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Track

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By Bill Landon

Huntington and Northport girls track members put their best feet forward at the Suffolk County track & field large school championships Feb. 2. held at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. 

Huntington sophomores Ella Siepel and Valerie Rogel finished 5th and 10th, respectively, in the finals at 3,000 meters clocking in at 11 minutes, 35.33 seconds and 11:51.66 respectively. Huntington junior Alicia Brooks tripped the clock at 7.55 seconds in the 55-meter dash for 6th place in the county. Huntington seniors Keily Rivas and Erica Varady finished the 1,500-meter race walk in 7th and 9th place crossing the line at 7:32.75 and 7:38.85, respectively. Rogel’s time of 5:30.69 in the 1500-meter race was good enough for 6th in Suffolk.

Northport senior Margaret Van Laer cleared 4 feet 8 inches in the high jump finals placing her in a four-way tie for 3rd place. Northport senior Sydnie Rohme traveled 17-4 1/2 in the long jump placing her in the top spot of the 2nd flight and her teammate Ashley Curcio leapt 15-5 1/2 to finish in 5th place in flight 1. Curcio finished 3rd in the triple jump with her best distance being 30-10 1/2. 

Huntington’s Grace Mckenna earned top honors in flight No. 1 in the shot put by throwing 30-4.

Both the girls and boys track & field are back at the college Feb. 11 for the state qualifiers where the first gun sounds at 5 p.m.

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.”

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Boys track and field team guarantees piece of second straight outdoor league title with win over Southampton. Junior Kenneth Wei breaks two school records.

By Bill Landon

These type of Mustangs like to be pushed.

The Mount Sinai track and field team feeds off the pressure in practice — touting it as one of the main reasons the boys have been able to stay undefeated.

“We just have guys that work hard every day,” Sean Higgins said. “The coaches push us, and push us hard. They push us until we’re great.”

The junior was off to the races in a 102-34 win over visiting Southampton May 2, coming first in the 800-meter run and 1,600, and placing second in the 3,200. He also competed in the 4×400 relay.

His top finish was 5 minutes, 20 seconds in the mile.

“It’s not my best,” he said. “So we’ve got to get back to work and train that much harder.”

Junior Kenneth Wei on the other hand had two bests. He broke the school record in the long jump with 21-10.75 jump and triple jump with a 43-10.5 leap. He also finished first in the 110 high hurdles.

Head coach Lee Markowitz said Wei, who is at the top of his class, is the most coachable athlete he’s ever worked with, and defines what a scholar athlete is.

“Like my coaches say, it’s who wants it more,” Wei said. “It’s the desire to compete — to go up against the best of the best. It’s what drives us to keep going.”

Markowitz said Ryan Wilson is another junior who helps round out a strong, dedicated All-County class. Wilson is noted by his coach for his versatility.

“Ryan is a gifted distance runner who is always willing to help the team,” the coach said. “He excels in both the 400 and 800 events and is always ready to jump into the 1,600 or relay event if it means securing a victory for the team.”

Jack Pilon, one of seven seniors on a roster of nearly 60, said his 5-0 Mustangs benefit greatly from having so many tools in the toolbox.

“We have the depth,” he said. “Our sixth, seventh and eighth milers, they’re the ones out here with us every day doing the same amount of work, so I think that when other teams compete with us it’s difficult to keep up. We’ve got 10 guys that can go under five minutes in the mile — it’s hard to [compete] with that.”

Wilson also flaunted his team’s dedication while backing up his coach’s claim of his thirst for competition.

“Everyone comes to work and they train hard every day — they’re coming for their own reasons, whether it’s to get ready for another sport or to improve their best times,” he said. “We’re all trying to build the best program we’ve ever had. We have a strong program, but we’re also building for the future.”

Mount Sinai, now 5-0, remains atop the League VII leaderboard with one meet remaining. With the win over Southampton, the Mustangs have repeated nabbing indoor and outdoor league titles for the second straight school year. Mount Sinai is currently one win ahead of Elwood-John Glenn (4-1) and faces its rival May 8 at 4 p.m. for sole possession of the crown.

Markowitz said the practice atmosphere is contagious, as old and young push one another to build the future Wilson was talking about.

“It’s the work ethic — there’s zero complaining,” he said. “When they’re successful, it confirms for them that when we work hard, we win. We have a group, particularly of juniors, who if we tell them ‘You’ve got to run through a brick wall,’ they’ll say, ‘Ok.’”

File photo by TBR News Media

Greater Long Island Running Club, of Plainview, will be awarding  at least one $5,000 grant to a Long Island public high school track and field program this year.

Selection of the winning high school(s) will be based on: the need of the school; the purpose for which the grant would be used; the benefit to the program and the student-athletes who are part of the program; and the benefit to the community of which the high school is a part.

In 2016, the running club awarded a $5,000 grant to Brentwood High School to help reinstitute and revitalize the school’s cross country program, which had not been offered since 2010 because of lack of funding. In 2017, to help Central Islip High School kids afford running shoes, the club brought the entire boys and girls teams into Sayville Running Company for shoes.

“High school runners represent the future of our sport,” said Linda Ottaviano, the running club’s executive director. “We are thrilled to be able to help deserving high school programs, high school athletes and the communities that they are a part of.”

Applications can be obtained by calling the running club office at 516-349-7646 or emailing info@glirc.org.  Applications must be received by May 1.

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.

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Senior Hannah Hobbes, junior Samantha Rutt and senior Madison Hobbes, Hannah's twin sister, were the Top 3 finishers in the 600-meter race at a crossover meet at Suffolk County Community College's Brentwood campus Dec. 11. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Ward Melville girls’ track and field team stretched its legs at a crossover meet Dec. 11 at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus, and distance delivered.

Patriots combine for a mix of talented youth and experienced veterans this season, and Ward Melville head coach Tom Youngs said despite clearing off the cobwebs, the girls put up solid performances.

Freshman Allison D'Angio jumps for Ward Melville at a crossover meet at Suffolk County Community College's Brentwood campus Dec. 11. Photo by Bill Landon
Freshman Allison D’Angio jumps for Ward Melville at a crossover meet at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Dec. 11. Photo by Bill Landon

“This year we’re talented, and we have depth in the middle distance events,” he said, referencing strong finishes in the 600-, 1,000-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter races.

In the 3,000, the Patriots had three Top 5 finishers in juniors Christina O’Brien and Amanda Dagnelli, and sophomore Allison Nemesure. O’Brien finished second in 12 minutes, 52.09 seconds, Dagnelli in fourth in 12:55.80 and Nemesure in fifth with a time of 12:14.70.

Showing both talent and bloom was freshman Elizabeth Radke who took first in the 1,500 with a time of 5:07.84 seconds.

Sophomores Kate Cochran, Shannon Ryan and Sina Maase finished fourth, sixth and seventh respectively, in 5:12.39, 5:21.39 and 5:23.52.

Juniors Samantha Sturgess and Allyson Gaedje crossed the finish line in a near tie for first place in the 1,000, but a review revealed Sturgess won by a nose, clocking in at 3:14.52 while Gaedje tripped the gun at 3:14.56.

Ward Melville’s middle distance runners continued to impress, as the Patriots swept the top three spots in the 600, which was another photo finish. Senior Hannah Hobbes stopped the clock at 1:45.66 for first place, junior Samantha Rutt came in second at 1:45.80 and Hannah’s twin sister Madison placed third with a time of 1:46.49. Senior Megan Raferty wasn’t far behind, finishing in 1:49.52 for fifth place.

Youngs said he also has a strong 4×400 relay team.

“We competed last year at the Millrose Games where we finished second with a time of 4:00.99,” he said, adding that the time qualified for his team to compete in the outdoor state championship, where it set a new school record.

Senior Marina Vostrova sprints, races in the hurdles and competes in the high jump. Photo by Bill Landon
Senior Marina Vostrova sprints, races in the hurdles and competes in the high jump. Photo by Bill Landon

On Sunday, the quartet finished third in 4:35.19.

The 55-meter hurdles fielded eight waves of six, and it was senior Marina Vostrova who claimed the top spot in 9.38 seconds.

Another freshman who made her presence known was Allison D’Angio. She cleared 4-feet, 8-inches in the high jump to earn second place, and claimed the same position in the long jump with a leap of 15-feet, 10.25 inches. Both performances were new personal bests.

“I thought I did pretty well,” D’Angio said. “I’ll be doing a lot of drills with [assistant] coach J.P. Dion, so I’ll look to do better next week.”

While Youngs said his team struggles in field events, he noted the Patriots are missing a top thrower he hopes to have back net week. He said he’s proud of the work being done on the track though, and believes he will only continue to see improvement.

“We had a good day,” he said. “We worked on a few things, we improved upon a couple of things from last week … the race is in their legs and as [we progress] the times will come.”

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Brendan Martin will be taking part in his first New York City Marathon in November. Photo from Brendan Martin

By Dan Aronson

Smithtown native Brendan Martin, 27, is set to make his debut in the New York City Marathon this November.

“It’s one [race] I feel like I have to do before I retire from competitive running,” Martin said. “It’s my hometown race.”

This 26.2 mile-marathon is one the most popular races in the United States. It draws runners and spectators from all over the world, and takes competitors through all five boroughs of New York City. The race was first held in 1970, with only 127 runners competing.

Brendan Martin competes in a previous race. Photo from Brendan Martin
Brendan Martin competes in a previous race. Photo from Brendan Martin

Martin did not find his passion for running until high school — he always thought he would be a big lacrosse player. The Smithtown resident played lacrosse competitively until the end of 10th grade and then decided to put it aside so he could focus on running.

His father Bill Martin said one of the reasons he made the switch from lacrosse to running was his size.

“The only thing that has hampered him, in pretty much anything he has done, is his size,” the father said.

Both of Martin’s parents will be attending the race in November and are very excited to see how he performs.

“I don’t think I can keep my wife away,” Bill Martin said. “[Brendan] has taken things to a whole new level. We are not surprised he has made it this far. He works very hard towards his goals and has done that since high school — he puts together a good plan and executes it.”

Len Carolan, Martin’s coach at Smithtown High School West, had a significant impact on the runner. He has now been retired for eight years, but still keeps in touch with Martin.

“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special” Carolan said. “His love of running and his desire to do well, plus his talent, is what really makes Brendan stand out. He was by far the most talented runner I ever coached.”

Martin led his cross-country team at Smithtown to three consecutive Suffolk County championships from 2003-06. He clearly set his team up well for future years, as without him the Bulls went on to win the title in 2007. The Bulls teams in 2007 and 2008 also won back-to-back divisional championships.

“He was instrumental in getting us to that competitive level,” Carolan said.

And Martin has similar feelings for his old coach.

“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special.”

— Len Carolan

“He gave me a good feeling about running,” Martin said of Carolan. “He made it really fun and team-oriented for us. That made it a blast. He was really good at coaching the fundamentals, working hard, being dedicated and working together with your teammates, and I think that really stuck with me.”

Each athlete prepares himself in a different way, and for Martin, that’s running year-round.

He said he spends eight to nine weeks preparing for the race. In the first five to six weeks, he runs about 120 to 130 miles a week. Once he gets closer to race day, Martin said he tries to run 20 to 22 miles per day, at marathon pace.

“I’m going to make sure I’m doing a lot of hills in my training, because New York is a notoriously difficult course, with lots of ups and downs,” Martin said.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not up to the task.

“I need to study on my own a little bit what to expect, and as long as I do that and I run patiently — very tough at the end — I expect to do pretty well,” he said.

The unique challenge that comes with running in the marathon is that you can’t run the course in preparation, because the only time the roads are closed is for the marathon.

He’s still ready to take on the course, and is looking forward to taking on New York City.

“A hilly race suits my strengths and as long as I run smart, have good confidence in myself,” he said, “[I could] be one of the top Americans and hopefully the top New Yorker.”

Harborfields' Jake Miller and Alex Martin makes their way around the track. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Rocky Point and Harborfields each looked to notch their first victory of the season Tuesday, but the Tornadoes’ boys’ track and field team blew past the Eagles on their home track, to win the League V meet, 103-38.

Harborfields' Randy Maldon leaps into the sand pit. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Randy Maldon leaps into the sand pit. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields long jump standout Randy Maldon, a senior, was the talk of the event, taking first with a jump of 18-9 3/4, to come up well ahead of the second place finisher.

Maldon, who has competed in the event since his sophomore year, also runs winter track, and said the windy conditions affected his performance despite the positive turnout.

“The wind definitely throws off my steps — it’s pushing me back so I have to push harder, and it affects me in the air,” he said. “Going down the runway, I drifted to the left a little bit.”

The Tornadoes flexed their muscles early, dominating, the 1,600-meter to take the top five spots. First across the line for Harborfields was sophomore James DeSantis, who won the event in 4 minutes, 59:06 seconds. Harborfields senior Jake Miller won the 3,000 in 11:28.2, finishing just ahead of teammate Alexander Martin, a junior, as both runners traded the lead several times.

“It was windy, but I ran with my teammate Alex alternating laps and we would take turns blocking the wind,” Miller said. “We needed to see who had a little bit left with 800 meters left.”

Rocky Point’s Chris Valleau, a three-year varsity competitor, competed in the 200 and 400 dashes, and said he felt he underperformed.

“I can run better than I did today,” the junior said, adding that it had nothing to do with the windy conditions.

Rocky Point senior Kevin LaRosa, who competed in the 100 and 200, finished the races in 13 seconds and 28 seconds, respectively.

“I thought we underperformed as a team today — we certainly could’ve done better,” LaRosa said. “The conditions really didn’t affect me today in the shorter races, but it does in the longer distances.”

Cameron Cutler leaps over the hurdles for Rocky Point. Photo by Bill Landon
Cameron Cutler leaps over the hurdles for Rocky Point. Photo by Bill Landon

Alex DeMottie, a senior who competed in the high jump, 800 and 4×800 relay, echoed LaRosa’s and Valleau’s assessment that there was room for improvement.

“It wasn’t my best performance,” DeMottie said. “I’ve got to work harder to improve my times.”

Rocky Point head coach Chris Donadoni said in the end, his Eagles just faced a better team.

“I was pleased with our shotput and discus events today, although we didn’t get to see those because those events are held on the lower field,” the head coach said, adding that his assistant coach said each kid threw their best in both events. “It’s a growing process with this team. They’re real young and inexperienced, so each meet is an opportunity for all of them to learn something. We’ll look at each of their performances, but more importantly, how they prepare mentally for each event. They’ve made progress in their preparation since the start of the season.”

With the win, Harborfields improves to 1-2 as the Eagles fall to 0-3.

Rocky Point travels to Westhampton Beach on April 30 for an 8:30 a.m. meet.

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The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Elana Glowatz

Officials are on track to restore a piece of Long Island history, bringing an abandoned and forgotten horse-racing site back to life.

The Cumsewogue Historical Society has a ticket to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park from July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The Cumsewogue Historical Society has a ticket to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park from July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Brookhaven Town finished purchasing a swath of wooded land off of Canal Road in Terryville at the end of 2013, after Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith discovered the faint outline of the horse track and dug up information about what was once called the Gentlemen’s Driving Park. The town now owns the entire 11-acre site.

Today it’s an overgrown path hidden among trees, but the Gentlemen’s Driving Park used to be a place where Victorian Era bettors watched men race around the half-mile loop — counterclockwise — behind horses in carts called sulkies. It was part of a circuit of harness racing tracks in the Northeast, according to Smith, but likely fell into neglect with the rise of the automobile.

But cars have also helped keep the track viable: Smith previously reported that at least through the mid-1950s, kids raced jalopies around the track, preventing it from becoming completely overgrown.

Smith said on Monday the effort to restore and preserve the track is moving slowly, but there has been progress since the town finished acquiring the property. There are plans in place to clear the track to about 20 feet wide, although leaving larger trees in place, and to move up the southern curve of the oval, he said.

Jack Smith takes a closer look at a wrecked car on the Gentlemen's Driving Park track around the time he first discovered the forgotten historical spot. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Jack Smith takes a closer look at a wrecked car on the Gentlemen’s Driving Park track around the time he first discovered the forgotten historical spot. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Currently, a small PSEG Long Island facility cuts into that southern tip. Rather than moving the facility or leaving the track incomplete, the town would retrace that small section of track, slightly shortening the loop but completing the oval so as to make a walkable path for visitors.

“The town is in the process of working on the track to restore the track as closely to the original footprint as possible,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in a statement this week. “There will be some adjustments needed and the town is actively working on that.”

If all goes according to plan, the councilwoman said, the restored track could open late in the summer or early in the fall.

“The important thing is that it will be an oval,” Smith said Monday. “We want to keep some of the historical integrity.”

His goal is to put informational signs around the track that will teach people about its history.

The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The driving park was adjacent to well-known horse trainer Robert L. Davis’ Comsewogue stables, now the Davis Professional Park. After hearing rumors of such a track in Terryville, Smith discovered it by looking at an aerial image of the neighborhood taken during the winter, when the foliage was less dense. He saw the faint shape in the woods near Canal Road and went walking in to find it. Since that visit, he has uncovered a broken pair of Victorian-era field glasses near the finish line on the track’s west side, which may have been dropped and trampled. He also has a ticket from a racing event on July 4. 1892.

Once restoration work is completed, Cartright said the town hopes to work with the historical society and the community “to hold a kickoff event to highlight the track and its history.”

For his part, the historical society president has said he would like to hold a fair in which people will re-enact the late 1800s horse races with vintage sulkies or participate in a carriage parade.

“We can’t be happier that it’s been preserved,” Smith said.

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Huntington’s 4x400 relay state championship team of Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake, Infinite Tucker and Exzayvian Crowell continue to reach new heights. Photo by Darin Reed

Huntington boys’ track and field head coach Ron Wilson had an idea that he could have a strong team for the 2015-16 winter season, but the success they’ve enjoyed was beyond even his expectations.

“We knew that we had quite a few kids returning this season, which would put us at the forefront in Suffolk County,” Wilson said. “We didn’t know that we would be one of the top teams in the state of New York.”

That’s exactly what the Blue Devils were this winter: one of the most electrifying track and field squads in the state. The team is led by their “Fantastic Four,” the nickname given to Huntington’s state champion 4×400-meter relay team from last winter. All four members returned this year. Infinite Tucker, Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake and Exzayvian Crowell captured numerous state, county, league and Long Island accolades as a team and individually last year, and this year hasn’t been much different.

The team took the gold in the 4×400 relay at the Suffolk County Championships on Jan. 31 at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Brentwood. They also qualified for Nationals, which will take place on March 11 in New York City. Huntington’s 4×200 relay team also qualified, as did Tucker and Johnson in numerous individual events.

Wilson said it hit him how special this team was at a meet on Jan. 16 at the Molloy Stanner Games at the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory in Manhattan.

“We were grooving,” Wilson said with a hearty laugh. On that Saturday in Manhattan, Tucker ran the best time in the country for the winter season in the 600 dash, and Johnson set the mark nationally for the 300 dash, while Leake posted the fourth-best time of the year in the 300. The times were announced to a standing ovation, according to Wilson.

Wilson said one of the biggest surprises of the season was Leake’s performance.

“My time in the 300, I was very proud of,” Leake said.

Johnson indicated that he could tell fairly early on how special the Blue Devils might be.

“Around the first couple of meets, everybody started to show how good they are and the ability they had,” Johnson said.

Johnson credited advice from his older brother Tyreke, who also ran track at Huntington, as being helpful in keeping his competitive edge, despite enormous success.

“The number one thing is to remain humble and don’t look at anybody like they’re not as good as you,” Johnson said. “I have to work my hardest.”

Wilson has been a part of some special teams at Huntington in his nine years leading the high school squad. He coached in the district on the junior high level from 1998 to 2007, when he became an assistant for the high school team under Dennis Walker. Wilson was also a member of the team in 1993 and 1994, when he attended Huntington.

“I didn’t run; I was a thrower,” Wilson said. “I was too big to run.”

The head coach didn’t hesitate for a second when trying to compare this Blue Devils’ team to the numerous versions that he’d had a hand in previously.

“This is by far the best team that I’ve coached,” he said.

Assistant coach Eli Acosta, who said this is his 49th year in the Long Island track and field world, reiterated Wilson’s assessment of the team.

“I can say that this is the best track and field that I’ve ever coached in terms of talent,” Acosta said. “We have very talented athletes, that goes without saying. They also work quite hard.”

Wilson said his team is focused and driven, without being too uptight.

“It’s a well-rounded team,” he said. “They’re nice boys. They can be silly at times, but once they get on the track, it’s always business.”

Tucker and Johnson are undoubtedly the team’s most talented members, though the role of leadership is a shared duty among the entire roster, according to Wilson.

“It’s kind of fun,” Tucker said of his relationship with Johnson. “It’s like running with your brother.”

Acosta admitted that he and Wilson pit Johnson and Tucker against each other in certain events and in practice as a tactic to motivate the star athletes.

“They pick each other up,” Wilson said. “It’s more of the team that leads us, that drives our success, especially amongst our relay team.”

Despite their success, Wilson said he hasn’t seen any lull in the team’s drive or motivation.

“When these kids are able to stay humble and stay low, they’re always able to seek improvement,” Wilson said. “If the competition is not there, you have to compete against yourself.”

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