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Alexandra Koumas

Infinite Tucker competes in the long jump. Photo by Darin Reed

The Huntington boys’ and girls’ track and field teams competed in the New York State Track and Field championship qualifier last weekend at Port Jefferson high school. Members of both squads excelled and even broke records, with multiple athletes on the boys’ squad qualifying to compete at the state level next weekend.

Boys’ track and field
In one of the most dominating performances ever, Huntington senior Infinite Tucker qualified for the championships in four different events and won gold medals in each of them.

One of the top high school athletes in the country, Tucker captured gold medals in the 110-meter high hurdles, 400 intermediate hurdles, long jump and the 4×400 relay, to pace the Blue Devils.

Infinite Tucker competes in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the state qualifier. Photo by Darin Reed
Infinite Tucker competes in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the state qualifier. Photo by Darin Reed

Tucker was on top of his game at the Section XI state qualifier, easily winning the long jump last Friday afternoon with a leap of 23 feet, 4.75 inches before sweeping to victory in three other events on Saturday.

The Huntington athlete won the 110 high hurdles in a time of 14.27 seconds; went on to set new school, meet and county marks in the 400 intermediate hurdles when he crossed the finish line in a stunning 51.23 seconds, which was 2.32 ahead of runner-up Spencer Payton of Longwood; and anchored the Blue Devils’ 4×400 relay team, which grabbed first place with a time of 3 minutes, 15.48 seconds, shattering the existing Suffolk record. Huntington finished about two seconds ahead of runner-up Half Hollow Hills West. Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake and Shane McGuire ran the first three legs of the race, respectively.

“Infinite’s performance speaks for itself,” said Huntington head coach Ron Wilson. “It was beyond dominating; it was simply amazing. He’s a gifted child who loves to compete and who strives to win every time he’s on the track.”

Johnson and McGuire also qualified for the state championships in their respective events. Johnson set new meet records in the 400 dash on both Friday and Saturday, capturing Saturday’s county final in a blazing fast time of 47.78.

McGuire notched an upset victory in the 800 run, coming out of nowhere to topple several heavily favored runners. The junior ran his fastest time ever in the event, circling the track twice in 1:53.64.

Kenny Charles hurls the discus. Photo by Darin Reed
Kenny Charles hurls the discus. Photo by Darin Reed

“Shane and Kyree were just great,” Wilson said. “They came to the meet with one thing in mind: winning. It was an incredible feeling to watch them win Suffolk titles and qualify for the state championships. They’ve both worked so hard and to see that payoff is a wonderful sight.”

Kenny Charles qualified for the state finals in discus, finishing second in Suffolk County with a long throw of 162 feet, 2 inches. It was about five feet off the senior’s best, but still far surpassed the state qualifying standard.

Charles is one of Suffolk’s best basketball players, but decided last year to give spring track a try and, in a short period of time, mastered the discus to the point where he will be advancing to the finals.

Girls’ track and field
Being a competitive athlete himself, girls’ track and field head coach Shawn Anderson knows only too well that not everything is going to go right on any given day.

So it was for the Blue Devils, which closed out its season last Saturday at the Suffolk state qualifier.

While he wishes a few more breaks came the Blue Devils’ way, Anderson also feels his athletes gave the team everything they had.

“The state qualifying meet always brings out the heat and the competition,” said Anderson. “Today was no exception.”

Alexandra Koumas leaps over the hurdle at a previous meet. Photo by Darin Reed
Alexandra Koumas leaps over the hurdle at a previous meet. Photo by Darin Reed

Senior Alexandra Koumas set a new school record in the 400 hurdles, breaking a mark she had previously set, when she crossed the finish line in 1:04.83 in the preliminary heat. The athlete went on to finish fourth in the finals and garner All-County honors.

“She went out super aggressive,” Anderson said. “She needed to in order to hang with the top three.”

All in all, Anderson said it was a great way to have the team end its season.

“As always, each year the group of girls that we have continues to impress me and defy even my expectations,” he said. “For the underclassmen, it just makes them hungrier for next year as they look to improve. As for the seniors, it is always bittersweet when the season ends, but we always look to the future to continue the tradition that’s been established and continuously raise the bar. They laid it all on the track and finished with very impressive times — a testament to their hard work over their careers at Huntington.”

Suzie Petryk leads the pack for Huntington during a previous meet. File photo by Mike Connell

Suzie Petryk runs with a steely determination that few can match. The senior captured All-State honors in two events to pace Huntington girls at the New York State Track & Field Championships at the University at Albany last weekend.

Petryk finished fourth in the 2,000-meter steeplechase and 13th in the 800 run. She also ran on the Blue Devils’ 4×800 relay that took 10th place.

“It was absolutely amazing to be able to run at states with my teammates,” Petryk said. “We have all worked so hard and I really could not have asked for a better way to end my last high school track season.”

The two-day meet saw a string of sensational performances by the top athletes from across the state. In the midst of a magical season, Huntington went toe-to-toe with New York’s best and impressed its opponents.

On the first day of the championships, Petryk went out very aggressive in the 800, hitting the first 400 meters faster than she has in any 800 race. Her fifth place finish came against an extremely talented field.

Saturday saw Petryk back on the track early in the morning. The runner turned in a great effort in the race, which featured the four best athletes in the event in the country going head-to-head. The Blue Devils star finished fourth in 6 minutes, 59 seconds to earn All-State and All-Federation honors. The Federation includes New York City/PSAL, private and parochial schools.

Huntington’s 4×800 relay team consisted of Petryk, Nicole Abbondandelo, Alexandra Koumas and Katie Nugent.

“They ran aggressive with some of the best teams in the state,” Huntington head coach Shawn Anderson said. “They only ran a few seconds off their best, going 9:19. It really was a nice way to end the weekend. Nicole had a huge personal best of 2:19.8 to lead it off.”

“It was a great experience and I was privileged to have had the opportunity to race with my teammates,” said Abbondandelo, a freshman who has quickly risen to be one of Suffolk’s top runners.

Koumas, a junior who is one of the county’s top hurdlers, never fails to give the relay team her best effort.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better than to have shared this experience with my teammates, especially Katie and Suzie in their senior year,” she said. “It’s something I will never forget.”

Nugent, who only joined the track program two years ago after earlier playing lacrosse, became one of Huntington’s key athletes, excelling in numerous events.

“This was a really fun experience,” Nugent said. “Even though I only ran for about two minutes, every part of the trip was memorable … and spending time with my teammates is something I will never forget.”

Huntington won league and Suffolk Division II titles this spring and Anderson sees last weekend’s state championships as another important step for the program.

“Overall, it was a great experience; a first for them all,” Anderson said of the weekend in Albany. “Sometimes gearing up mentally and trying to perform under the big stage can take its toll, but the girls handled it well. The team had a blast and with one week of training this week, nationals should be an amazing experience as well.”

Petryk will compete in the steeplechase at the nationals.

“This time she will be fresh because it’s her first race,” Anderson said. The Blue Devils’ distance medley and 4×400 relay teams will also be competing.

This version corrects Suzie Petryk’s placement in the 800-meter at states.

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.”