Infinite Tucker grabs gold in 400 hurdles and relay
By Desirée Keegan
Huntington’s 4×400-meter relay team had a target on its back all season.
After being indoor national champions in the winter, and then garnering league, division and state titles, the pressure was on once the squad stepped out onto the national stage last weekend.
The boys may have been nervous — especially after finding out they weren’t the No. 1 seed — but head coach Ron Wilson gave them words of encouragement, and once they lined up to compete, he could tell by their faces that they meant business.
‘We all sat together before the race and talked about how it’s our last hurrah and we all wanted to do it for [Infinite Tucker] because it was his last time running with us.’ —Kyree Johnson
“I could see that they had the same facial expressions they had at the state championship, the same facial expressions at the national championship back in March,” he said. “There is a certain look they each have where they don’t really communicate with one another, but get mentally ready to compete. Can we dominate? That was the big question that we asked ourselves — and we did.”
The Blue Devils’ fantastic four won in 3 minutes, 10.93 seconds, at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor championship at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro Sunday night, setting a New York State record, knocking down the previous one which had stood for 50 years. The team also garnered the fastest time in the United States for 2016 in the event, and broke the national record of 3:11.6 set in 1966. The time easily eclipsed the school and county marks.
The finish ended a long campaign exactly the way the athletes wanted it to. And the boys especially wanted to do it for senior Infinite Tucker, who garnered a national medal in the 400 intermediate hurdles just an hour and a half before competing with his team.
“We all sat together before the race and talked about how it’s our last hurrah and we all wanted to do it for him because it was his last time running with us, and running for high school,” junior Kyree Johnson said. “We all just stepped it up a little bit, tried our hardest and that was exactly what everybody did.”
Junior Lawrence Leake, as per a suggestion from assistant coach Eli Acosta, was switched to the first leg of the race, moving junior Shane McGuire to the second. Leake admits he was nervous, but said the coaches helped him get mentally ready to compete.
“They always have a positive attitude, give words of encouragement before races, and always reassure me that I’m capable of whatever I put my mind to,” he said.
Wilson told Leake and McGuire that if the boys each finished in 48 seconds, the title could be theirs for the taking.
Leake didn’t break out of the box that well, taking a bad step off the block, but quickly regained his stride and finished the first 200 in 23 seconds, which was right on track. After finishing the second 200 in 25 seconds, he passed the baton to McGuire, who said he went to the line super nervous, but didn’t want to let his teammates down.
“When I got the baton, I went out quick,” he said. “I ran 23 in the first 200 and I was still kind of in the back, so when we hit the last straight away I saw the other teams died out and I sprinted as hard as I could to give it to Kyree.”
Wilson said once the two legs finished in their target times, with both boys earning new personal bests, he knew the race was won.
“I already knew it was over,” he said. “Kyree and Infinite are not going to let anyone deny them the top spot on the podium.”
Johnson also knew the national championship was only seconds out of reach.
“When I saw Lawrence run a really good leg and I saw Shane picking it up, I had a feeling that we were going to take it,” he said. “I was relieved. When I got the baton I just gave it my all. Just to go down there with all my friends and being able to compete with the people that I’m very close with was a great experience. Everything we accomplish together will stay with us forever. It’s not like a season thing. We have a friendship that has turned into a brotherhood.”
And that brotherhood is what helped them pull it out, as the team topped their best record by five seconds.
“We wanted to make the last time we all ran together special,” McGuire said.
And they did.