah Claiborne crosses the 1,600-meter finish line with ease. Photo from Northport athletics

The senior has fallen short to his twin brother Isaiah, and, like at the state indoor meet, to Schenectady’s Maazin Ahmed. Instead of the close finishes deterring the senior from the sport, they’ve motivated him to work harder. Even though his older brother opted out of the state outdoor championships to attend the Brooks PR meet, spectators were still seeing double. Claiborne placed first in the 800 in 1 minute, 52.33 seconds, and first in the 1,600 in 4:10.01.

“Things went perfectly,” Claiborne said. “After not qualifying last year I really wanted this. [Isaiah] has always been better than me and I’ve closed the gap between me and him. My goal is to beat him or run a faster time than him whenever I get the chance. He’s always my driving factor.”

His other motivator was falling just milliseconds behind Ahmed this past March.

“I changed my race strategy and I started trying a lot harder during practice,” he said. “I stopped skipping runs and focused more on how I execute race plans and getting myself prepared.”

Elijah Claiborne is congratulated by a fellow runner after the 800-meter run. Photo from Section XI

Head coach Jason Strom has seen his runner’s struggles and said what Claiborne did at Cicero-North Syracuse High School June 8 and 9 was the most incredible performance he has seen at states. The senior was also part of the 4×800 relay with senior Dan O’Connor, junior Sean Ryan and sophomore Thomas Fodor clocked in a photo-finish second place to St. Anthony’s (7:45.78), finishing in 7:45.79.

“He’s had a hard time gaining the respect he deserves because his brother has been a notch faster than him — he’s been second-best even in his own house,” the 12-year Northport coach said of Claiborne. “It was nice for him to have his day to shine, have all eyes on him, and realize the top runner in the state that he is. His athletic ability and talent in the sport is through the roof, and he’s nowhere near his ceiling yet.”

Claiborne said he and his brother were always compared to previous Northport twin track stars Jack and Tim McGowan. The sets of twins have a unique relationship, and their connection will grow when the four become teammates at Pennsylvania State University next year.

“They’re the ones that recruited me,” Claiborne said. “Isaiah and I have always been compared to them, and I’ve always tried to beat their times year after year. It’s created some friendly competition.”

He said he also chose Penn State because he immediately felt at home.

Elijah Claiborne stands atop the 800-meter run podium after his first-place finish. Photo from Northport athletics

“The way they treated us we already felt like members of the team,” he said. “They were all very nice, the facility is very nice. I just felt amazing when I visited, and I’ve always wanted to go to a big school like that. I couldn’t be happier.”

Strom said he always saw potential in Claiborne. The runner competed for soccer and wrestling teams as a freshman, and used his time on the track team to stay in shape. 

After seeing his brother quit wrestling to take on track year-round as a sophomore, he followed suit the next year.

“Coach took me in and built me up to be the best I can be,” Claiborne said. “I’ve made my greatest friends through track. Being a Northport Tiger, it’s been a great four years. I’m just grateful for my teammates, and I’m going to miss them next year.”

He admitted his permanent move to the track team was motivated by his brother’s fast rise to stardom.

“I saw how good he got, and I didn’t want my brother to get better than me, so I joined the team full-time,” Claiborne said. “My brother, how good he got, I wanted to be that great too.”

Now, he is.

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Sarah Connelly comes in third in 3,000-meter run among Division II teams

Kayleigh Robinson races toward the finish line. Photo from Kayleigh Robinson

Like a quote by R.S. Grey, Kayleigh Robinson believed she could, so she did.

The Mount Sinai junior sprinter’s go-getter attitude motivated her to a first-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles at the state track and field championships last weekend.

Kayleigh Robinson stands atop the 400-meter hurdle podium at the state meet. Photo from Kayleigh Robinson

“Most people get nervous going into a race, but when I go into a race, I think about it as my race,” the five-year varsity standout said. “As you think about what you want, what your goals are — I’ve been training so hard throughout the season for that race, and I was coming down the last 100, 50 meters and I saw the finish line was right there and I was confident. I knew I had to push myself as hard as I could. Visualizing what you want for yourself helps you reach that result.”

She was ranked No. 2 in the state, just half a second behind first, and finished the June 9 race in 1 minute, 3.03 seconds just in front of Bishop Loughlin’s Adia Palmer (1:03.32). She said she would have been happy with any result, laughing that clocking in first though was a nice bonus. Robinson was also on the 4×400 relay that placed eighth in Division II. Even running after individual races, the quartet finished well above its 9:27 time from the previous round with a 4:07.84.

“I wanted to be a state champion, I had my mind set, and I executed,” Robinson said. “But as long as I know I tried my best, I’m happy with whatever time I finish in, whether I win or lose.”

Sophomore Sarah Connelly approached the meet with a similar attitude. The four-year varsity runner placed third in the 3,000 in 9:52.24 and ninth in the 1,500 in 4:36.52.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Connelly said after crossing the finish line. “I was satisfied and amazed. We all push each other to make ourselves better and our success is all because we work together. This team is so supportive.”

Senior Noreen Guilfoyle is a big part of Connelly’s support system, even referring to her as “Mother Noreen.” Guilfoyle said she remembers running side by side with the then seventh-grader‚ recalling Connelly couldn’t take her eyes off her, not looking forward for even a second.

Sarah Connelly and Noreen Guilfoyle following a previous race. Photo from Noreen Guilfoyle

“I might take a little bit of credit for it,” Guilfoyle said of Connelly’s success, laughing. “I’m so proud of her. She’s done everything she’s told to do and I think she has a great career ahead of her.”

Connelly said her teammate, a nine-time state medalist, has helped her excel.

“I’m where I am today because of her,” Connelly said. “She’s unbelievable; I marvel at her. I look up to her. Whenever I had a negative attitude she tells me to shut up and put a smile on my face.”

The sophomore has now taken her own teammate under her wing, freshman Kaitlyn Chandrika, who won the 2,000 steeplechase at the division championships last month and state qualifiers just over a week ago. She finished ninth in the steeplechase and 22nd in the 800 at the state meet.

“I’ve tried to build her up,” Connelly said. “Hopefully I will be the next Noreen.”

Guilfoyle hadn’t had a personal best in quite some time, she said, and using her own encouragement, preaching pace and positivity, scored personal records in the same events Chandrika competed in, placing 15th in the steeplechase.

Noreen Guilfoyle and Sarah Connelly compete alongside one another during a previous race. Photo from Noreen Guilfoyle

“They’re the only team that if someone beats someone else, they turn around and say, ‘Thank you, you made me run faster,’” head coach Bill Dwyer said. “The younger kids wouldn’t be as good if they didn’t have good role models like they do in Noreen and the other seniors. But even I couldn’t have imagined them running that fast. People see all this talent, but it’s basically hard work that gets them there.”

Guilfoyle, Connelly, Chandrika and sophomore Isabella DiPalermo finished 10th in the 4×800. Senior Ebelyn Harriman finished 23rd overall among Division II schools in the pentathlon, and Miller Place senior Jillian Patterson finished eighth among all schools. She finished the 800 portion first in 2:21.29 and racked up 3,150 points overall. For the boys, Mount Sinai junior Kenneth Wei finished second in the 110 hurdles for Division II runners in 14.51 and sixth overall. His younger brother Justin, a sophomore, came in 14th in the pentathlon, crossing the finish line fourth in the high jump, seventh in the 110 hurdles and 10th in the 1,500.

Guilfoyle said her motto has been “one bad race doesn’t define an entire career,” adding going against the best-of-the-best in the state has only helped. She said being on the top team on Long Island during the winter and cross country track seasons and going undefeated for the second year in a row in the spring and winning the county championship has its added benefits.

“It helps you push yourself harder than you would before,” Guilfoyle said of competing on the big stage. “I’ve always aimed to be the best example I can be. For them to look up to me and instill the things I’ve taught them is really rewarding. I feel like I’ve made an impact on their lives, and they’ve made an impact on mine.”

Northport’s Elijah and Isaiah Claiborne. Photo from Twitter

Northport senior distance runner Elijah Claiborne isn’t showing signs of slowing down. His 4 minute, 11.47 second finish in the 1,600-meter run earned him first place at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School.

Huntington hurdler Jonathan Smith. Photo by Mike Connell

He will compete with other winners in the state championship at Cicero-North Syracuse High School June 8 and 9.

Claiborne had come in second in a photo finish in the indoor state track and field finals this past March with Schenectady’s Maazin Ahmed. The Northport runner’s indoor time had been seconds slower than his outdoor (4:15.548).

The half of Northport’s twin brother power duo also placed first in the 800, clocking in at 1:54.06. Isaiah Claiborne came in second in the 400 dash in 49.71.

Other Tigers took home top spots during the weekend-long meet. Senior Dan O’Connor finished third in 3,200 run in 9:40.92. Junior Sean Ryan placed fourth in the 1,600, crossing the finish line in 4:18.47, and classmate Sydney Rohme placed first in girls pentathlon with a school record-breaking 3,263 points.

Huntington thrower Clay Jamison. Photo by Mike Connell

Huntington also had multiple track and field athletes excel with career days.

Huntington senior Clay Jamison came in second in the shot put with a 51-0.25 toss. The throw ties him for the top spot in the county (across all divisions) with Commack’s Steven Vasile.

Huntington junior Jonathan Smith placed second in the 400 hurdles in 55.17. He caught up to the pack in the final turn and passed Bellport’s Kyler Pizzo and Comsewogue’s Travis Colon down the stretch to claim his first individual county crown.

Smith also placed fourth in the long jump with a 21-2 leap.

Huntington’s 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams finished third, and junior Keily Rivas came in third in the 1,500 race-walk in 6:52.33.

Smithtown West’s Nick Cipolla leads the pack. Photo from Facebook

Gabby Griffin gave it her all in what could have been her final race across the hurdles, and clocked in with a top spot and a personal best.

The Comsewogue senior sprinted her way to a third-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking in at 1.03.94 seconds at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School.

Travis Colon races down the track during the 55-meter hurdle during the last indoor season. File photo by Bill Landon

Griffin was also part of Comsewogue’s 4×400 relay and placed third in 3:57.53 that move on to the state finals with other top county winners at the state championship at Cicero-North Syracuse High School June 8-9.

Sabrina Donoghue, Brianna Quartararo and Annalise Russo rounded out the relay, which set a new school record, breaking its own record of 4:02.34 by almost five seconds.

Comsewogue junior Travis Colon came in third in the 110 hurdles (15.06) and fourth in the 400 hurdles (56.40).

Comsewogue Fernando Toledo third in the 400 dash, clocking in at 49.72.

Middle Country’s Maritza Blanchard blasted her way to the finish line, twice.

She took first in the 400-yard dash by clocking in at 56.39 and ran the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay team that placed first.

The relay team of Blanchard, Dana Cerbone, Jess Faustin and Lexie Roth, which now ranks second in the sate, crossed the finish line in 3:52.96. 

Her teammate, Cerbone, who ran the third leg of the relay, also capitalized on two opportunities, sprinting her way to second in the 200 dash with a time of 25.37.

Middle Country’s he 4×400 relay team of Maritza Blanchard, Jess Faustin, Lexie Roth and Dana Cerbone.

Nick Cipolla can also run.

The Smithtown West senior crossed the 3,200-meter run finish line in 9:27.31 for first place.

Other area runners excelled in the 3,200.

Northport senior Dan O’Connor came in third (9:40.92), Smithtown East junior Kevin Cawley fourth (9:41.44), Smithtown West junior John Cuff fifth (9:42.91) and Northport sophomore Thomas Fodor sixth (9:47.13).

Smithtown West junior Nick DeFelice finished second in the 3,000 steeplechase (9:44.70). Smithtown East’s Cawley came in fourth (20:02.76).

Smithtown West junior Emily Eng placed second in the pole vault with a 10-6 leap.

Kings Park junior Mike Perez jumped 6-2 in the high jump for a fourth-place finish.

Katherine Lee races in the 1,000-meter run during the indoor track and field season. File photo by Bill Landon

Katherine Lee was off to the races at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School and crossed her senior season finish lines in typical
Wildcats fashion — by winning the 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs. She finished first in the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 34.25 seconds and the 3,000 in 9:58.42.

Mount Sinai’s Kenneth Wei leaps over a hurdle during an earlier meet this season. File photo by Bill Landon

Lee said her result was not what she’d hoped, saying she’s been under the weather, but hopes to finish stronger when she competes with the other winners in the state championship at Cicero North Syracuse
High School June 8 and 9.

Mount Sinai sophomore Sarah Connelly came in third in the 1,500, crossing the finish line in 4:38.07. Connelly also came in second in the 3,000 in 9:59.99.

Mount Sinai freshman Kaitlyn Chandrika used a quick start to roll to a 6:57.97 victory in the 2,000 steeplechase. Teammate Noreen Guilfoyle, a senior, placed fourth in 7:13.59. Chandrika also raced to a third-place finish in the 800 with a 2:16.31 behind Ward Melville seniors Allyson Gaedje (2:14.82) and Sam Rutt (2:14.93). Mount Sinai junior Kayleigh Robinson ended up second in a photo finish in the 400 hurdles behind Sachem East’s Kaitlyn Famiglietti. The Flaming Arrows runner clocked in at 1:03.33 while Robinson finished in 1:03.34.

The Mustangs’ 4×800 relay team earned second place with a time of 9:27.52. Miller Place senior Jillian Patterson grabbed second in the pentathlon with a score of 3,059.

Mount Sinai’s Kenneth Wei (14.49 seconds) was just edged by Longwood’s Jaheim Dotson (14.35) in the 110 hurdles. Sophomore Justin Wei, his younger brother, finished fourth (15.67). Kenneth Wei also came in third in the long jump (21-11) and third in the triple jump (44-1).

Miller Place sophomore Tom Cirrito placed fourth in the 800, clocking in at 1:56.20. Mount Sinai senior Jack Pilon came in sixth (1:59.11).

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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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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s Ejim Nnate eliminated every would-be threat as she swept all four of her track and field events in the Warriors’ 90-60 win at Bellport May 8.

Of her victories, her 33-10 leap in the triple jump and 16-6.75 mark in the long jump were personal bests.

The biggest improvement was in the Warriors’ 4×100-yard relay time. Although second to Bellport’s 49 seconds, the Comsewogue quartet of senior Gabrielle Griffin, junior Gabrielle Savage, sophomore Sabrina Donoghue and freshman Brianna Quartararo finished in 51.4 seconds off its average time of 53. 

“Our 4×100 relay today is a season-best for us,” head coach Matt Brown said. 

The relay team owns the school record and finished sixth at the St. Anthony’s Invitational May 5. According to Brown, the girls are ranked sixth in the county.

Daniella Barchi, who came in eighth in the 1,500 race-walk at the invitational, won the event against Bellport by shaving two seconds off her time for a personal record. Before the Top 10 county race-walker finished a 7:26 time, she ran a 7:28 Saturday.

“I was definitely nervous, because the race-walk is my main event,” Barchi said. “Surprisingly, after competing in the 1,500 run, I felt ready to go. I said, ‘I can do this right now,’ I was so pumped.”

Quartararo, who ran four events, is currently the school record holder in the 400. She finished fourth in the event at the St. Anthony’s Invitational.

Griffin is ranked second in the county in the 400 hurdles, eighth in the 100 dash and 15th in the 200 dash, according to Brown. She is hoping for a shot at qualifying for the state championship in the 400 hurdles in addition to the relay.

The Warriors improve to 4-1 with one meet remaining in the regular season. Brown, who said he’s expecting better jumps for his team in the future, said Comsewogue will have its hands full when the team travels to North Babylon (4-0-1) May 10 at 4 p.m. If the Warriors win, they’ll be in a two-way tie for first in League IV with West Islip (5-1).