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Track and Field

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Justin Julich competes for Port Jefferson in the steeplechase in the St. Anthony’s Invitational. Photo from the athlete

The Royals have always risen to the occasion, and the boys’ track and field team hopes their efforts this year on the state stage will be no exception.

Despite missing the entire spring season with an Achilles tendon injury, Port Jefferson standout James Burke — and two of his fellow Royals — placed in the Section XI individual championships and state qualifier on their home track last Friday and Saturday, to advance to the state championship this weekend at the University at Albany.

“It was devastating to lose James this spring season,” Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley said. “He’s the captain of the team and one of the best athletes in the state. But it’s quite an accomplishment to have three athletes competing this weekend.”

Although this season’s squad did not win any of the championships the Royals usually nab, like the league, division and county titles, the boys still finished the dual-meet season with a 5-1 record — dropping only their final matchup against Wyandanch, 79-59 — despite missing Burke, as well as junior Billy Witrock for a portion of the schedule.

Although he did not compete during the regular season, Burke placed second in the 1,600-meter, his signature event, at the qualifying meet with a time of 4 minutes, 18.39 seconds — only five-hundredths of a second behind Ward Melville’s John Ripa.

The Royal has finished that event as fast as 4:08.48, during the New Balance Nationals Indoor at the Armory in Manhattan earlier this year. The time made him the second-fastest miler in the country and earned him a silver medal.

“I give him credit for coming back and coming in second,” Cawley said about the qualifier. “The plan was to go out and try to take it easy to rest his tendon, but being the competitor that he is, there’s no taking it easy. He went from the back of the race all the way to the front in second place there, and then he moved to first for a little while, but he also got stepped on during the race — since [his Achilles] was injured anyway, that didn’t help.”

Burke spent a lot of time trying to heal following his injury, and slowly worked himself up to being able to run again.

“He goes around the neighborhood to people who have pools, and asks if he could swim,” Cawley said, laughing. “He’s been to four or five different pools in Port Jeff. … He likes to run in the water in the deep end to simulate running — not touching the bottom — and then he’ll swim laps to get some cardiovascular aspects of it.”

Port Jefferson's Alden Mohacsi pole vaults in a previous meet. Photo from the athlete
Port Jefferson’s Alden Mohacsi pole vaults in a previous meet. Photo from the athlete

Also heading to states is senior pole-vaulter Alden Mohacsi, whose fourth-place finish at the qualifier was a new personal record, making the state bid that much sweeter.

“I’m definitely looking forward to states,” said Mohacsi, who has been on the team since he was a freshman. “I’m practicing every day and there’s been a lot of personal development. I’m going to do the best that I can this week to improve my form and I’m hoping to hit 13 feet this Friday.”

Junior Justin Julich had several successes of his own, competing in the 3,200 and 3,000 steeplechase.

On Friday, Julich hit a new personal record of his own in the two-mile run with a 9:48 — nine seconds better than his standard 9:57 — to finish eighth. Just hours after competing in the 3,200 the evening before, Julich ran a 10:16 in the steeplechase on Saturday to place seventh and qualify for states.

“It’s awesome to do really good at that high of a level,” Julich said. “Competing against the best guys in the county, it always helps to do your best in those kinds of situations.”

Julich is also looking to reach a new personal best in that event this Saturday, and his head coach said the runner has grown a lot over the years, aiding in his success.

“He’s come a long way,” Cawley said. “He was a little guy back in freshman year and now he’s going to be a team leader next year. He was exhausted Saturday morning. It’s a very difficult [double event] to do in 16 hours, but he didn’t complain; he went out there and did it. He knows he has to step up.”

Julich, Mohacsi, Parker Schoch and Alex Rebic also competed in the 4×800 relay in the state qualifier, finishing 12th in 8:50.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Cawley and his athletes are confident that they can be successful on the big stage.

“I think we have a pretty good chance to do very well,” the head coach said. “James is James; I know he will do well just because of his past. Alden is a tough competitor, and I think Justin has an opportunity to do well, too.”

Mohacsi said the program’s winning tradition has facilitated the athletes’ improvements.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of this team and this program,” he said. “It’s built me up physically and mentally, and I’m really grateful for the super-talented and supportive teammates and coaches I’ve had. It’s inspired me to keep pushing myself beyond the best of my abilities; to work hard and give it 110 percent.”

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 wasn’t completely smooth sailing, but it all worked out in the end. The Huntington boys’ track and field team overcame several mishaps to qualify athletes in three different events for this week’s state championships in Albany.

Scott Gulizio got off to a slow start in the 800-meter run, falling far behind the leaders at last weekend’s Section XI state qualifier at Port Jefferson. Once the senior finally found his stride, he started passing competitors at a fast clip and managed to finish third in a new school record time of 1 minute, 53.83 seconds, 1.12 seconds behind first place finisher Shamar Powell of Walt Whitman and 49/100ths of a second off the second place pace of Bellport’s Tom Gassner.

Unfortunately for Gulizio, only the first place finisher and a second runner who has met the state-qualifying standard are eligible to advance to the state finals.

“It’s a real shame because Scott is one of the best in the state,” Huntington head coach Ron Wilson said. “Unfortunately, when you fall too far behind off the starting gun, it’s hard make up the deficit in a tough field.”

Kryee Johnson, Infinite Tucker and Exzayvian Crowell are members of the Huntington 4x400-meter relay team. File photo by Darin Reed
Kryee Johnson, Infinite Tucker and Exzayvian Crowell are members of the Huntington 4×400-meter relay team. File photo by Darin Reed

Another hard-to-take result came in the 110 high hurdles. Infinite Tucker struck the second hurdle and nearly came to a complete stop before recovering and speeding to the finish line, crossing third in 14.48 seconds.

The junior failed to qualify in one of his signature events, trailing Copiague’s Aaron McFadden (14.29) and Travon Duncan (14.36).

“Once it was over, all we could do is look ahead to the next race,” Wilson said.

The Blue Devils wouldn’t suffer another letdown.

Sophomore Kyree Johnson finished second in the 400 dash in a school record time of 48.50 seconds to qualify for the state finals in that event. Tucker came back to win the 400 hurdles in 53.14 seconds to also advance to the state championships.

Scott Gulizio leads the pack for Huntington in a previous race. File photo by Darin Reed
Scott Gulizio leads the pack for Huntington in a previous race. File photo by Darin Reed

“Kyree and Infinite both ran really well,” Wilson said. “There is always pressure in this type of meet. You have to be nearly perfect or you’re going to be disappointed in the state qualifier.”

Huntington and Half Hollow Hills West collided in the 4×400 relay, but in the highlight of the day, the Blue Devils won by less than a second to qualify for the state championships.

After running in Friday’s qualifying heat, Exzayvian Crowell stepped aside for alternate Shane McGuire, who ran the first leg in Saturday’s finals. Johnson, Gulizio and Tucker followed with blistering performances.

Huntington’s time of 3:19.17 nipped the Colts, who took second place in 3:19.87.

“It’s awesome,” Gulizio said. “It’s good to see all our hard work this season has paid off. Hopefully we can produce the same kind of results as winter.”

Huntington's Katie Nugent leads the relay pack on the way to her first-place finish for the Suffolk Division II title. Photo by Mike Connell

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.

Alexandra Koumas leaps over the hurdle for Huntington. Photo by Darin Reed
Alexandra Koumas leaps over the hurdle for Huntington. Photo by Darin Reed

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.”

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Middle Country's Denzel Williams sprints to the finish line during a meet earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon

By Clayton Collier

Middle Country track standout Denzel Williams had an admirable performance at the divisional meets at Comsewogue this past weekend, taking second and third in the 200- and 100-meter events, respectively.
Most students would be thrilled to have finished with such marks, but Williams considered it a bad day at the office.

“I’m not really satisfied,” he said. “I definitely think I could have gotten first. It was just an off day and hopefully, come state qualifiers, I think I can and I should place first in my events. Definitely in the 200.”

The All-League junior will head to state qualifiers at Port Jefferson High School this upcoming weekend, looking to make a comeback from his divisional results. Williams finished the 100 in 10.9 seconds, and the 200 in 22.2.

Joining him at the qualifiers will be fellow junior Middle Country track and field athlete Chris Weiner, who will compete in the pole vault.

Middle Country track coach George Royce said he believes that Weiner, who did not place at the divisional meet, will bounce back at state qualifiers, as he said the wind gave him a little trouble. As for Williams, Royce says he hopes to see his star athlete build on his divisional times.

“I think he’s going to do even better this weekend, once we fine tune a couple things,” Royce said. “The sprint races all depend on how they feel that day.”

Denzel Williams competes in the long jump for Middle Country. File photo by Bill Landon
Denzel Williams competes in the long jump for Middle Country. File photo by Bill Landon

For Williams, a key to success is having a short memory, something that, as a three-sport athlete, he has had ample opportunity to develop.

In the fall Williams is a running back and safety on the football team, in the winter he’s a combo guard for basketball, and in the spring he sprints.

Williams said track is particularly beneficial, as it helps him stay fit year-round.

“It keeps me in shape for all my sports,” he said. “It only helps you get better. It won’t hurt you. You get faster; stronger.”

Among all three of his coaches — Royce, head football coach Joseph Piccinnini and head basketball coach Anthony Agostino — one theme was consistent in describing Williams: a hard worker.

“He’s probably the best all-around athlete I’ve ever coached in terms of speed and jumping ability,” Agostino said. “He’s a tremendous leader. He works hard and he’s admired by his peers and faculty. He’s the real deal.”

Williams said the most difficult part about being a three-sport athlete is balancing school work.

“It’s difficult, but you’ve got to maintain,” he said. “It’s a lot of late-night studying, but that’s the price you pay. It’s worth it in the end.”

Though Royce said there have been some occasional scheduling conflicts, he feels it is important for young athletes to play multiple sports.

“Nowadays a lot of coaches think that kids should be playing their sport all year round, but I disagree,” he said. “I think most good athletes can do three sports. It’s beneficial for them, too.”

Although early, Williams said he is leaning toward football in college, but said track is a possibility as well. He has been looked at by a number of local programs, including the University of Massachusetts, Lowell; Stony Brook University and Fordham University.

Piccinnini said one of Williams’ most valuable tools is his speed, and it doesn’t just help him in track, but also on the gridiron.

“He’s got that closing speed and that breakaway speed needed,” he said. “That’s a great thing to have, and he has it.”

Williams will see what happens in the remaining year. In the meantime, he has his hands full finishing up track season before getting ready for football. Royce is confident that Williams will be successful in whatever he chooses.

“He’s determined,” Royce said. “He’s gifted with tremendous speed and jumping abilities. The sky’s the limit with how far he’s going to go.”

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Austin Sperl, left, runs in the 4x400-meter relay race for Comsewogue. Photo by Harry Posnanski

By Clayton Collier

The Comsewogue boys’ track and field program added to an already banner year this past weekend, breaking a pair of school records as six athletes placed at divisionals as the host team.

Having already broken the 100-, 200-, 400- and 1×400-meter relay records this season, the Warriors tacked on to their historic season, taking the 800 and 4×400 relays school records Friday.

Head coach Brad Posnanski, currently in his 19th season at the helm of the program, said this year’s squad has been one of the best teams he has coached at Comsewogue.

Arman Hezarkhani leaps over the hurdle for Comsewogue. Photo from Arman Hezarkhani
Arman Hezarkhani leaps over the hurdle for Comsewogue. Photo from Arman Hezarkhani

“This was probably the best season we’ve had in 12 years,” said Posnanski, whose team will head to state qualifiers at Port Jefferson this coming weekend.

Seniors Austin Sperl and Conner Holroyd, as well as juniors Aidan Reindl and Ivan Almanzar, clocked in at a school record 3 minutes, 23.58 seconds, passing the previous mark by just under a second and taking third in the divisional race.

In the 800, Sperl’s record time of 1:55.73 eclipsed the previous school mark by one-hundredth of a second, taking second place in the divisional meet. In addition to the 4×400 record that the All-State runner anchored, Sperl also holds the school record in the 400 and was part of the record-breaking 4×100 team.

Sperl said the 800 record meant a great deal to him because he has been running the event since eighth grade.

“I was really excited because I didn’t think I got it,” he said. “Then, when I made it to the line, my coach told me. It was sweet. That was probably my favorite school record that I got.”

With a senior core consisting of Sperl, Holroyd, shot-putter Jason Hank, 4×100 team member and hurdler Arman Hezarkhani, and 800-runner Nick Lepore, it was a bittersweet final home meet.

“It was very emotional,” said Hezarkhani, who was sick that day and almost didn’t participate in the meet. “I remember when I was on the blocks for the 400 hurdles; that just kept going through my head: ‘This is the last race, this is the last race.’ It was an awesome way to end my high school career. Not end — almost end it.”

Austin Sperl sprints to the finish line in a relay race at the boys’ divisional meet at Comsewogue. Photo by Harry Posnanski
Austin Sperl sprints to the finish line in a relay race at the boys’ divisional meet at Comsewogue. Photo by Harry Posnanski

Hezarkhani placed fourth in the 400 hurdles. Also placing were Reindl, who took fifth in the triple jump, and junior Gavin Holroyd, who placed seventh in discus.

Hezarkhani and Sperl will be the two seniors continuing their track careers into college. Sperl, who Posnanski described as “one of the top runners” he’s coached, is headed to the University at Albany this fall. Hezarkhani will attend Carnegie Mellon University, a place that he feels will fulfill his various needs.

“I’ve always liked to balance academics and athletics,” he said. “I think I will be able to maintain my excellence in both there.”

Sperl’s mother, Donna, credits the coaching staff for the team’s success, saying the mix between Posnanski and assistant coach Mike Cohen is a winning formula.

“Coach Cohen is very personable, very outgoing and jokes around with them a lot, so it’s a good balance,” she said. “[Posnanski] is very strict and he demands a lot out of them physically, but he’s very quick to text them or call them to tell them ‘good job.’”

Looking ahead toward next year, Comsewogue will return a junior who has already made waves. Almanzar holds the school record in the 100 and 200, with times of 10.9 and 22.2, respectively, and was a member of the record-breaking 4×100 squad. Also among the junior returners are Reindl, Gavin Holroyd and Alex Velasquez; the latter  will return after sitting out the majority of this past season with an injury.

Hezarkhani said that although this season is not finished yet, he is confident in next year’s team’s abilities.

“I think the team is going to be strong,” he said. “We have a lot of talent, a lot of hard workers, and that is just what it comes down to, really.”

Joe Saginaw pole vaults. File photo by Darin Reed

A convincing victory at Rocky Point Tuesday, 102-34, kept the Huntington boys’ track and field team undefeated at 5-0, in first place in League V.

Scott Gulizio races in a previous contest. File photo by Darin Reed
Scott Gulizio races in a previous contest. File photo by Darin Reed

But first, the boys claimed a 93-48 win over visiting Hauppauge last Tuesday, April 28, where Huntington’s athletes turned in strong performances across the board, winning most of the contested events.

The Blue Devils throwers had the greatest day of all, sweeping both the shot put and discus. It started with junior Vernon Alexander, who, on his first attempt, tossed the shot put nearly 48 feet, but kept his eyes on the moving object too long and ended up fouling when he stepped over the toe board. He rebounded in his second attempt and threw 45’8 for third place, a personal best for the teenager.

Senior Matteo McNeil finished first in shot put after tossing the weighted ball 47 feet. Senior Jimmie Nelson took second place with a throw of 45’11. Junior Amaru Jones hit a personal best of 44’10 on his first attempt to finish fourth.

In the unseeded section of the shot put, senior Aubrey Brewster threw a personal best of 40’8 and junior Tasean Betts threw 43’9.

In the discus circle, the competition was even more exciting. Nelson and rookie Kenny Charles battled it out for top honors. Both athletes notched personal bests, with Nelson’s measuring 139’10 and Charles throwing 131’2. McNeil finished third with a throw of 118’2.

Infinite Tucker leaps over the hurdles. Photo by Jeannie Kopstein
Infinite Tucker leaps over the hurdles. Photo by Jeannie Kopstein

On the track, senior Scott Gulizio won the 3,200-meter and was second in the 1,600. Junior Kyle O’Brien finished second in the 3,200. Sophomore Shane McGuire continued to display his potential. He closed ground late in the 800 to take second place.

Sophomore Kyree Johnson and junior Infinite Tucker dazzled the crowd.

“Both athletes performed at the top of their game,” Huntington head coach Ron Wilson said.

Tucker won four events, including the long jump, with a leap of 22’6.5, the 110 high hurdles in 14.6 seconds, 400 intermediate hurdles in 55.2 seconds and the high jump with personal best leap of 6’6.

Exzayvian Crowell lands on the other side. Photo by Jeannie Kopstein
Exzayvian Crowell lands on the other side. Photo by Jeannie Kopstein

Johnson won the 100 dash in a personal best time of 10.6 seconds, took first place in the 200 dash in 22.2 seconds, finished second behind Tucker in the long jump with a leap of 21’1 and anchored the 4×400 relay team to a first place victory. That relay also included McGuire as the lead leg, Tom Kopstein as the second leg and Gulizio as the third leg.

Sophomore Alaa-el-dien Elfaham captured the triple jump. The teenager soared 38’10.5 on his first jump to lock-up the victory.

Senior Sondy Jean-Baptiste also had a good day, finishing second in the high jump at 6’2, the triple jump at 38’4 and third in the long jump, with a personal best leap of 20’1.

Senior Joe Saginaw won the pole vault with a height of 11 feet. Elfaham and junior Connor Grosso took second and third, respectively, with efforts that measured 9’6. Placings were decided by the fewest misses.

Huntington has a dual meet remaining against defending League V champion Eastport-South Manor. The Blue Devils will compete in the Chrissy Games at Bellport on Saturday May 9 and in the Suffolk Freshman and Sophomore Championships at Longwood on Tuesday, May 19. The division championships are set for Wednesday, May 27 and Friday, May 29.

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Port Jefferson’s Alden Mohacsi leaps over the high jump bar in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Port Jefferson’s Spencer Cona leaps into the sand pit in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Spencer Cona leaps into the sand pit in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

Although the Port Jefferson boys’ track and field team is fielding 13 freshmen on a roster riddled with injuries, the Royals remain atop the League VII leaderboard with an 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday.

According to head coach Rod Cawley, the team found itself filling holes in events that the athletes were not unaccustomed to, and the competitors came through for the team on their own home track to improve to 5-0 and tie with Wyandanch for first place in the standings.

Winner of the 800-meter event was Port Jefferson junior Billy Witrock with a time of 2 minutes, 12 seconds, despite the shorter hurdle events being his primary focus.

Port Jefferson junior Justin Julich won the 400-hurdle event in 64 seconds flat. He said he rarely runs the event, and the time became his new personal best. A three-year varsity runner, Julich, who the coach said is a superb athlete and touch competitor, also races in cross country, in the two mile and the 3,000 steeplechase, while also pole vaulting and running in the 400.

The Royals took the longest race of the day, as senior Parker Schoch crossed the finish line first in the 3,200, with a winning time of 12:09. Schoch said the conditions were less than ideal, but that didn’t stop him from also claiming first place in the 1,600 with a time of 5:09.

Port Jefferson’s James Concepcion receives the handoff from Parker Schoch in a relay event during the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s James Concepcion receives the handoff from Parker Schoch in a relay event during the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

“It was windy and it was hot — it was the first warm meet we’ve had this season,” said Schoch, a four-year varsity runner who also competes in the two-mile and high jump.

Cawley said he had to lean on some freshmen to step up and fill the holes left by injured runners, but added he was pleased with their performance.

“We’re a very young team … we had guys who filled rolls today because we have a couple of injuries, and they rose to the occasion,” he said. “We had a couple of sophomores run their personal best today, which was great because our top distance runner in the state, James Burke, is out with a hamstring injury, and our top sprinter couldn’t be here today due to a family obligation.”

Cawley added that his team did well in the relay events, which is something they don’t usually do because of how young his runners are.

Port Jefferson’s Justin Julich and Parker Schoch race around the track in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Justin Julich and Parker Schoch race around the track in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

“We won three relays, which we don’t usually do because of the ages of the group, so that was a pleasant surprise,” the head coach said.

He was also pleased with sophomore James Concepcion, who competes in the 100, 200 and 400, and 100 and 200 relays.

“He’s an excellent young athlete — rises to the occasion when asked and will be very good one day,” Cawley said.

The Royals will take on top-seeded Wyandanch on Tuesday, May 12, at 4:30 p.m., to settle the dispute for first place in League VIII.

“For right now, we’re just focused on Wyandanch,” Cawley said. “I hope we can get healthy. If not, we’ll have to realign and adjust our strategy.”

Luis Antonio Fernandez leads the pack for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

With twice the number of athletes, Northport’s boys’ track and field team dominated the League II meet on its home track Tuesday to win the meet 105-20.

Sam Augustin leaps over the hurdle for Northport. Photo by Bill Landon
Sam Augustin leaps over the hurdle for Northport. Photo by Bill Landon

Middle Country head coach George Royce said that most of the districts’ athletes come from Newfield, so a venue change earlier in the year adversely affected his team.

“At the very beginning of the season the athletic director moved us to Centereach, so a lot of our athletes [from Newfield] just didn’t come out for the team,” Royce said. “The Newfield kids didn’t want to take the bus over, and we lost quite a few good athletes, so we’re really short.”

Short or not, finishing fifth for Middle Country in the 3,200-meter run was sophomore Luis Antonio Fernandez, a second-year varsity runner who had never competed in the event before.

“We only had one kid in it and I already ran the 1,600 and I wasn’t feeling that good for the 800,” Fernandez said. “So I wanted to wait a little bit so I could recover.”

Northport freshman Isaih Claiborne was at the head of the pack for the 3,200, and stayed with the leader, making big kicks down the final 200-meter stretch to cross the finish line at 11 minutes, 36.3 seconds.

Crossing the finish line first in the 1,600 was a tie between Northport senior Michael Cossaro and junior Sam Napoli, who both finished in 4:59.03.

Northport head coach Bob Burkley said his team’s victory was due to the number of competitors his team fielded this day. Burkley has been coaching for years and also noted that he coached Middle Country’s head coach back in 1974.

“The team aspect is what won it for us,” Burkley said. “It was a team effort because they ran in groups, and that was the key.”

Denzel Williams competes in the long jump for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon
Denzel Williams competes in the long jump for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon

Middle Country standout Denzel Williams, a junior, is a premier sprinter and one of the fastest kids in League II, according to his coach. While he believes Chris Weiner is the best pole-vaulter in the league.

Williams, who won the 100 in 11.6,  said that the running conditions weren’t the best, as he ran slower than his personal best of 11.2.

“The wind affected me — it was a long bus ride here and I didn’t get a good warm up,” said Williams, who specializes in the 100, 200 and long jump events.

With the win, Northport improved to 2-1, while Middle Country dropped to 0-3.

Despite the strong athletes Royce has, the coach said his team has a tough time filling the roster to compete against the bigger teams.

“We’re very young, with only one senior and we have talent, but we’re small and have trouble competing against these larger schools,” he said.

Middle Country will host Sachem North on Tuesday at 4 p.m., and Northport will travel to Connetquot Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.

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Smithtown East’s varsity kickline team poses for a group photo after winning its second consecutive national championship title. Photo from Smithtown Central School District
Jackie Gallery placed sixth in the 3,000-meter run. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District
Jackie Gallery placed sixth in the 3,000-meter run. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

East kickline team is national champion, again
Once again the Smithtown East varsity kickline team came away victorious at the Contest of Champions National Competition in Orlando, Fla.

Under the direction of head coach Sarahbeth Cook, the team won first place in the Small High Kick, third place in the Extra Small Contemporary and fourth place in Extra Small Jazz. The team was also awarded an Outstanding Choreography Award in High Kick.

Senior Christina Montesano was awarded for placing in the top 10 in the Junior Soloists category as well. This is the 16th time that the Whisperettes were named national champions.

East track and field stars place at states

Dan Claxton took second in the high jump at the state championship. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District
Dan Claxton took second in the high jump at the state championship. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown High School East winter track and field competitors Dan Claxton and Jackie Gallery impressed at the New York State Championships held at Cornell University.

Claxton, the Smithtown East record-holder for the high jump, placed second in the state with a leap of 6 feet, 8 inches.

Gallery, a sophomore, placed sixth in the state in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 10 minutes, 10.08 seconds, improving upon her previous school record.

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Senior runner finishes final indoor track and field season with a multitude of achievements

Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke's mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke
James Burke stands atop the podium after earning a gold medal in the mile at the state championship. Photo by Jim Burke
James Burke stands atop the podium after earning a gold medal in the mile at the state championship. Photo by Jim Burke

Almost no one can catch him.

This past weekend, Port Jefferson high school senior James Burke earned a silver medal at the New Balance Nationals Indoor at the Armory in Manhattan, making him the second fastest miler in the country at 4 minutes, 8.48 seconds.

It’s just one highlight of his final and most memorable indoor season.

“I’ve just been more about trying to win races and disregarding time, not really watching the clock, because my mentality with that was every record you get will eventually be broken, but every title you get can never get taken away from you,” Burke said.

Although he wasn’t watching the clock, Burke ran a new national No. 1 time in the 1,000-meter at the Molloy Stanner Games in January, finishing in 2:26.35.

Burke said the 1,000 is, of course, not his forte, but he was excited to be able to show his range.

“It was definitely a big confidence booster for me to know that there’s a variety of events that I can excel in; to know that I’m not limited to one event,” he said.

Besides topping the country, the mark also broke the Long Island record of 2:27.39, set by Chaminade’s Sean Kelly last season.

Following that race, Burke competed in the New Balance High School Boys’ Mile at the New York Road Runners’ Millrose Games in February, and finished first with a time of 4:11.25. He also nabbed his first New York State gold medal for the mile at the state championship meet earlier this month.

Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke's mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke
Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke’s mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke

“Anything he had, he put it out there this year,” Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley said. “He performed to the best of his ability throughout the entire season, and it showed in the result.”

The medal was special to Burke not only because it was his first time earning gold in a state competition but also because of the memories that haunted him from the same meet the year prior.

Last winter, Burke made his move with about 600 meters to go in the race and was passed with nearly 20 meters left, resulting in a second-place finish.

“That image was in my head pretty much all year, because I didn’t get a chance in the spring,” Burke said, explaining that he had mononucleosis last spring and could not compete at states. “I was waiting the whole year for that day. Remembering what happened last year, every day, for the whole year, it was definitely a good feeling to place first.”

Then came the national championship, which went a little differently for the Royal compared to his previous races, but his coach was still proud of his athlete.

“He ran beautifully, he did what he had to do, he went out faster than he ever went out before,” Cawley said of his six-year varsity runner. “James persevered and he never gave up. He always tried to catch [Michigan’s Grant Fisher]. It was a phenomenal performance — very gutsy, very smart. He did a great job.”

The difference this time around was the pace of the first 800 meters. During the state meet, the first half of the race was completed in 2:17, but at nationals he finished that distance in 2:01.

The pressure didn’t bother Burke. The mile was just run differently because the stakes were high and the competition was fiercer. But as a result of the speed, Burke believes he got in his own head.

James Burke runs in a previous outdoor competition. File photo
James Burke runs in a previous outdoor competition. File photo

“That was the fastest I’ve ever gone through 800 meters, by 10 seconds, in the mile, so it was interesting because as I was going through it at that pace, I saw the clock and thought I should be really tired but I wasn’t,” he said. “Going through at a pace I’m just not used to going got in my head a little bit, so I told myself I was more tired than I really was.”

But Burke got through the mental minefield to secure his second-place finish.

As a result of the new feat, Burke believes that he can continue to shave time off his mile to reach his goal of four minutes.

“So much of racing is staying in the right mental place throughout the race,” he said, which is also why each time he sets foot on the track, he remains confident and determined that he will win.

Cawley said this quality is critical to his senior’s success.

“To go in to a race with that attitude gives you an advantage, because when you doubt you’re going to beat somebody, you’re not going to beat them,” he said. “James is a reality check, because with him around, no matter what you do, you just don’t look as good. He’ll always exceed your expectations and he will always perform to the best of his ability. There’s no doubt in his mind, when he stands on the track, that he’s going to beat everybody else.”